Forest and farm producer organizations are drivers of sustainable global development

New FAO publication highlights successful examples of rural institutions

16 June 2016, Rome - Forest and farm producer organizations are key players in meeting the world's growing demand for food and forest products, improving the lives of rural communities, and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).  That is the key take-away of a new FAO publication launched today at the European Development Days in Brussels, Belgium, taking place on 15-16 June.

In the publication, FAO calls upon governments, development partners, civil society and the private sector to help channel further support to forest and farm producer organizations to enhance their ability to play a critical role as actors for sustainable global development.

"Through service-provision to their members, contributions to local economies and increasing engagement in policy-making, such organizations make solid contributions towards the Sustainable Development Goals, bringing benefits not only to their members but also to people and the planet at large," said Jeffery Campbell of FAO's Forestry Department and manager of the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) inter-organization partnership.

Forest and farm producer organizations are formal or informal associations created by their members as a way to address their own needs.

 The publication looks at a range of examples from around the globe that show how a variety of such organizations are succeeding in helping rural communities strengthen their own livelihoods and food security.

In Zambia, for example, district associations are encouraging farmers to integrate tree-planting into their agricultural activities. Beyond reducing the national deforestation rate -- which is one of the highest in the world at over 250000 hectares per year-- doing so offers them new sources of income. Smallholders can grow fruit to help improve family nutrition or sell for extra income, or establish small woodlots for cooking fuel and animal fodder, freeing up time otherwise spent gathering fuelwood.  

In Bolivia, the members of an association of small- and medium-scale producers of ground-nuts, coffee, and other organic products are cooperating to produce without using any chemicals, allowing their products to be certified as organic thereby earning a higher price. And the association constantly seeks to expand the range of fruits and nuts being marketed, giving farmers new options for diversifying incomes and adding value. Organic agro-forestry also helps safeguard dry tropical forests, by avoiding agricultural practices that are detrimental to the environment.

Acacia growers in Vietnam show how a forest and farm producer organisation can develop a thriving business. At the start, group members met to share information, they had no money to invest in processing, sold timber individually to local middlemen, and made low profits.  

But through the Forest and Farm Facility, members learned about market analysis and development, wood processing, and grant proposal writing to access development funds. They visited successful forestry businesses elsewhere in Vietnam and met government authorities at all levels. As a result of this training and exposure to the world of enterprise, members decided to start a joint business. Eventually, they lumped their resources together and invested in a sawmill. Seven months later, participating families have seen their incomes increase by up to 10 percent.

The publication "Forest and Farms Producer Organizations - Operating Systems For the SDGs " was prepared by FAO in cooperation with AgriCord, an alliance of development agencies set up by professional farmers' organizations in Europe, Canada, Africa and Asia; with contributions from Forest and Farm Facility, and the International Family Forestry Alliance (IFFA), a network of national forest owners' organizations.  

Photo: ©Forest and Farm Facility
Members of this forest and farm producer organization in Guatemala are holding a meeting. Rural institutions can help rural communities strengthen their livelihoods and food security.