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Landscapes for public goods: multifunctional mosaics are fairer by far

Duncan Macqueen

Briefing, 4 pages

How do we get the most public goods from forest landscapes when various publics in varying places make conflicting claims? One approach, caricatured as ‘monotypic masses’, says big ‘single use’ corporate blocks are best. But that brings ecological and social challenges (especially displacement) that may eventually undermine economic viability. A better approach is ‘multifunctional mosaics’ of smallholder forest-farm enterprises that offer both local and distant public goods. These can help ensure all publics receive a share of all public goods. The international Forest Connect alliance has shown that smallholders themselves generally favour multi-functional mosaics because these balance long and short term risks and returns. But making such mosaics viable at scale is an economic challenge that requires unprecedented ‘enabling’ investment.

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To restore forests and get out of poverty, rural communities need the knowledge and connections to build flourishing enterprises. Forest landscapes are among the most isolated and marginalised areas in the world, where land, food and energy security and income generation are pressing concerns. Achieving sustainable development in the forest landscape while addressing those immediate needs is a complex challenge that requires joined-up efforts.

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Forest Connect