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Democratising forest business: a compendium of successful locally controlled forest business organisations

Forests are home to 1.3 billion people, they have to cater to the multiple needs for local goods (access to income, food, clean water, wood energy, construction materials, fertile soils, medicinal and cosmetic products, and recreation) and global goods (climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation, hydrological and mineral cycles). But many of these needs compete with one another and are growing all the time.

Reconciling competing needs is best handled democratically. Because of this, installing good forest governance has been much in vogue within recent sustainable development approaches. But a blind eye has been turned to the business models that directly impact forest landscapes. Many of these serve one single economic need – income – to the detriment of other local or global goods. Alternative, more democratic, business models are needed. Business models in which local people, living with the consequences of their decisions, reconcile competing needs from forest landscapes in businesses they control.

The challenge is to understand how the democratisation of locally controlled forest business can be made to work economically. With local control comes a significant business challenge – how to reconcile the multiple perspectives of local forest-family smallholders, communities and indigenous peoples into coherent and viable business value propositions? At its core, this is an organisational challenge. This book presents 19 case studies from 14 developing countries that show how local people have been democratising forest business and draws a set of conclusions from analysis of these case studies which are essentially a set of lessons of what makes for success. It is hoped that such lessons will assist serious development efforts to scale-up the organisation of locally controlled forest business – both for the local and the global public good.

This version reflects corrections to the authorship of chapters 5 and 19, made in December 2015.

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Macqueen, D., Bolin, A. and Greijmans, M. (eds.) (2015) Democratising forest business: a compendium of successful locally controlled forest business organisations. IIED, London.

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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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