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Forest Connect: Supporting Small and Medium Forest Enterprises (toolkit)
Small and medium forest enterprises (SMFEs) are the norm in most developing countries. They often represent 80-90% of all forest enterprises and more than 50% of formal forest jobs -- plus many more of an informal and seasonal nature. They accrue wealth locally, empower local entrepreneurship, strengthen social networks and engender local social and environmental accountability.
But in least developed countries, structures that connect with and support SMFEs and their associations are weak. They face problems such as excessive bureaucracy, unstable policies or regulations biased toward large-scale operators, insecure tenure, inaccessible credit, poor market information, inadequate technology and advice, poor infrastructure, insufficient business know-how, etc. All too frequently, the result is social breakdown, economic failure and degradation of the forest resource on which SMFEs are based.
With PROFOR financing, IIED, FAO and other partners developed an approach to help increase the social, economic and environmental sustainability of SMFEs and their associations by connecting them to emerging markets, to service providers and to national forest programme (nfp) processes. The backbone of the "Forest Connect" project was based on ongoing work to support small forest enterprises in 6 partner countries (Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Mozambique and Nepal) plus linked work through separate PROFOR projects in India (through CEFI) and Central America (through the Rainforest Alliance). In addition, IIED and FAO separately support Forest Connect partners in China, Ethiopia, Lao PDR and Mali.
A second phase of the project, launched in 2010, aimed to test and enrich guidance modules for the facilitation of small and medium forest enterprises in Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guatemala, Guyana, Mozambique and Nepal.
An international networking website has been launched with material on small forest enterprise support, and has so far more than 400 members from 48 countries (http://forestconnect.ning.com). Bimonthly email newsletters from this website have helped to encourage feedback on a range of issues – including the most appropriate training materials for supporters of small forest enterprises.
An international workshop held in Edinburgh in July 2008 brought together Forest Connect members from 12 countries with a range of expert resource persons to begin to develop a demand-driven toolkit framework (see the workshop report here). A second one, held in Addis Abbaba in Ethiopia in February 2010, aimed to test and enrich the toolkit.
The final toolkit ("Supporting Small and Medium Forest Enterprises -- A facilitator's toolkit" available on this page) was published by IIED in April 2012. A sourcebook with information on small and medium forest enteprises in Ghana was also produced, as well as stories from the field explaining how groups have successfully linked to Forest Connect to undertake various activities.
Author : Forest Connect , FAO , IIED 
Last Updated : 02-07-2017