Small and Medium Forest Enterprise Development for Poverty Reduction: Opportunities and Challenges in Globalizing Markets

Balancing between poverty alleviation and conservation of biodiversity is not a simple task. Around one billion people living in poverty depend on forest products for all or part of their livelihoods, making them prone to overexploiting the resources. Of these, many live in the tropics, where biodiversity is rich. For these people not to overexploit the resources and protect biodiversity, means must be provided for them to make a living from the resources, but in a sustainable manner. As such, developing small and medium sized forest enterprises that adopt sustainable forest management is a promising option to fighting poverty while also protecting the environment.

To reflect on the critical issues facing the development of these enterprises in the tropics and on how to best support them for the benefit of the rural poor, representatives of the private sector, governmental and non-governmental organizations, development and donor agencies and research centers, will gather in Turrialba, Costa Rica from 23 to 25 May 2006. Jointly organized by FAO and the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), the conference will focus on identifying key strategies that would better enable the development of such enterprises so that people who depend on forests for their survival may continue to benefit from the forests as well as conserve biodiversity.

Objectives of the conference:

  1. Develop a common understanding of the actual and potential role of small and medium forest enterprises (SMFE) in poverty reduction strategies and sustainable forest management;
  2. Share lessons learned in SMFE development in Asia, Africa and Latin America with a focus on the critical success factors for developing value chains of forest products which ensures adequate benefit sharing by community-based forest enterprises; and
  3. Identify opportunities to strengthen the political, legal and institutional frameworks, as well as the need to provide technical, business and financial service, aiming at enabling environments for successful SMFE development and related poverty reduction.

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