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Small-scale livelihood models

Despite destroying both forests and forest-dependent peoples’ livelihoods, industrial scale logging and agriculture plantations are often presented as the only routes to pulling developing countries out of poverty.  In fact, evidence from many countries shows that smallholder forestry and agriculture, when promoted by state policy and protected with secure land rights, can be much more effective at providing income, producing food, and protecting environmental quality for future generations. 

Fern has been working with partners to develop and promote livelihood models that allow communities to manage land and produce goods themselves.  This work has three components:

  • Collecting data showing the economic, social and environmental benefits of small-scale production models, to allow civil society organisations to advocate for alternatives to the large-scale industrial production model currently promoted by many European donor institutions and developing-country governments.
  • Collecting lessons from different countries’ experiences of small-scale livelihood models, to help inform the development of new models in other countries.
  • Facilitating connections between people working on small-scale livelihood models in different countries, to enable them to learn directly from each other.

To find out more please read this feedback from a workshop Fern held in April 2014. Thirty participants from Central America, Africa, Asia and Europe met in Brussels to share their understanding and experience of community forestry, and develop action plans for their own countries.

The workshop discussed reports on community forestry in a number of countries, including Nepal, Mexico and Guatemala. These reports can be found below, along with the minutes of the workshop.

Fern campaigner Julia Christian aslo produced a photo blog outlining her experience of community forestry in Mexico.


Lessons learned from community forests in Mexico and Guatemala, to benefit community forest work in West and Central Africa

This paper summarises Fern staff member Julia Christian's lessons from studying community forestry in Mexico and Petén (Guatemala), from March-July 2016, hosted by the Mexican non-governmental organisation Reforestamos. To see a photo-blog of her experience visit Mexico's community forest protectors.

Mexican community forest constitution

This is a typical constitution for a community forest in Mexico.  It is the central document setting out how the community governs itself and its land and resources. It covers issues such as:

Community forests: A discussion document for Fern and partners

Anyone who works with forest dwellers across the world asks themselves the following question at some point or another: Can community forests be a viable alternative to industrial logging? If so, what form would this alternative take and is it achievable? This report seeks to analyse this question in the hope of clearing up the debates and discussions between Fern’s various partners.





Protecting forests, improving livelihoods - Comparing community forestry in Cameroon and Guatemala

This report conducts a comparison between the experience of community forests in Guatemala and in Cameroon. Community forests in Guatemala have met with some success, in some cases becoming effective enterprises at the same time as achieving some of the best conservation results in the country. By contrast, Cameroon’s community forests have been plagued with elite capture, corruption and mismanagement by private logging contractors. This has caused devastation to forests, with the majority of community members seeing little to none of the revenues.

PDF icon fern_forestry_cam-guat_internet.pdf968.84 KB

Protecting forests, improving livelihoods – Community forestry in Guatemala

This report by Silvel Elías, professor in the Faculty of Agronomy at the University of San Carlos de Guatemala, analyses the Guatemalan model of community forestry.

Protecting forests, improving livelihoods – Community forestry in Nepal

This report by Ghan Shyam Pandey and Bijaya Raj Paudyall, outlines the lessons that have been learned from Nepal’s decision to embrace the concept of community forestry.

Protecting forests, improving livelihoods – Community forestry in Mexico

This report by Ernesto Herrera Guerra, outlines the lessons that have been learned from Mexico’s approach to community forestry.

Mexico’s community forests are among the most advanced in the world, with communities collectively owning more than 50 million hectares of the country’s 63 million hectares of forest and forest management decisions largely being made at local level.

Minutes of Community Forestry workshop, Brussels, 3-4 April 2014

These are the minutes of the Community Forestry Workshop, organised by Fern in Brussels on 3 and 4 April 2014. The meeting brought together participants from 30 countries to share their understanding and experience of community forestry, and develop action plans for their own countries.