“There is nothing small about forest smallholders” – Panel discussion at the 3rd International Forest Policy Meeting

How do institutions affect small-scale forestry at multiple levels? How does the institutional change process drive small-scale forest use/forest management? What could be the future orientations on organizational governance on small-scale forestry? Those are the overarching questions we strived to address during a panel discussion at the online 3rd International Forest Policy Meeting (IFPM3), hosted by the Chair of Forest and Environmental Policy of the University of Freiburg. Our session was titled “Small-scale forest policy and institutions: Review and cases from the Global South” and moderated by Duncan MacQueen from the IIED. Our post-doc, Dr. Jude N. Kimengsi, and doctoral candidates Kendisha S. Hintz, Marcel Starfinger, Michael Jenke, La Thi Tham, and Dagninet Amare each contributed with a presentation.

A screenshot of the opening of the panel by the moderator

Duncan MacQueen, an expert in small-scale locally-controlled forest enterprises, opened the panel by quoting a study by Verdone (2018), which revealed that with about 1.5 billion small-scale forest and farm producers globally, they constitute the world’s largest private farm forestry sector in terms of cumulative economic value. Hence, there is nothing small about forest smallholders.

The panel began with a presentation by Kendisha, who talked about organizational governance of forestry cooperatives based on a systematic review and empirical insights of forestry cooperatives from Ethiopia and Vietnam. Marcel and Michael continued the discussion with ‘Tree Banks’ for smallholders and community forests in Thailand, where they assessed potential synergies and incoherencies. Moving on to Vietnam, Tham presented insights on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) implementation which demonstrates the interplay between local institution and market-driven international institution. The discussion moved to Africa, where Jude presented preliminary findings of his CAMFORST project about forest-linked institutional change and policy implications in Cameroon. Dagninet ended on a forward-looking note, where he talked about incentives and governance mechanisms of agroforestry and policy frameworks in sub-Saharan Africa.   

The remaining 30 minutes of the session was enticing and interactive – it was filled with questions from our audience. We can conclude that forest smallholders at the individual level may be small in scale, but definitely not small in terms of relevance and potential. The various case studies outlined in our presentations highlight how both endogenous, exogenous, and mixed approaches can contribute to improve outputs for both forest smallholders’ livelihoods and societal demands on forests.

As much as we would have liked to visit beautiful Freiburg and attend the conference in person, but we are glad that it went smoothly online. The moderator and speakers were sitting in 6 different countries: Duncan lives in the UK, Michael in Thailand, Tham and Marcel in Germany, while Jude, Dagninet and Kendisha are currently in field research trips in Cameroon, Ethiopia, and Tanzania, respectively.

A recording of our panel discussion presentations can be found here. Besides, we have learned a lot by attending other panel sessions vis-à-vis forest policy, such as the debate in forest bioeconomy and concepts of social innovation in forestry, among others. We do encourage to check out the abstract book or other panel discussion presentations: https://ifpm3.info/downloads/

On behalf of the speakers, we thank Duncan MacQueen for the excellent moderation, the participants in our panel session for their engagement, Julia for the technical support during our panel, and the IFPM3 team for the outstanding organization.   

By Kendisha S. Hintz & Marcel Starfinger

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