Flourishing forests and prosperous people – together

Introducing IIED’s forests and prosperity programme, which works to support Indigenous People, forest communities and forest and farm smallholder farmers to be highly effective guardians of the forest.

Article, 04 January 2022
A woman farmer bends over in a field of crops in front of forest in the background.

Farm workers in Myanmar harvesting crops adjacent to an area of community forest (Photo: Duncan Macqueen, IIED)

Can we save the world’s tropical forests while also enhancing the prosperity of forest-dependent people?

Indigenous People, forest communities and forest and farm smallholder farmers need the answer to be yes. But compelling evidence also suggests that forest-dependent people can be highly effective guardians of the forest.

Their stewardship of nature can be enhanced by support that helps them to establish strong organisations, secure tenure and to create connections with technical and business service providers. This ultimately benefits us all.

Drivers of deforestation

The drivers of deforestation do sometimes include expansions in subsistence farming, especially in Africa, where population growth and poverty make forest clearance a matter of survival. But one can hardly begrudge a poor family their right to food.

More troubling are the more powerful drivers associated with industrial agriculture, mining and infrastructure development, fuelled by the appetites of wealthy consumers, often in far-distant countries.

Together with international and local partners in Africa, Asia and Latin America, IIED’s forests and prosperity programme supports efforts that improve locally-controlled forestry and collaborates with local organisations engaged in forest climate action.

Locally controlled forestry

IIED is helping to build the capacity of local organisations to develop sustainable forest and farm businesses, for example surveying different approaches to ‘forest business incubation’ before developing training and business incubation toolkits such as ‘ForBInc’.

IIED has also produced risk management toolkits such as ‘Securing forest business’ and guidance on ‘Access to finance for forest and farm producer organisations’.

Beyond organisational strengthening, IIED also empowers local organisations to generate high-impact evidence to rebalance governance: by exploring tactics to deliver ‘Social justice in forestry’, highlighting innovations that spread sustainable community forestry in ‘Unseen foresters’, how to engage ‘Chinese investments and Africa’s small-scale producers’ or how to develop national approaches such as ‘Boosting governance in Mozambique’s forests’.

Forest climate action

IIED’s work is facilitating interactions that shape more enabling policies and finance flows, for example by linking local social movements into climate programmes such as REDD+ in ‘Mozambique’s REDD+’ or documenting lessons from Tanzania about what happens when ‘REDD+ hits the ground’.

REDD+ readiness has been supported in Jamaica while major official development aid streams to sustainable forest management such as the Forest Investment Programme have been evaluated.

To find out more about the overall approach and how different elements fit together, read: 'Innovations towards prosperity' and ‘Co-producing knowledge: a demand-led, prosperity-focused, research agenda with forest and farm producer organisations'.

Alternatively, watch a presentation by IIED principal researcher Duncan Macqueen on organisational innovations that make community forestry prosperous.


Duncan Macqueen ([email protected]), principal researcher, Natural Resources research group; programme lead