Forest Governance Learning Group

The Forest Governance Learning Group aims to connect forest-dependent people who are marginalised from forest governance with those who control it.

2003 -
James Mayers

Director, Natural Resources

Locally-controlled forestry
How IIED supports just transitions towards locally-controlled forestry that safeguard biocultural heritage, enhance entrepreneurship and improve prosperity within diverse and resilient landscapes

Two men sat behind a desk chat to one another, with the Forest Governance Learning Group logo in the background

Eradicating poverty and improving sustainability in forestry can only be achieved through strong and inclusive governance structures and processes, including leadership, institutions, policy decisions and practical systems.

From our research, we know that small teams working together can have a big impact on improving forest governance by developing practical tactics for securing safe spaces, provoking dialogue, building constituencies, wielding evidence of what works, and interacting politically. Collectively, they demonstrate that it is necessary to put social justice centre stage for long-term sustainability.

In practice, this often means investing in locally-controlled forestry.

How it works

The Forest Governance Learning Group is an informal alliance of 10 in-country groups of partners in Cameroon, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Vietnam. The teams carry out research, capacity building and advocacy work.

IIED works with these teams to carry out similar functions internationally, and it steers the initiative, with additional support to teams in Asia from The Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC).

Thematic work focuses on:

  • Strengthening forest rights and small forest enterprises
  • Encouraging trade in legal forest products, and
  • Advocating for pro-poor climate change mitigation and adaptation through forestry.

China's growing population provides a large and growing market for forest products. A special exchange and learning platform has been developed to establish links between forest practitioners and policymakers in China and promote China-Africa forest governance links and to explore key issues in forest investment and trade.

The China-Africa Forest Governance project

In 2014 the work of the Forest Governance Learning Group led to the creation of the China-Africa Forest Governance project. IIED leads the project with partners in China, Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo, Mozambique and Uganda.

The key objectives are to generate evidence, strengthen capacity and dialogue, and improve policy in China and Africa and investment practices of Chinese investors in support of resilient African land use and a sustainable China-Africa forest products trade.


Additional resources

Long read: Mist clears on China in African forests, by Khanh Tran-Thanh, Seth Cook, James Mayers and Xiaoxue Weng (2017)


Cameroon: Network for Environment and Sustainable Development in Africa

China: Global Environmental Institute

Ghana: Civic Response

India: Enviro Legal Defence Firm

Indonesia: Natural Resource Development Center

Malawi: Centre for Development Management

Mozambique: Center for Public Integrity

South Africa: Forestry South Africa

Tanzania: Tanzania Natural Resource Forum

Uganda: Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment

Vietnam: The Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC)