Small, but many, is big: challenges in assessing the collective scale of locally controlled forest-linked production and investment.
Small and locally controlled forest-linked investments are crucial to development and environmental protection. Patchy and anecdotal evidence suggests that the aggregate scale of local investment in goods and services from forests - on farms and by small enterprises and producer organisations - is huge. For example, one estimate puts the number of individual forest-linked producers, small-scale forest and farm producer organisations, and small enterprises at one billion globally. But their numbers have not been properly assessed and neither has their full potential for forest conservation, climate change adaptation and mitigation, returns on investment and local development outcomes. This paper reviews some of the issues in assessing the scale and exploring the scope of small and locally controlled forest-linked production and investment internationally. It lays out a plan for a fuller assessment and proposes how the results could help generate higher levels of commitment to measurable improvements in policy, organisation, business practice, technical capacity and practical initiatives that generate acceptable returns from investment with local people in the driving seat.