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What makes producer organizations effective?

Authors:
  • Tropenbos International
  • Tropenbos International

Abstract

Key issues Internal organization – the foundation • Self-governance is crucial, with financial and political independence, openness and equitable benefit-sharing the keys to success. • Federations and umbrella organizations are vital in scaling up influence and power. Tenure and governance – the critical preconditions • Access and clear rights to land, justice and equality are fundamental prerequisites. What you know and who you know – the key entry points • Learning from each other is essential, as is access to technical knowledge, skills and training. • Local producers’ active participation and influence in processes of governance reform pave the way for progress. External services and support – the enabling environment • Government agencies and services must adapt their “offer” to better meet smallholder needs, seeing them as partners. • International organizations and NGOs would do well to learn lessons from the past. • The large-scale private sector can play a greater role, but must accept the fair sharing of benefits, investments and responsibilities. Markets and business opportunities – the end game • Building on local markets will help increase resilience to market shocks. • Building brand recognition though business support remains a common gap. • Increasing access to affordable finance will be increasingly important. In conclusion - one way forward • Producer organizations should be included in all programmes related to climate change, food security and nutrition, landscape restoration, rural livelihoods, and engagements with the large-scale private sector
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Nick Pasiecznik is a communications consultant, Agroforestry Enterprises, Cussy en Morvan, France;
Herman Savenije is Programme Coordinator with Tropenbos International, Wageningen, the Netherlands;
Jeffrey Y. Campbell is Manager of the Forest and Farm Facility, based at FAO headquarters, Rome, Italy;
Duncan Macqueen is Principal Researcher at the International Institute for Environment and Development,
Edinburgh, UK, and a member of the Forest and Farm Facility management team.
What makes producer
organizations effective?
NICK PASIECZNIK, HERMAN SAVENIJE, JEFFREY
Y. CAMPBELL and DUNCAN MACQUEEN
Key issues
Internal organization – the foundation
Self-governance is crucial, with financial and political independence, openness and
equitable benefit-sharing the keys to success.
Federations and umbrella organizations are vital in scaling up influence and power.
Tenure and governance – the critical preconditions
Access and clear rights to land, justice and equality are fundamental prerequisites.
What you know and who you know – the key entry points
Learning from each other is essential, as is access to technical knowledge, skills and
training.
Local producers’ active participation and influence in processes of governance
reform pave the way for progress.
External services and support – the enabling environment
Government agencies and services must adapt their “offer” to better meet
smallholder needs, seeing them as partners.
International organizations and NGOs would do well to learn lessons from the past.
The large-scale private sector can play a greater role, but must accept the fair
sharing of benefits, investments and responsibilities.
Markets and business opportunities – the end game
Building on local markets will help increase resilience to market shocks.
Building brand recognition though business support remains a common gap.
Increasing access to affordable finance will be increasingly important.
In conclusion - one way forward
Producer organizations should be included in all programmes related to climate
change, food security and nutrition, landscape restoration, rural livelihoods, and
engagements with the large-scale private sector.
ETFRN NEws 57: sEpTEmbER 2015
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Introduction
Why are producer organizations critical?
The economic activities of forest and farming families, indigenous communities, and
small- and medium-scale producers and enterprises are the basis of local livelihoods. They
are also critical for achieving or maintaining a sustainable and durable future for the
natural resources on which such activities are based. These producers manage most of the
world’s agricultural land and forests and produce more than three-quarters of the food
that we consume, even though they do not always have the legal rights to use the land or
to what grows on it. But who represents them? And how are they engaged in policy
processes to secure their, and the planet’s, future?
Throughout the world, small-scale producers operate through a vast network of locally
controlled forest and farm enterprises. They are likely to be the most important suppliers
of food and other resources for direct local consumption, processing or resale, including
agricultural goods, timber and non-timber forest products (NTFPs). And since their
day-to-day existence and future economic survival depends on the health of the
natural environment, they have a powerful incentive to combat land degradation and
deforestation, and to conserve, use and manage their landscapes sustainably. But this is
true only if they have rights to the land and resources through some form of local control.
Local producers can be landscape stewards while ensuring that forest and farm activities
provide sustainable sources of income and improve well-being within their communities.
However, their rights to use and own the land and the resources on which they depend
are often insecure and unclear, due to overlapping and conflicting tenure regimes (such
as customary, informal and formal systems), and the expansion of large-scale agriculture,
forest and mining concessions, urbanization and industrial development.
Local producers often operate in relative isolation in remote areas with poor infrastruc-
ture. They have limited access to markets, technical support, business development and
financial services, and they struggle with inadequate information and frequent neglect
by governments. Complex and inaccessible administrative rules and procedures geared to
larger enterprises also hamper their efforts to secure rights and develop potential.
To strengthen their economic and political muscle, local producers are increasingly seeing
the value of organizing themselves into producer organizations. Working together creates
a larger scale of production that improves access to markets and their bargaining position
in these markets. Strength in numbers also empowers them in policy development.
Increased financial returns open up the possibility of investing in services for their
members, such as market information, credit, training to develop technical and
entrepreneurial skills, and developing value-added processing. Forest and farm producers
that are organized, associated and federated are also easier for governments, service
providers, development organizations and companies to communicate with than a
multitude of individual operators.
whaT makEs pRoducER oRgaNizaTioNs EFFEcTivE? — kEy issuEs
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Managing landscapes to provide multiple local — and global — goods and services often
requires complicated and negotiated trade-offs. The democratic nature of producer
organizations is particularly well suited to reconciling difficult compromises between
development and the environment, compared with profit-oriented business models. Forest
and farm producer organizations must take on more responsibility for ensuring sustain-
able land use and forest management while simultaneously reducing poverty and inequity.
To be effective, more producer organizations need to be established locally, associated
provincially, and federated nationally, and existing groups need to become stronger and
more effective in meeting their objectives.
What is a forest and farm producer organization?
As defined by the Forest and Farm Facility, forest and farm producer organizations vary
widely in size and institutional form, and may include indigenous peoples and local
community organizations; tree-grower, agroforestry or forest owners’ associations;
producer cooperatives and companies; umbrella groups and federations. Their members
include women and men, smallholder families, indigenous peoples and local communities
who have a strong relationship with forests and farms. They grow, manage, harvest and
process a range of natural resource-based goods and services for home use and for local,
national or international markets. Coming together in traditional, informal and formal
producer organizations helps producers share knowledge and experience, engage in
advocacy, secure tenure and access rights, improve sustainable forest and farm manage-
ment, expand markets, build enterprises and increase income and well-being.
The term producer organizations implies inclusion of any of the above groups, associations,
cooperatives or institutions that produce, process or market goods originating from
agricultural or forest products. The term includes groups such as forest and farm producer
organizations (FFPOs), forest producer organizations (FPOs), small and medium-sized
forest enterprises (SMFEs), broader small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs),
community forest enterprises (CFEs), locally controlled forestry (LCF), and community-
based natural resource management organizations.
Effective, well-functioning producer organizations tend to have an integrated view on
what constitutes success, marrying economic viability and competitiveness based on farm
and forest products with broader objectives. These objectives relate to sustainable
landscape stewardship, harmonious social relations, development of human potential,
respect for cultural practices, and resilience to economic, social or environmental shocks.
With a goal of financial and political independence, democratic leadership and internal
governance, with broad representation and social diversity in voluntary membership —
including women and youth — are equally important.
This issue
The call for papers asked a range of questions to assist in defining what makes forest and
farm producer organizations more effective. Not all questions were answered, but the
diverse experiences described in this issue outline many problems and how they were (or
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were not) overcome, what producer organizations have done themselves, what initiatives,
policies and strategies supported them, and what is still holding them back. The 26 full
articles and four sidebars in this book are divided into three sections, and the most
common lessons learned and recommendations from these experiences are summarized
here.
The first section includes ten experiences of local producer organizations from the
Americas, Africa and Asia. Women are lead authors on half of these articles, but only
four include actual members of the respective producer organizations as co-authors.
Most articles describe the history of the organization, and how growth has been assisted
by a NGO or government agency. The second section provides examples of national and
regional federations and umbrella organizations. The third section covers cross-cutting
issues such as certification, extension, government support and finance.
This overview summarizes how the articles offer insights in a number of identified key
areas. This is not intended as a policy paper, nor does it claim to present a detailed and
thorough global synthesis. But it brings together 30 experiences, stories from producer
organizations and those who work with them, and highlights evidence for and against
current thinking. Together, they provide an overview of experiences that can be used as
a reference and inspiration to reflect on our own situations or those of others.
Producer organizations in perspective
From where to where?
Much has been written on the foundations of successful forest and farm producer
organizations. What is more recent, however, is the growing evidence of their significance
in larger emerging issues such as climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity
conservation, and achieving Sustainable Development Goals (Bowler et al. 2010; Porter-
Bolland et al. 2012; ILEIA 2012; Macqueen et al. 2014b; Stevens et al. 2014).
European production and marketing cooperatives have a strong presence in many areas
of business, especially in agriculture, where they make up 30–70% of the market, and
their influence in other regions is increasing. Producer groups fall into one of five tiers
of organization, each with a corresponding level of business capacity, benefits, potential
impact and risk (Macqueen, Campbell and deMarsh 2014). Within this framework, many
cooperatives or producer organizations in Northern countries are in the most developed
stage 5, whereas most examples in this issue of ETFRN News are in stages 3 or 4. Authors
of the articles explain their evolution from lower tiers, what helped them grow, and what
is holding them from advancing further.
Farmer and agriculture-based organizations are generally much more advanced than
forest-based groups, with stronger market links and a much longer history. Looking at
the changes in producer organization as they develop, such as self-governance and links
between broad social representation and business, is enlightening in analyzing how
organizations grow and what provides the effective triggers, support and motivation to
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do so. It is hoped that summaries of such insights are forthcoming and will be available in
a format and language that will benefit producer organizations of all stages and types.
Building momentum
This issue of ETFRN News was produced as part of a multi-agency momentum-building
initiative that aims to give more visibility and voice to producer organizations. It was
produced in part as a response to the recommendations from the Strength in Numbers
report (FAO and AgriCord 2012) and the international conference of the same name in
Guilin, China (FAO 2013), along with the Making change happen (DeMarsh et al. 2014) and
the Multi-sectoral platforms for planning and implementation (Macqueen et al. 2014a)
working papers, the Roadmap for strengthening forest and farm organizations policy brief
(FFF 2014), and Democratising forest business: a compendium of successful locally controlled
forest and farm business models (Macqueen, Bolin and Greijmans 2015).
This issue extends the important work of the Forest Connect programme, which links a
strong network of organizations supporting enterprises and producer organizations. It is
one of a series of joint activities involving the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),
the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF), the International Institute for Environment and
Development (IIED), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the
Center for People and Forests (RECOFTC), Tropenbos International, and five regional and
global producer organizations. These are the International Family Forestry Alliance
(IFFA), the Alianza Mesoamericana de Pueblos y Bosques/
Mesoamerican Alliance of People and Forests (AMPB),
the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural
Development (AFA), the Global Alliance for Community
Forestry (GACF), the International Alliance of Indigenous
and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests (IAITPTF). The
FFF is itself a partnership between FAO, IUCN and IIED,
working in ten countries and at the regional and global
level on three key pillars: 1) strengthening smallholder,
women, community and indigenous peoples’ producer
organizations for business/livelihoods and policy
engagement; 2) catalyzing multi-sectoral stakeholder policy
platforms with governments at local and national levels; and 3) linking local voices and
learning to the global level through genuinely participatory processes, communication and
information sharing.
The combined aim is to put people and their organizations at the heart of the XIV World
Forestry Congress in Durban, South Africa in September 2015, including a two-day
pre-congress event: “Building momentum for community-based forestry and forest and
farm producer organizations.” As part of this effort, regional events in the Americas,
Africa and Asia brought together producer organizations to take stock of the current
situation and develop messages for global events, including the World Forestry Congress.
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Everybody talks about them, but few fund them
There is much talk about the value of producer organizations across a wide range of
issues, especially by donors and governments. But when one looks at budgets,
priorities, plans and programmes, it appears that this talk is largely rhetoric. Do forest
and farm producer organizations fall through the gap between the priorities of bilateral
and international donors? They don’t directly or specifically involve biodiversity conserva-
tion or climate change adaptation or mitigation. It’s not solely about increasing crop
yields or reducing losses to drought, pests and diseases, new crop varieties, genetically
modified organisms or biofortification. It’s not just about aquaculture, animal breeding
or biofuels. It’s not exactly poverty reduction or building resilience. And it doesn’t directly
deal with water, sanitation, health or education. Producer organizations actually
encompass a bit of all of these – in one integrated package.
Most attention is focused elsewhere. At the macro level, resources are funnelled to global
policy changes, or coming up with big solutions to shape the practice of corporate giants.
At the micro level, one-off efforts that support individuals and small projects abound. But
the tremendous potential of the “mezzo” level — the vast private-sector middle ground
— is mostly overlooked. Vertical linkages between smallholders and the machinery of
government and giant market actors need to be strengthened. More important though are
opportunities to strengthen horizontal linkages between those who know and love their
communities, their forests and their land. Such people generally want to build their own
social enterprises to ensure sustainable livelihoods and community well-being. The mezzo
layer could be filled with producer organizations and their own large private-sector
networks and federations, as prime movers for a more appropriate sustainable
development model.
As primary and secondary producers, members of producer organizations are very
different from NGOs and civil society organizations. Working directly with them is a move
away from decades of support to service providers who speak on behalf of — but rarely
represent — farmers and indigenous and forest peoples. Strong producer organizations
hold the key to reversing the unsustainable trends that are destroying landscapes and
communities. They can increase decent rural job opportunities that in turn can help stem
the flow of youth to cities, which fuels discontent, anxiety and a sense of separation from
culture and place. They can take a vital part in strengthening the rural economy, and as
their capacity grows, innovative processing and marketing can add to the diversity of
forest and farm products.
Organized groups of people who still possess indigenous and local knowledge at a
landscape scale are best positioned to respond to the ongoing challenges of climate
change and adapt the new wave of climate change solutions. They can do so in ways that
could actually lead to mitigation and spur practical innovative adaptations. Scientists,
policy makers and even the large-scale private sector cannot do their job without
organized small-scale producers. This is why strengthened and more effective producer
organizations are an essential element for scaling up efforts. Investing in them will have
larger and longer-term multiplier effects on social, economic and environmental impacts
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9
than many other approaches. Evidence shows that a lot can be done with the support
that is provided (FFF 2014), and the articles in this issue add to that evidence. Much more
could be done, however, with only a moderate increase in funding, at both the national
and international level.
Internal organization
Crucial issues in self-governance
There are three basic purposes of any local forest and farm producer organization
(Macqueen et al. 2006; deMarsh et al. 2014: to speak with a more powerful voice and
lobby buyers and decision makers; to reduce transaction costs and provide services for
their members; and to adapt strategically to new opportunities. Other requisites, also
highlighted by deMarsh et al. (2014), include strong collective and evolving interests,
autonomy from government or other agencies and institutions, democratic decision
making, clarity of internal roles and responsibilities, transparent financial reporting,
successful experiences across members, self-reliance and internal management. Most
of these qualities are also observed with agricultural cooperatives and associations,
community forest management, civil society, community-based, non-governmental
and other grassroots organizations.
Each producer organization has developed its own organizational structure, but some
common elements and processes are apparent. First, there is always a clearly defined
structure. Ad hoc organizations are reported, but those that have grown to any size and
sustained themselves over any length of time tend to have an elected committee. These
committees have a number of names, such as executive or governing committee, council
or board. Positions include a president, secretary and treasurer, and in most local
producer organizations, the responsibilities are carried out on a voluntary basis.
In larger organizations, however, or those that have several quite different activities or
value chains, maintaining a feeling of inclusion is sometimes an issue. In such cases, the
formation of sub-groups, sub-committees or even separate businesses has proved help-
ful (Playfair and Esseboom 1.3; Restrepo et al. 1.7). Smaller organizations can meet at a
member’s farm or house on a rotational basis, which helps in learning and sharing
(Restrepo et al. 1.7), but as they grow, the need for a dedicated institutional centre (often
a building or set of buildings) becomes more important. This is one area where outside
support tends to be crucial, in providing material resources for establishing such a centre
(Parra et al. 1.4; Foundjem-Tita et al. 1.6).
Issues related to youth and gender are worthy of specific analysis, although these were
only touched on in several articles. Rural out-migration and the declining interest of
youth in agrarian livelihoods leave mostly older people to manage farming affairs (Slusser,
Calle and Garen 1.2). The important work of women’s groups in forming and sustaining
producer organizations is also clear; for example, in the collection, processing and
marketing of NTFPs in Suriname (Playfair and Esseboom 1.3), and women are a vital part
in many other ventures, including dairy farming in Kenya (Restrepo et al. 1.7) and small
farm surpluses in India (Bisht, Maheshwari and Pant 1.8).
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Federations and umbrella organizations
Umbrella organizations unite local producer organizations in provincial, national or
regional associations or federations. They have fundamentally similar organizational
structures, and through active membership, local organizations should have a direct
influence over the functioning of umbrella groups. (External organizations — governmen-
tal, non-governmental, civil society, academic or private — are discussed below).
Although both umbrella and external organizations can
provide support and services to individual producer
organizations, they do so in different ways.
Care must be taken with definitions, as the term umbrella
can be used to describe producer organizations that
federate local communities (Pforte, Postorius and
Pawlowski 2.1), when such a group might otherwise be
seen as a single producer organization. The five tiers of
organizational development (Macqueen, Campbell and
deMarsh, 2014) can be applied to federations as well as to
individual producer organizations, from a single cooperative with multiple activities in
Peru (Rodríguez Zunino 2.2) or based on timber in Indonesia (Tri Wahyudiyati and
Irawanti 2.6), to a national organization with only a few members based around a single
product in Cambodia (Chey et al. 2.5) or a very large national federation in Nepal (Pathak,
Parajuli and Pandey 2.4), and the beginning of regional development in the Caribbean
(Eckelmann and Sandy 2.3) and the Pacific (Stice and Toleafoa 2.7). Clearly, the potential
for expansion is huge.
Umbrella organizations have benefited very diverse groups of producers, including
farmers on small islands (Stice and Toleafoa 2.7), and small forest producers in developed
countries (deMarsh and Dansereau 2.8) and developing countries (Pathak, Parajuli and
Pandey 2.4). The reasons for their creation are similar, as are their roles and member
benefits. However, how they are supported and their past experience and future prospects
are quite different. All these groups show that national and regional federations have
significant positive impacts by aggregate the many into the millions, and by taking small-
holders voices into multilateral debates and multinational boardrooms, and many other
international forums where peoples’ rights, needs and well-being are being discussed,
but where they have historically had little input. One example of the impacts that can be
achieved comes from Guatemala, where 250 local producer organizations are aggregated
into 11 provincial associations that together form one national alliance (the AMPB).
Representing 388,000 producers and sustainably managing 750,000 hectares (ha), or
17.5% of the national forest cover, in negotiations with the government they secured a
forest incentive programme for their members worth 1% of Guatemala’s GDP.
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Tenure and governance – the critical preconditions
Access to land
Without the right to land or what grows on it, there is little security, and therefore little
incentive to manage, restore or develop productive systems within forest landscapes.
The crucial issue of secure land tenure is mentioned frequently in the articles in this issue,
as it has been in previous studies. It is not the ownership of land per se, but the right to
harvest what you sow, to profit or otherwise benefit from your, your family’s or your
community’s collective labour.
There have been changes for the better toward more community management and local
control, especially in recent decades. Hodgdon and Sandoval (1.1) note the marked shift
in tropical forest tenure in the past twenty years, with more than 30% of forest land
now under some form of local control (RRI 2012). In other cases, change has come about
through the legal recognition of customary or informal arrangements on the access, use
and control of lands and other resources. This has resulted in part from a shift toward
decentralized governance, from mounting evidence that indigenous and community
management can conserve forests as well or better than strict protection (Seymour, La
Vina and Hite 2014), and that well-managed forests can power economic development
through locally driven enterprises.
Opposing forces remain strong, however, and sometimes make things worse (RRI 2014).
Conversion of forests, savannah or smallholder agricultural landscapes to plantations (oil
palm, bio-energy, pulp wood, etc.), industrial agriculture, mining, urban development,
tourism and other competing land uses continues and is increasing in some places. Large-
scale concessions for forest exploitation are still being issued alongside newly protected
areas. Although the demands of an increasing urban population must be considered, so
must landscape-level considerations, including the livelihoods of those who live in and
depend on those landscapes. Producer organizations can bring these concerns forward,
and so they must have a seat at the negotiating table. Their work as custodians of the
soil and all that grows in it must be adequately acknowledged; by doing so, economic and
environmental benefits need not be trade-offs (Das, Sidebar 4).
Access to justice
One cannot lay any claim to land or the fruits of it without recourse to justice as the
fundamental basis. Ownership, rights and access to land and other resources are key, and
inequality and injustice in their distribution are the roots of so much human suffering. Yet
in all of our considerations on human rights, there remains little said on the connections
between (freedom of) association, (access to) land, justice, equality, poverty and
“progress.” None of this is new, however; as long ago as 1879 Henry George concluded
that “association in equality is the law of progress (George 1953: 196).
Where an individual producer may be at risk from resource grabs for land and natural
resources, a strong producer organization is much less vulnerable. In part this has to do
with the formal registration of organizational structures and their articles of association
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required by the state and for the internal peace of mind of members. Such registration
can stake a claim to land and natural resources even in situations where the legislative
provisions for local tenure are weak. Additionally, a strong producer organization is more
likely to be able to afford to pursue justice with representatives equipped for that task,
or to at least be able to threaten so to do. A number of national federations and alliances
have successfully used legal means, up to and including through supreme courts to push
for rights critical to their members.
Membership size gives larger organizations political weight with decision makers and the
judiciary, in view of their voter numbers and combined connections. The more that such
organizations interact politically to shape policies that further secure their rights, the
stronger this position becomes. In Sweden for example, a century of political engage-
ment by forest and farm producer cooperatives has led to the restriction of corporate land
holdings to 25% of total land area. Conversely, in regions dominated by large corporate
interests and investment contracts, the rights of local producers can be constantly eroded
in law, but even in these contexts vital gains are being made.
Who you know and what you know – the key entry points
Access to each other, and to technical knowledge, skills and training
Many of those working with producer organizations have the distinct advantage of being
able to compare and contrast the varied experiences within and between them and have
important observations to make –one of the aims of this publication. The learning value
of sharing experiences among and between producer organizations is highlighted again
and again, and its importance in growing through the stages of organizational develop-
ment. This can be facilitated through federated umbrella organizations that can also
share experiences between different countries (Stice and Toleafoa 2.7; deMarsh and
Dansereau 2.8; and the work of international organizations or NGOs).
Increased access to knowledge, skills and training, often grouped under the term
capacity building, is a commonly cited demand by producer organizations and is highlighted
in many previous and parallel analyses. This also encompasses follow-on support once
the necessary knowledge, skills and technical have been obtained, as it should be not be
seen as a ‘one-off’ activity, rather as a process of continually building and developing the
knowledge and skill-set. This can be achieved, at least partially, by farmer-to-farmer or
organization-to-organization sharing and learning, but often requires external support
(see below, and specifically, Simpson and Bingen 3.5).
Access to influence
This includes access to decision makers and decision making, including in the policy arena,
but can also involve access to finance, markets (national and international) or any other
type of external support. Access is increased through greater numbers; associations and
federations are able to represent many voices and have political power. Such is the case
in Nepal (Pathak,Parajuli and Pandey 2.4), where the umbrella organization for forest
producer groups counts 8.5 million members: 30% of the national population. But it is not
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13
just a numbers game. Respect increases influence, and respect is earned through the way
an organization is managed. Inclusivity, democracy, transparency and accountability give
organizations an inner strength, which leads to outer strength, assuming that equal and
fair rules are in place.
Decentralization of the power and authority of central government to provincial,
municipal and local authorities can assist the growth of producer organizations, but does
not always do so (Simpson and Bingen 3.5). Although individual producer organizations
rarely have sufficient influence, federations do. If governments want to see policy changes
transformed into real impact on the ground, the effective participation of producer groups
is essential. And if producers want to have their opinions considered in such debates, their
voices must be aggregated. We see how effective policies can assist the development of
producer organizations as in Vietnam (Ngo, Pinchot and Current 1.9), or hinder them as
in Ghana (Mensah and Nketiah 1.5), and Greijmans et al. (3.1) puts such policies in the
broader context.
The geographic scale of a forest and farm producer organization or federation is deter-
mined by three basic functions: the size of area that would allow a particular service to
be provided most efficiently to its members; the area required to supply the demand from
value added processing facilities; and crucially, the level of government whose policy the
forest producers most want to influence. In most long-term successes in locally controlled
forest landscape management, national federations evolved at a fairly early stage, e.g.,
The Central Union of Agricultural Producers and Forest Owners in Finland, the Federation
of Swedish Farmers and the AMPB in Guatemala, as well as FECOFUN in Nepal (Pathak,
Parajuli and Pandey 2.4).
Access to processes of policy and governance reform can also extend to the international
level. For example, representatives of family, community and indigenous forestry groups
began a process in 2009 to discuss a common agenda. This was undertaken via leaders of
the International Family Forestry Alliance, the Global Alliance for Community Forestry,
and the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests
(the Three Rights Holders Group, or G3). They agreed to work through their differences,
and developed a mutually acceptable agenda and terminology to pursue locally controlled
forestry, which they defined as “the local right for forest owner families and communities
to make decisions on commercial forest management and land use, with secure tenure
rights, freedom of association and access to markets and technology.” The process led to
strong advocacy positions agreed by all parties as to the terminology and agenda that
they jointly wished to pursue in a range of international processes (G3 2011).
At the regional level, the AMPB is another strong umbrella organization of ten national
and sub-national groups in Central America. It engages in a range of regional events
through highly effective “pre-congresses” and the production of communications materi-
als in support of issues important to their members. It recently linked up with producer
organizations in South America, Africa and Asia to develop a highly effective media
campaign — If not us, then who? — that gave them high visibility in global events related to
climate change in 2014, including New York and Lima.
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External services and support – the enabling environment
Service providers, governments and international organizations can support the formation
and strengthening of producer organizations by helping to develop suitable conditions.
These conditions include secure tenure, fair market access and high-quality support
services for capacity development. Of vital importance is the promotion of interactions at
all levels for joint learning to share experiences, gain ideas, spread innovations and build
best practices that can help producer organizations reflect on and strengthen their
effective functioning, and gain confidence in what they are doing in their specific context.
Government agencies and services
Central governments are key players, as makers and enforcers of national policies and
legislation, and as signatories and interpreters of international treaties. They interact
with land users through national agencies, provincial (district, county) governments and
their local representatives. The services offered vary greatly from country to country, and
improving them has been an important component of support for producer organiza-
tions (deMarsh et al. 2014). An excellent example of a new approach (Boscolo et al. 3.4)
is a self-assessment tool developed by FAO to evaluate the effectiveness of public forest
agencies in supporting producer organizations. Too often, however, extension has focused
on the individual farmer, with less attention paid to the economies of scale and impact
that can be reached by strengthening enterprises and producer organizations. A number
of countries who have had success with farmer field school approaches are now seeing
the field school members as the basis of producer groups and are extending this effective
learning approach to forest product producers and tree farmers. Kenya is an interesting
example (Boscolo et al. 3.4).
Governments provide capacity and organizational support in many ways. In Suriname, the
Centre for Agricultural Research in Suriname supports women’s NTFP producer organiza-
tions (Playfair and Esseboom 1.3); in Indonesia the forest department encourages forest
farmer groups (Wahyudiyati and Irawanti 2.6); and in the Philippines municipalities have
important functions (van der Ploeg, Balbas and van Weerd 1.10). One specific area merits
a separate mention: extension services, although these are often coupled to other types of
support. There are positive cases such as in sub-Saharan Africa, although many situations
are noted where improvements can be made (Simpson and Bingen 3.5). Government
support was cut drastically in the Pacific, although this had a positive effect by encouraging
the development of farmer organizations to fill the gap (Stice and Toleafoa 2.7).
International organizations and NGOs
Many producer organizations have been supported through interventions by NGOs and
international groups; some owe their very existence to these bodies. These groups do
positive and important work: Rainforest Alliance supported an indigenous organization
to become Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified in Honduras and linked them to an
international buyer for batana oil (Hodgdon and Sandoval 1.1); the Forest Trust supports
FSC-certified timber in Indonesia (Cohen 3.2) and the UNDP Small Grants Program
supports a producer group in Peru (Parra et al. 1.4), among many others.
whaT makEs pRoducER oRgaNizaTioNs EFFEcTivE? — kEy issuEs
15
However, many producer organizations fail as soon as such support ends and well-
meaning interventions can also have the opposite effects to those intended. In the final
article in this issue Elson and Unggul (3.8) observe that “the best of intentions is not good
enough,” “don’t turn a business into a project,” and “a debt is an obligation to repay; a
grant is an obligation to report.” For established producer organizations, partnering with
development projects has clear potential advantages, but it can also bring challenges. In
an example from Cameroon, members’ expectations of direct financial benefits could not
be met, since the group had to pay secretaries and technical staff to complement in-house
expertise (Foundjem-Tita et al. 1.6). In some cases, partnerships with development
projects took group members away from their farming activities, especially the most
enthusiastic members, who served as field guides and interpreters, and these frustrations
led to a strong desire to do things differently. Other types of support may also be needed,
and chance has a part to play too. As van der Ploeg, Balbas and van Weerd (1.10) point
out, “Successfully restoring forest vegetation requires a great deal of labour, money,
expertise, support and time — and a little luck.”
Linking to the large-scale private sector
The largest private sector in the world is probably the aggregate total of all smallholder
producers, whether informal and unrecognized, or those categorized as micro, small and
medium scale enterprises. However, too often the term private sector is used to imply only
larger scale actors. There are many examples of direct links between large companies and
producer organizations. Companies increase profits by reducing the costs of administra-
tion, management and business transactions, and so they prefer to deal with a single
organizational focal point than with a multitude of individual producers. Examples are
numerous, including local communities getting together to sell NTFPs in Peru (Parra et al.
1.4); smallholder farmers in Kenya forming a producer organization to sell milk (Restrepo
et al. 1.7); and forest farmer groups forming to facilitate deals with timber companies in
Indonesia (Wahyudiyati and Irawanti 2.6). In some cases, links made via higher-level
national umbrella organizations, such as with NTFPs in Nepal (Pathak, Parajuli and
Pandey 2.4) and rattan furniture in Cambodia (Chey et al. 2.5), facilitate connections to
international markets that would be inaccessible to local producer organizations.
More commonly, NGOs or international organizations provide the main or only link to
international markets and to organic or FSC certification.
There are increasing efforts to attract the private sector to take a more active part in
supporting producer organizations, either through guaranteeing markets, training,
providing planting or other materials, or by direct financing (Nugnes 3.6; Meyer and
Johnson, Sidebar 4). More could be done, but assuring equitable benefit sharing is a com-
mon stumbling block. Although problems regarding implementation of REDD+ and carbon
projects are not covered in this issue, a related issue for producer organizations is the cost
of and lack of capacity for accurate data collection. Baker (Sidebar 2) offers a solution.
Business partnerships with small producers are most successful if they are equitable and
based on good co-planning, co-investment, co-responsibilities, sharing of co-benefits
(including costs and risks), and on an understanding and recognition of local realities,
ETFRN NEws 57: sEpTEmbER 2015
16
needs and interests. It is essential that adequate time and resources are available for
active engagement with local communities from the start, to invest in reciprocal relations
and build trust through effective and transparency communication. Often the first issue is
addressing land tenure and governance, which must be clarified in order to provide
long-term security.
Markets and business opportunities
Access to markets
Where the focus of many experiences is on accessing major national or international
markets, many articles show a welcome return to valuing local and provincial markets.
In the case of smallholder surpluses in India (Bisht, Maheshwari and Pant 1.8), the
producer organization stretched reached out to far-off markets, before coming back to
safer markets nearer to home. The balance between profit margin and risk is dependent
on the amount of capital available, not on the demands of a few clients or donors.
Often, success in local markets — where risks and returns are lower — leads to
international market opportunities with higher risks and returns.
Interestingly, not many articles discuss this important subject in the detail it would appear
to merit, though all cover the point in various other ways, either by discussing certifica-
tion or the role of external support. There are repeated confirmations of the essential
need for financial viability if any organization is to survive, but much less information
about on the best way to attain it. This may be due in part to author bias. There is much
written on the benefits of certification (Box 1), although only a very small fraction of
producer organizations are in fact certified and the actual benefits are far from clear.
Although certification can increase income by leapfrogging directly to a lucrative
international market with NGO or donor support, it appears to be a risky approach, and it
depends on a number of associated factors. Many articles highlight the basic need to
satisfy subsistence needs first. And following the “small is beautiful” mantra, it may be
best to focus on local, provincial and national markets only after meeting subsistence
needs. International markets can then be assessed and developed, depending on
connections both personal and geographical, and perhaps “a little luck.”
Building brand recognition
There are many dimensions to the information that customers link with a brand, and
many ways to alter customers’ perceptions by changing the sort of information that is
available about the company or producer organization in question, including the use of
imagery and promotion. Brand recognition is often associated with international markets,
but is by no means exclusive to them. Strong local brands — backed by recognition of the
contribution that the product makes to the local economy — can be an effective way to
consolidate local market access. In India, Himalayan Fresh has become a well-known local
and national brand (Bisht, Maheshwari and Pant 1.8).
There are several ways to achieve better brand recognition. In addition to a do-it-yourself
approach, there is adopting a certification standard recognized by consumers; FSC,
whaT makEs pRoducER oRgaNizaTioNs EFFEcTivE? — kEy issuEs
17
Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, Fairtrade International and
organic standards are the most well known globally. Due to their importance and the
controversy surrounding the actual and perceived costs and benefits, certification merits a
detailed discussion (Box 1). Producer organizations usually have a strong brand, because
of the many benefits described in the opening section of this overview.
Box 1. The double-edged sword of certification
Producer organizations see increased revenue from price premiums and volume sales
as the chief benefit of adopting certification practices. However, actual financial
returns from timber have generally been small and have been realized only for some
products and some markets. For this reason, the costs of initial investment and
ongoing auditing are too high for many small to medium-sized enterprises, unless
these costs can be covered by external donors such as NGOs (Cohen 3.2). In re-
sponse, FSC is focusing on assisting smallholders, who manage more than 1.5 million
ha of certified forests in the Global South, (three-quarters being community forests),
and a further 6 million ha in the Global North (Meier-Dörnberg and Karmann 3.3). In
the case of timber, an increasing number of eco-labels provide “soft” self-regulation
that is less strict than certification schemes, but more work is needed to qualify their
transparency, impartiality and sustainability impacts (Tegegne and Tuomasjukka,
Sidebar 1).
Organic certification of agricultural produce also has costs as well as benefits, with
changing regulations making it harder and more expensive for organizations to
maintain their certificate. Bisht, Maheshwari and Pant (1.8) wonder “why there are
so many roadblocks for people who want to grow and supply safe and nutritious food
and so few for those who sell less healthy foods.” In addition, the export of some
organically certified NTFPs, as seen in Suriname (Playfair and Esseboom 1.3),
depends on a single buyer, which brings its own risks.
Benefits from certification may not always be immediately apparent. Independent
of increased sales or revenues, some smaller enterprises regard the status of being
certified as a means of attracting financial and technical support from the interna-
tional community (Cohen 3.2). In any case, formal certification is less important for
national and especially local markets where quality standards can be assured through
associating the product with the producer organization itself. This may be the way to
go for low-cost, low-risk marketing.
Access to finance
There is money out there: lots of it. But the decisions on who has access to it and for what
purposes and under what conditions are still largely made by formal financial institutions.
Investments by large-scale farmers and enterprises tend to guarantee better or more
secure returns, and are preferred over the perceived high risks and high transaction costs
of investments in smallholder farming and forestry activities by producer organizations
ETFRN NEws 57: sEpTEmbER 2015
18
or small and medium sized enterprises. Where financing is made available, it is often for
environmentally unsustainable practices. Slusser, Calle and Garen (1.2) note that national
and international banks have historically funded the expansion of Panama’s agricultural
frontier by loaning to farmers who transformed unsettled forests into pasture lands.
Alternative tenure and business models should be further assessed when investing and
working with communities.
Increasing access to credit and micro-financing and support from NGOs show that alterna-
tive models are viable, not least in the area of internal savings schemes, which provide
revolving loan funds for members or serve larger investment needs. Existing informal
financing systems should also be acknowledged, as they can be a crucial component at the
local level as an alternative or complement to the formal system. Much could be learned
from these systems in terms of arrangements, conditions and risk management, and they
could provide the basis of more effective formal mechanisms. Most successes to date have
been seen in agriculture, with forestry slow to catch up, perhaps due to the longer periods
for returns and the more uncertain profits from timber and NTFPs. Nugnes (3.6) looks at
increasing investors’ interest in sustainable forestry management by improving the collec-
tion of impact data by producer organizations. Baker (Sidebar 2) offers a new approach
to data collection, and Meyer and Johnson (Sidebar 3) propose a new financing model for
smallholder and indigenous communities. Producer organizations can also benefit from
increased investments in forest landscape conservation (Buffle and Buss 3.7), as it clear
that increased income generation need not be at the expense of
biodiversity conservation (Das, Sidebar 4).
However, Elson and Unggul (3.8) make an important contribution
in noting the need for donors to find ways to channel funds to
innovative enterprises in a manner that mimics conventional invest-
ment; for instance, through debt and equity financing, to avoid moral
hazards, keep management focused on commercial goals, and enhance
opportunities for learning. They suggest that enabling investments
can be channelled to NGOs that support social enterprises; asset
investments can be made directly in the company itself.
Conclusions
The experiences and views shared in this edition of ETFRN News
confirm a number of increasingly widespread beliefs of those people
who work with producer organizations regarding what helps them to survive and thrive,
and what does not. These are separated into the five areas summarized at the beginning
of this overview. A number of issues clearly overlap, but this could be a framework for
further analysis. Although all elements are needed, they also have a sequential nature.
Having one helps to secure the next.
Producer organizations need to have a democratic and open structure, and will benefit
greatly from the support of a federation, if it belongs to one. This helps to secure clear
rights to land and what grows on it, to participate in debates and to advocate for changes
whaT makEs pRoducER oRgaNizaTioNs EFFEcTivE? — kEy issuEs
19
to these rights and justice for their members. Capacity and influence are crucial, as is
external support in some form or other, and these all lead to securing markets for forest
and farm products, financial benefits and the resulting economic viability that underpins
an organization’s sustainability and its ability to fulfil its many responsibilities, both social
and environmental.
But unless there are fundamental changes in the context in which producer organizations
operate, real lasting change and the positive impacts that this would bring may be limited
and short-lived. Simpson and Bingen (3.5) conclude with a quote from a Ugandan activist,
including the observation that “Strong grass-roots organizations and mobilization
processes pose a formidable political risk for most governments; it is therefore not
surprising that many organizations of small farmers have remained weak…. In most
cases these cooperatives keep small-scale farms in the background, forced to work under
oppressive market relationships.”
There is an increasing emphasis on strengthening producer organizations, but only by
simultaneously addressing the underlying causes of equality and justice can significant
and sustainable advances be made in reducing poverty and improving well-being. Those
with power rarely relinquish it without some form of struggle. Lasting change will require
more than just waiting for opportunities; it needs people to actively create them, if the
needs of the many are to outweigh the needs of the few.
What is required now is a much more conscious inclusion of producer organizations in all
programmes and policies related to climate change, food security and nutrition, landscape
restoration, rural livelihoods, and engagements with the private sector. Helping forest and
farm producers become better organized is a lever for transformational change. And such
change is an absolute necessity to ensure that rural communities can prosper on their own
terms, adapting and responding to change and challenges of maintaining their legal rights
amidst renewed pressures for land and resources.
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... When a community has collective property rights over a forest area and is allowed to commercially exploit the forest resources, it can develop one or more community forestry groups (sometimes called user groups) that are responsible for the CBFE's management. The quality of governance within such a group is a key factor in determining success, and includes issues of democratic decision-making and representation, transparency, account-ability, and fair distribution of benefits within the group (Baynes et al. 2015;Pasiecznik et al. 2015). Strengthening the governance of community-based groups will often require many years of facilitation and support (Gilmour 2016). ...
... They can lobby for improvements to the regulatory framework, raise public support for community rights, increase the government's accountability and responsiveness, and provide services to their members. Examples of this are found in Nepal and Guatemala, among other places, where federations have been established to represent community organizations (Ojha et al. 2008;Paudel, Monterroso and Cronkleton 2012;Hagen 2014;Pasiecznik et al. 2015). ...
... Besides access to markets and market information, CBFEs need access to various kinds of finance; for example, funds for start-up activities (such as setting up the enterprise, purchasing the necessary equipment, training and marketing), and other activities, such as restoration and forest enrichment. However, banks and other financiers may be hesitant to provide loans to community-based enterprises (Gilmour 2015;Pasiecznik et al. 2015;Macqueen et al. 2018). ...
Book
Full-text available
Over the last decades, governments all over the world have been formalizing the rights of local communities and Indigenous Peoples to forest lands and resources. This has become known as the forest tenure transition. With the transition on its way, it is time to take stock. What is the current state of affairs? What are the expectations? What are the outcomes? And, what are the conditions required to make formalization a success? This book tries to answer these questions, based on a review of the literature, and interviews with some of the world’s experts.
... They can lobby for improvements to the regulatory framework, raise public support for community rights, increase the government's accountability and responsiveness, and provide services to their members, while they may also improve communities' negotiation position in their dealings with external actors. However, organization beyond the community level seldom happens spontaneously, and often depends on CSO support (Pasiecznik et al., 2015;Paudel et al., 2012). ...
Article
Full-text available
The formalization of community forest tenure rights is expected to promote sustainable community forest management, and is seen as a way to combine objectives related to environmental conservation, livelihood improvement, and local self-determination. However, the formalization of forest tenure rights by itself, does not automatically result in the intended impacts. There is a need to better understand the conditions under which communities are able to use these rights to achieve positive outcomes across multiple dimensions. We formulated a simple theory of change that underlies the formalization of community forest tenure rights, and used it to assess the outcomes, bottlenecks and enabling conditions of community forest tenure models across the forested tropics. Based on this analysis, we identified ten conditions that need to be in place for community forest tenure rights formalization to achieve the intended impacts. The theory of change and associated conditions form a generic conceptual framework that can be used to inform policy and practice of actors supporting community forest tenure rights, including civil society organizations and government agencies.
... This need to inaugurate and strengthen accountable organisation applies (albeit differently) across the various potential types of community forestry -from indigenous territories, through to communal forests, to the collective actions of private forest smallholders or processing groups, and is the subject of much recent emphasis (see FAO and Agricord, 2012;Macqueen et al., 2014;Baynes et al., 2015;Pasiecznik et al., 2015;IUCN, 2017). Innovative ways of improving women's leadership and gender accountability in such organisations include building critical mass of women's membership, defining quotas for leadership, peer-to-peer mentoring by women leaders, and setting up tailored capacity-building processes for women (Bolin, 2018). ...
Book
Full-text available
As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic we find that much of our food and planetary protection comes not from corporations but from smallholders, Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs). We should shift governance attention – from favouring the corporations, to supporting a range of practical organizational innovations by IPLCs. Together these organizational innovations can achieve a big triple win for the planet’s forests, climate and people. The scale of IPLC use and management of forests require greater recognition and support (forest-linked IPLCs number 1.3 billion people, they produce products worth US$1.3 trillion annually) COVID-19 highlights the fragility of global supply chains and the need for small enterprise innovation, local income generation and local action for sustainability IPLCs are not generally implicated as the main drivers of forest loss – which predominantly industrial agriculture, industrial forestry, shifting cultivation and fire IPLCs are not homogenous and so tailored approaches to recognizing and spreading their sustainable forest management (SFM) practices are needed There are also very many types of IPLC enterprise, with variable value chains, market demand, formality, cost of proving claims, challenges of collective action, and imperatives for support 3rd party certification schemes are useful to spread industrial SFM but have not really helped IPLCs despite years of effort Accountable and tiered levels of organization that link IPLCs to each other, markets and policy makers are central for upscaled change, whatever the approach Almost always essential too are credible local assessment methods, partnerships and fairer distribution of benefits and costs in favour of IPLCs Cooperative enterprises have been shown to innovate in delivering different categories of prosperity for their members – in ways that go beyond SFM to being key in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Our analysis of two broad areas of intervention – changes to governance of land and resources, and improvements in value chains – identifies an array of proven innovative approaches. It is time to scale them up, in complementary ways These approaches include the following, which can ordered in as a notional series of steps from more simple to more complex: • Accountable organizations with financial management capability • Local mapping to secure resources rights • Developing local capability for forest integrity assessments • Remote sensing to check forest condition of those resources • Payment systems to reward good forest condition • Specific payments for fairtrade or payments for ecosystem services to cover any proof of sustainability costs • Local participatory guarantee schemes • Business incubation support platforms for sustainable business • Complementing the above payment mechanisms with private sector investment • Pressuring the private sector on forest disclosure • Squeezing investment by improving positive certification of green investment portfolios For almost all of these approaches there is a need for ‘enabling investment’ (that is, not looking for a financial return) before they might attract ‘asset investment’ (that is, looking for a return) – and in general it is better to focus on internal finance mobilization first. The trick may be to marshal the substantial available enabling finance (from national development finance, ODA and climate finance) to support these steps in a coordinated manner and at scale – channeling most finance into the earlier steps and then diversify that funding for more advanced options once the basic building blocks are in place.
... "The largest private sector in the work in the world is probably the aggregate total of all smallholder producers." Pasiecznik et al., 2015 It provides suggestions based on international guidelines for investments and case studies on alternative tenure and business models that directly contribute to the improvement of livelihoods and land use security and control of smallholders and local communities. The objective is to stimulate debate on how to improve positive impacts from investments on smallholder livelihoods. ...
Article
Full-text available
"This paper draws out some lessons on how and why associations work. It summarises research from Brazil, China, Guyana, India, South Africa and Uganda. The research found that lasting associations generally have a strong degree of autonomy. They usually have leaders with a track-record of social commitment. Most have gradually evolving sets of procedures that institutionalise the progress made by charismatic founders. Their focus is usually restricted to a few long-term issues. Equity is highest where there is greatest investment in democracy. Equitable associations tend to pay attention to transparency over costs and benefits. Most also have in place sanctions for free riders or those who break their rules, and clear procedures for resolving conflicts."
Article
This paper assesses the role of protected and community managed forests for the long term maintenance of forest cover in the tropics. Through a meta-analysis of published case-studies, we compare land use/cover change data for these two broad types of forest management and assess their performance in maintaining forest cover. Case studies included 40 protected areas and 33 community managed forests from the peer reviewed literature. A statistical comparison of annual deforestation rates and a Qualitative Comparative Analysis were conducted. We found that as a whole, community managed forests presented lower and less variable annual deforestation rates than protected forests. We consider that a more resilient and robust forest conservation strategy should encompass a regional vision with different land use types in which social and economic needs of local inhabitants, as well as tenure rights and local capacities, are recognized. Further research for understanding institutional arrangements that derive from local governance in favor of tropical forest conservation is recommended.
Evidence Linking Community-level Tenure and Forest Condition: An Annotated Bibliography
  • F Seymour
  • T Vina
  • K Hite
Seymour, F., T. La Vina and K. Hite. 2014. Evidence Linking Community-level Tenure and Forest Condition: An Annotated Bibliography. Washington, D.C., USA: Climate and Land Use Alliance.
The Forest and Farm Facility: building strength in numbers
  • D Macqueen
  • J Y Campbell
  • P Demarsh
Macqueen, D., J.Y. Campbell and P. deMarsh. 2014. The Forest and Farm Facility: building strength in numbers. IIED Briefing. IIED, London, UK.
Strength in numbers: Effective forest producer organizations
FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization) and AgriCord, 2012. Strength in numbers: Effective forest producer organizations. AgriCord, Leuven, Belgium, and FAO, Rome, Italy.
Progress and Poverty. An Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth: The Remedy. Published for the Henry George Foundation of Great Britain by The Hogarth Press
  • H George
George, H. 1953. Progress and Poverty. An Inquiry into the Cause of Industrial Depressions and of Increase of Want with Increase of Wealth: The Remedy. Published for the Henry George Foundation of Great Britain by The Hogarth Press, London, UK. First published in 1879 by Appleton, New York.