Forest Connect is a complex and ambitious pioneering multi-partner international initiative seeking to simultaneously address several inter-connected global, national and local issues: poverty, food and energy security, soil degradation, and rapid deforestation that threatens the global climate and biodiversity. As regions with the last forest frontiers tend to be poor, the challenge lies in reducing poverty through economic alternatives that also maintain forest cover. This is central for both climate programmes such as REDD+ and trade programmes tackling illegal logging.
One alternative to agricultural conversion at the forest frontier is sustainable forest enterprise. Small, locally run agricultural and forest enterprises are the norm in many developing countries, but they are often unregistered and hampered by isolation from potential partners, buyers, services and government. Forest Connect seeks to reduce and overcome this isolation and establish a forest enterprise system based on secure rights to forest resources and strong local producer groups with the business capacity to make products profitably and sustainably. It does this by working through in-country partners who themselves facilitate support to small forest enterprises.