Kleinhans Fellowship for Community Forestry Research
As governments around the world recognize the importance of local stakeholders in forest management and conservation, they are increasingly devolving decision-making authority over natural resources to local communities. However, while the number of community forest enterprises (CFEs) is increasing, many CFEs are struggling to manage their forest resources sustainably while also making a profit and ensuring the equitable use of their financial returns. This struggle is exacerbated by intense pressure to convert their forests.
CFEs face a host of challenges including weak organizational capacity, lack of access to finance, limited business-administration skills, difficulty competing with illegal forest products and the absence of markets for certain lesser-known species.
The Rainforest Alliance has a long history of working with forest communities that have established their own locally managed enterprises, providing them with training and technical assistance on sustainable forestry practices, value-added processing, business administration, market access and more. Recognizing that sound scientific inquiry can help to guide technical assistance for local development, our Kleinhans Fellowship supports research that seeks solutions to the challenges faced by the community forestry model.
The fellowship provides funds for research that is oriented toward solving real-world problems as defined by CFEs. Moreover, the planning, implementation and dissemination of research results will be carried out in participatory manner to ensure that it has practical value for communities and helps to inform their action plans.
The Kleinhans Fellowship provides a two-year stipend of US$20,000 per year to support research that addresses one of the following topics:
- Markets for lesser-known species and non-timber forest products (NTFPs). Most community forestry products are unlikely to reach international markets, but domestic markets in many tropical forest countries are being flooded with illegal wood products, making it hard for legitimate operations—especially CFEs—to compete. The absence of markets for lesser-known species and NTFPs further impedes optimal forest management and is a critical hurdle that must be overcome if CFEs are to become economically viable. The fellowship supports research that systematically documents and analyzes the creation and maintenance of domestic markets for diversified forest products, helps determine what drives success and recommends future actions.
- Biodiversity management practices. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) forest management standard requires practices that conserve biodiversity, such as the protection of High Conservation Value Forests and the creation of riparian buffers. The Kleinhans Fellowship supports research that explores the feasibility of implementing such practices at the community level and their effects on the economic viability of CFEs.
- Social organization and governance. Technical assistance programs are often limited in their ability to invest in organizational capacity building. The fellowship supports research that investigates modes of social organization and highlights both problems and innovative, replicable solutions for CFE governance. Topics of interest include equitable participation and transparency in decision-making and benefit-sharing; human resource management and business training; and governance aspects such as CFE bylaws, compliance and legal status.
- Multi-community enterprises. Without access to financing, CFEs often get mired in debt, are beholden to high-risk, high-cost lenders and cannot invest in developing their businesses. CFEs are often encouraged to work together to aggregate supply, invest collectively and access financing, but it can be difficult to put these strategies into practice. The fellowship supports research that examines multi-community enterprises, documents and analyzes their successes and failures, and makes recommendations for future investment in the development of such ventures.
To ensure that field projects benefit from the fellowship’s research, the Kleinhans Fellow will participate in a workshop with community members and regional Rainforest Alliance staff at the end of the fellowship period; this gathering will provide an opportunity to share results and explore the implications of the findings on our work with specific communities. The fellow will also be expected to submit a final report that summarizes results and lessons for a general audience and publish his/her findings in a peer-reviewed journal.