Community Forestry and Enterprise Development

The rapid depletion of the world's forests carries tremendous risk for all of us. This is especially true for forest-dependent rural peoples, who rely on forests for their most basic needs. Not only do forests supply food, shelter, fuel and water, but they often provide the only available source of local economic opportunity.

In collaboration with our local partner organizations, the Rainforest Alliance has proven that communities can keep forests standing while improving local livelihoods in the process. Our TREES program works with forest communities and small enterprises to harvest forest products -- both timber and non-timber -- using methods that keep forest ecosystems intact, so that they can continue to filter water, stabilize soil, absorb carbon dioxide and provide shelter and roosts for animals.

Responsible harvesting is the first stop on the road to sustainable forestry. To turn a profit, communities and forest enterprises must become competitive businesses, able to sell their goods in the global marketplace. To help them achieve this goal, the Rainforest Alliance's TREES program trains communities and forestry enterprises to:

  • Establish and formalize locally-owned enterprises
  • Develop business and marketing skills
  • Create inventory management systems
  • Invest in value-added processing on-site
  • Develop expertise in global forest products and carbon markets

Our TREES program is active in rural communities around the world. Learn more about our work by region or contact us to engage your community or forestry enterprise.

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Why do we work with forest communities and SMEs?

Local communities and indigenous groups now control upwards of 25 percent of forests in the tropics, where the bulk of deforestation occurs; in these countries, small and medium-sized forest enterprises typically account for as much as 90 percent of the businesses engaged in forest products processing, often accounting for more than 50 percent of forest-related jobs.

In this context, sustainable forestry is key to creating a virtuous cycle of conservation and development. By helping small community enterprises to become more efficient and better positioned in the market, we help them access the resources necessary to invest in improving their management and conservation practices. Conservation, in turn, becomes crucial to sustaining and improving the local economy.

How is TREES funded?

TREES receives funding from:

  • Philanthropic institutions and private sector companies;
  • Multilateral and bilateral government agencies, including the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); and
  • National competitiveness programs and national initiatives.