The NTFP-EP considers it essential to achieve conservation and sustainable management of forested landscapes that communities are able to maintain or improve their livelihoods, and that they have the opportunities to develop and manage a thriving community economy. Especially for indigenous communities, cultural and structural discrimination bar their access to socio-economic development opportunities; the failure of development project proponents and industries to exercise meaningful FPIC in customary forests and protected landscapes prevent communities from having a say in projects and investments that transform or worse destroy their livelihood. These may also hinder them from designing and implementing their own livelihood and resource management plans.
There are other challenges to achieving sustainable community livelihood goals such as the lack of business skills and enterprise development capacities among communities. Not all community based economic development initiatives are profitable and sustainable, so they resort to other income sources that are not environment-friendly but which might provide better incomes like mining, charcoal making, illegal logging or wildlife poaching. Hazards posed by climactic changes like typhoons, heavy rains and flooding are also key challenges in these communities. Together with land conversions and unsustainable harvesting practices, they magnify already existing vulnerabilities in the NTFP-EP’s partner communities.
The NTFP-EP assists local and indigenous communities in developing forest-based enterprises, making them operational and contributing gainful income for its members. But some communities are just not interested in mainstream business or “economic commercial activities”, and this needs to be respected. Nevertheless, these communities have vibrant livelihood activities that may include village level production and small-scale trade of household produce, forest collection and seasonal harvests. In a number of cases, both subsistence and (local) market-based livelihood activities make up the community economy and these thrive under conditions of good community leadership, the maintenance of customary natural resources governance, and sustainable resource management systems and practices.
For the many communities that engage the market actively and beyond village boundaries, they also face a number of challenges, and for which they seek support and partnerships:
- difficulty in meeting the volume, quality demand, and standards of the market;
- product competition,
- lack of access to efficient technologies; and
- the basic lack of awareness and appreciation by government and market actors of the value of nature and culture-based enterprises, which makes technical support, extension and innovations to be either distant or costly for the community enterprises.
The NTFP-EP will prioritize the following outcomes:
- that there is an enabling environment for community forest-based livelihood and enterprise strategies;
- community-based non-timber forest products enterprises (CBNEs) allow community participation and benefit sharing;
- CBNEs are profitable, sustainable and resilient;
- CBNEs contribute to culture protection and promotion.
- Facilitate CBNE development across partner communities under NTFP-EP CBNE development guidelines, principles and agreements with communities that conform with NTFP-EP values and principles.
- Develop and enable value-based and sustainable market linkages for CBNEs through green intermediaries and equitable partnership agreements.
- Facilitate the creation of committees to oversee the enterprises, conduct open consultations with stakeholders, and ensure that enterprises/projects will comply with the FPIC requirement.
- Document agreements that specify the benefits of these enterprises to local and indigenous communities.
- Conduct feasibility studies and develop markets that are willing to accept the limited volume capacity of CBNEs. This entails responsible branding, value chain management, and ensuring the standardization of quality, social responsibility, and environmental accountability.
- Develop and integrate a community-based resource management approach into the CBNE model which will include education and capacity building, resource assessment, regeneration, sustainable harvesting, and monitoring systems.
- Climate-proof all CBNEs in the partner communities.
- Document traditional knowledge and technologies in partner communities.
- Conduct educational campaigns to highlight the detrimental effects and health hazards of destructive industries or enterprises that may be destructive to ecosystems, culture and traditional livelihoods
- Adopt culturally appropriate technologies and market instruments that will enhance the value and benefit of community and forest-based livelihood programmes.
- Support the transfer of traditional livelihood skills and practices to the younger generation.
- Engage policymakers to push for policies that support CBNEs.
- Maintain a database of good practices community economy and livelihood development; the database is available and maintained in all NTFP-EP countries; replicate and upscale where appropriate.