Research on the challenges faced by forestry co-operatives has been revealed at the International Summit of Cooperatives by the Institut de recherche et d’éducation pour les coopératives et les mutuelles de l’Université de Sherbrooke (IRECUS).
The findings were discussed during the sectoral meeting Living Sustainably from our Forests, which also explored how these organisations can help meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Results show that forestry co-operatives, in the form of forest owners’ co-ops, forest workers’ co-ops and community forestry co-ops, are active in at least 27 countries and are still expanding.
They are active in the entire forest value chain and facilitate the forestry and co-operative education of many stakeholders. They also help build bonds within communities, and encourage sustainable practices and the redistribution of the forest-related benefits at a local level.
Members actively participate in the management of the private, public and community forests in which they operate, with the surplus generated by economic activities redistributed on the basis of the members’ use of co-operative products and services or of their contribution in work.
But using the co-operative governance and management model in the context of forestry brings with it its own set of challenges, the researchers found. Democracy, equity and solidarity must be integrated with economic viability and the sustainable management of forests products and services. Some forestry co-ops have also struggled to gain recognition of their contribution to the socioeconomic, community and environmental vitality of their region as they bid to be seen as important players in forestry governance.
Successful forest management co-ops are aided by an appropriate legal framework, an organised support network and individual knowledge of the sector’s co-op model. The report added that networking with private, public or co-operative partners is often key to a better positioning in forest products and services markets, diversified activities and improved practices. This can also help with maintaining long-term sustainability and increasing visibility at a political level.
Forestry co-operatives also had a role to play in the fight on climate change, said the researchers, and in the achievement of the SDGs.