Alternative Business Models on Publicly Held Forestlands in Canada and Africa

Dr. Robert Kozak

The majority of the world’s forests are publicly held, with approximately three-quarters of global forested being administered by governments. Yet, only a handful of countries have institutionalized the export-oriented forest concession model as a means of developing large tracts of sparsely populated, publicly held forest lands. Where they do exist, they are by far the dominant mode of business practice. Such is the case in Canada and Central and West Africa.

Forest concessions in these two regions have been criticized for, among other reasons, being granted primarily to large, mostly multinational corporate interests; producing high volumes of low value commodity wood products (lumber, pulp and paper) destined for export markets; being granted at the expense of local and indigenous peoples; and having unsustainable harvesting practices. The reliance on the concession model has made it difficult for alternative business models to develop and thrive.

Recently, alternatives have emerged in Canada and Central and West Africa as communities seek out new means of conducting business that more effectively contribute to community wellbeing and sustainability. Creating the enabling conditions for these alternative business models to succeed depends on a variety of factors, including the degree to which these small scale enterprises can access timber, build business capacity, and formalize business arrangements between themselves and other supply chain actors. This research is intended to gain a better understanding of these necessary enabling conditions in Canada and Central and West Africa. By addressing gaps in knowledge about these alternative business models, our results are intended to identify appropriate interventions, capacity building, and policy reforms that would further enable these businesses to prosper in a meaningful, sustainable, and equitable manner.

This project is funded by SSHRC.