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The work reported on in this publication forms part of FAO's programme of policy analysis studies. These are intended to provide information about the linkages between the forestry and forest products sector and rural and overall development, and to identify needs for change within the sector as the demands upon it evolve and change.

The study of small-scale rural forest-based enterprises developed out of an enquiry to identify what contribution the forest sector makes to off-farm rural employment and income. This in turn had been undertaken in response to governments' increasing concerns to generate such employment opportunities for the growing numbers of rural people who could not be sustained from agriculture alone.

This initial enquiry indicated that the greater part of such forest-based employment is in small enterprises, and that probably the largest part of this is accounted for by small-scale processing units. As very little was known about them at that time, an exercise was initiated to assemble information on their extent, size and basic characteristics. The results of this review, which are reported on in the paper by Y. Fisseha, confirmed the considerable magnitude of forest-based small enterprise activities in the rural areas of developing countries, and showed that they account for an important part both of overall forest sector output and of total rural non-farm employment and income.

The work was therefore extended, in order to identify in what ways policies and programmes within the forest sector might need to be modified or initiated in order to more effectively provide for and strengthen its small enterprise components. The present publication is based upon the papers presented at, and the findings of, the meeting convened for this purpose; the “Expert Consultation on Rural Employment in Forestry-Based Processing Enterprises”, which was held in Rome between 27 and 31 October 1986.

The objectives of the Consultation were as follows:

1. To define criteria for identifying which forest-based small-scale processing enterprises have potential for viable and dynamic growth, and to identify needs for further information and analysis for this purpose;

2. To identify the most appropriate ways of supporting viable small enterprise activities;

3. To recommend follow-up activities needed in order to effectively pursue forest-based small-scale processing enterprise development.

The consultation brought together experience gained by a number of institutions and organisations dealing with small-scale rural enterprises (SSEs) as a whole, and with small-scale processing enterprises (SSIs) in particular, and applied this to those enterprises which are based on raw materials from the forest (FB-SSIs). The term “forest-based” refers to all materials from the forest, and so includes not only wood but also the other materials derived from a forest habitat, such as rattans, reeds and bamboos.

The meeting was organised into seven sessions. Each session, which was led by one member of the expert group, was based on one or more of the background papers prepared for the meeting, and reproduced in this publication. The initial session was devoted to outlining current knowledge on the magnitude, characteristics, growth and issues relating to small-scale enterprises as a whole, and to FB-SSIs in particular. Attention was also directed to establishing guidelines for identifying those small-scale enterprise activities which are most likely to have growth potential, and to defining basic features of FB-SSIs which need to be taken into account in any kind of support measure.

The six remaining sessions were devoted to identifying measures that might be taken in each of the following areas: (a) markets and marketing, (b) raw materials, (c) finance, (d) technology development and transfer, (e) management, and (f) institutions. In each, the emphasis was on identifying those support strategies and actions most likely to meet the particular needs of FB-SSIs. While careful attention was paid to how FB-SSIs can and should benefit from support programmes and activities aimed at SSEs and SSIs as a whole, particular emphasis was placed on those improvements or actions for FB-SSI development which can be effected within the forestry and forest industry sector, through forestry sector institutions.

The Consultation resulted in the analysis of the FB-SSI situation presented in this publication as the paper, “Forest-Based Small-Scale Processing Enterprises: an overview”, which immediately follows this introduction. The principal conclusions and proposals for follow-up action are summarised in the last section of the overview paper. The rest of the publication contains the papers prepared for the Consultation, most of which were subsequently revised to take into account the discussions at the meeting.

Carpenter teaches apprentices how to make simple furniture from pine wood

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