Panel 2


Trade-offs between large-scale and small-scale land commercialisation and impacts on forest commons

Tuesday 4 June 10.30-12.00, Fujisan Hall

Presented Papers

For more information on this panel, contact Aaron Russell ( and Krystof Obidzinski (


The politics of the forest frontier: Exploring the trade-offs between conservation, development and indigenous rights in Cross River State, Nigeria

George C. Schoneveld, IS Land Academy, Utrecht University

In a quest to modernize the agricultural sector following Independence, large areas of land were allocated for tree crop plantations to parastatal companies in the tropical high forest areas of Cross River State. As a result of poor planning, mismanagement, and the increasing reliance on oil revenues, most plantations were abandoned by the late 1970’s. Since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999, in a bid to rehabilitate the ailing agricultural economy, most plantations have been privatized and large new areas of land originating from the customary domain have been allocated to private agricultural investors.

This paper explores the local tensions associated with this commitment to private sector-led agricultural modernization in Cross River State. It shows how the state’s increasing reliance on the private sector as the primary impetus for rural transformation is, paradoxically, crowding out smallholder production systems and creating new avenues for rent capture by political elites. Moreover, as Nigeria’s most biodiverse and forested state, the rapid expansion of the agricultural frontier into forest buffer zones is threatening to undermine many of the state’s conservation initiatives and valuable common pool resources. The paper goes on to explain why and how private sector interests in Cross River State are increasingly being prioritized over natural resource protection, indigenous rights over the commons, and smallholder production systems.


Does commercialisation of small-scale logging bring better outcomes for forest commons?

Krystof Obidzinski, Heru Komarudin, Ahmad Dermawan, and Agus Andrianto (CIFOR)

This paper explores the costs and benefits of small-scale and large scale logging and timber processing activities in East Kalimantan and Papua, Indonesia, for the economy, environment, and social status of the forest commons. Through much of the recent history, Indonesia’s forestry sector has been dominated by large scale operations seen as a strategic approach to develop remote parts of the country and integrate them into the mainstream economy. However, the literature on the development of forest frontiers suggests that large scale concession systems, while beneficial in some ways, are inefficient as a means of economic development because of sectoral isolation, asymmetry, rent-seeking, and excessive environmental destruction. Effective frontier development requires greater diversification of activities as well as economic interconnectedness of the sectors.

We contribute to this debate by assessing the pros and cons of formalizing the small-scale logging and processing sector. We do so by comparing the impacts of large and small scale forestry operations in Berau District (East Kalimantan province) and Nabire District (Papua province). We assess economic contributions of both systems, their environmental impacts, and social implications for the forest commons. We also examine relevant policies at the national and local level. We find the commercialization of small-scale forestry sector presents a mixed picture. While the environmental impact of small scale operations is lower and the efficiency of extraction is higher, the economic benefits are limited, their distribution often results in conflict, and official rent-seeking continues. This is largely due to the ambiguity and ineffectiveness of policies designed to promote the small-scale forestry sector as well as lack of practical guidance and financial support for small scale enterprises.


The commons in the face market integration: Competition and collaboration between small and large-scale landholders in the Amazon

Pablo Pacheco (CIFOR)

This paper analyzes the trends and outcomes of land and forest tenure reform in the Brazilian Amazon in the context of broader policies of infrastructure development and market integration, which have placed important pressures on the forest commons often leading to growing privatization of land and forest ownership. As result of market integration, value chains have been restructured with differential degrees of inclusion of smallholders not only to supply growing urban markets but also to fulfill the demand of global markets. This is also stimulating changes in production systems to become more efficient and competitive. While in some cases smallholders are able to face the challenges of market integration, in other cases they are lagging behind since cannot keep the pace of large-scale landholders and industry. In this light, this paper will compare the impacts and outcomes from large-scale and small-scale land commercialization. Those outcomes are due to multiple factors which are not only related to broader structural conditions of market functioning and state capacity to provide public services, but also to the differentiated capabilities between smallholders and large-scale landholders to adapt to evolving scenarios of competition and collaboration for securing land tenure, accessing finance and inputs, and complying with new quality standards in the markets. This paper will explore these interactions by integrating land reform, land management and supply value chains in sector as distinct as timber extraction, beef and perennial crops production.


Impacts of forests and agro-forestry concessions on household resilience in Southern Laos

Aaron J.M. Russell (CIFOR), Joost Foppes (CIFOR), Southone Ketphanh (FRC-Lao PDR)

The Lao government’s forest strategy aims to increase national “forest” cover to 70% by 2020 from the current estimated 41%. At the same time national strategic priorities for inviting foreign investment have led the government to allocate an estimated 13% of Lao’s forest land to concessions during the period of 2002-09, primarily for the development of mining, hydropower, agricultural and plantation development. Dryland dipterocarp forests (DDF) represent a unique forest ecotype that is under particular threat to conversion. DDFs occur primarily in laterite, shallow soils that are prone to flooding in the rainy season, extreme drought in the dry season, and a regular fire regime and they cover 13% of Lao PDR’s total forest estate. The frequently stunted appearance of these slow-growing forests contribute to their being undervalued, and there is increasing pressure on government and village authorities to permit conversion of such “low value” forests for (predominantly) foreign investment in export-oriented commercial agricultural or tree cropping plantations.

Our analysis comparing case studies of forest resources use, incomes and vulnerability in three villages associated with production forests, sugarcane concessions and eucalyptus concessions in Savannakhet Province challenges these assessments. Foremost, the neglect to recognize the range of provisioning ecosystem services that communities gain from forests, particularly fodder for livestock and other Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs). While villages associated with concession may have slightly higher average levels of income, our analysis indicates that these communities have significantly reduced resilience to shocks in comparison with the production forest community. We discuss the extent to which the conversion of DDF forests for many such concession models should be regarded as a high-risk strategy with the significant potential for “maladaptation” outcomes.

Large-scale investments in Chitemene Farmland: Exploring the marginal lands narrative in Zambia’s northern province

Laura German (University of Georgia), Davison Gumbo (CIFOR) and George Schoneveld (Utrecht University)

The recent spike in investor interest in land-based investments has led to a surge of foreign investment in developing countries, where land can be obtained at lower economic and opportunity cost. Forests and mixed-use woodlands are often targeted by government for agricultural expansion as a means to leverage benefits from land-based investments while avoiding the displacement of cropland. However, the identification of such areas is more often driven by perceptions than evidence, with these perceptions grounded in discriminatory views of customary land uses. Zambia is one country embracing (and facilitating) large-scale foreign investments in agriculture as a pathway to economic development, and has actively targeted the Miombo woodlands in northern Zambia for such investments. Yet to date, no systematic studies on the cost and benefit of such investments for customary land users have been conducted to ground these policy actions. This paper aims to fill that gap through a case study in Mpika District, Northern Province, in a prime investment destination located along the TAZARRA corridor. We analyze the income households derive from shifting agricultural plots (chitemene), permanent cropland and other land uses in 3 villages falling within a leasehold concession acquired by a foreign company interested in jatropha cultivation, and comparing that with the income derived from employment. We then takes a scenario approach to explore the likely economic impacts of targeting different types of land uses and land cover for customary land users under different employment scenarios.