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Structure and growth of small enterprises in the forest-products sector in southern and eastern Africa

by Portal Web Editor last modified Jan 10, 2013 09:10 AM
Contributors: J.E.M. Arnold, I.M. Townson, C. Liedholm, D. Mead

There are a growing number of forest-product enterprises in Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe. Employment and income from these business ventures are important in rural and urban economies in these developing countries. This study complements others that have been done in the region. Grass, cane and bamboo products are the most common merchantable items in these enterprises, followed by wood products. Additional enterprises trade and transport forest products. Women are the majority in the grass, cane and bamboo work forces, and are strongly represented in trade business. Men dominate in the woodworking enterprises. Many of these enterprises are run in homes. Woodworking and forest product trade is poised to grow rapidly, while grass, cane and bamboo businesses are likely to remain just a means of providing sustenance. Since most people are employed by grass, cane and bamboo enterprises, this dichotomy should be noted. Support programs could be aimed at helping these people adopt more sustainable and lucrative employment. Access to raw materials limits forest-product enterprises more than other enterprises. This may reflect shortages of these resources due to lack of management, and/or and inability to compete with larger-scale enterprises. An understanding of the enterprises that have the strongest potential for growth would help to focus assistance projects, and with assistance, the small-scale enterprises may be able to manage resource use better and gain better footing among competitors. These implications should be considered in project planning and policy intervention. Designers of assistance programs need to have clear goals and priorities, have an understanding of the economic and social intricacies each of the types of enterprises, and then tailor the assistance to the specific needs of that group. In this way, specific groups will be targeted and program goals will be met more efficiently and effectively.

Author(s): J.E.M. Arnold , I.M. Townson , C. Liedholm , D. Mead

Publication Date: 1994

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