In Lao PDR, the pilot supports micro and small furniture makers to comply with relevant laws and regulations. It focuses on building their capacity to make inventories, documenting the use of timber used, and improving occupational health and safety in the furniture workshops. The pilot is also working closely with district and provincial authorities to strengthen their capacity to inspect and support the furniture makers on the above-mentioned issues. On gender, the pilot is coaching women-led enterprises and promoting gender equality and women’s economic empowerment in Attapeu through the relevant authorities.
In Myanmar, the pilot started by supporting 15 informal household furniture makers in Yangon to register their business in cooperation with industry associations. Through technical trainings, the pilot’s informal household furniture makers learnt to make financial records, a requirement for business registration. Building on this experience, the pilot is now supporting micro and small handicraft and furniture makers in Yangon, Bago and Mandalay to improve their technical and management capacity and overall business practices. The pilot is also exploring building the capacity of smallholder tree growers to sell their plantation timber to handicraft and furniture makers.
In Thailand, the first pilot supported micro and small businesses that process and trade reclaimed timber in Lamphun Province. The pilot aimed to improve their operations and build a network to strengthen the reclaimed timber businesses’ representation in policy processes. It led to the creation of the Reclaimed Timber Association, which is now a formal stakeholder in the Thailand-European Union (EU) negotiation on a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA) on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT). The pilot also contributed to the recognition of reclaimed timber as a legal source of timber in Thailand. It is now supporting the establishment of a national network of reclaimed timber businesses to strengthen legal compliance, support women-led businesses and promote reclaimed timber in the country.
A second pilot is supporting tree growers in Lampang, Nakhonsithammarat and Kanchanaburi Provinces to better manage their plantations, sell their timber to processors and access finance. The pilot supported the development by the Royal Forest Department (RFD) of a self-declaration of timber legality as a tool to help tree growers legally commercialise the timber grown on their land. The pilot tested the self-declaration on the ground and fed findings into the relevant national policy process. It is now building the capacity of tree growers to fulfil the requirements of the self-declaration and use it. The pilot is also connecting the tree growers to the Bank for Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives (BAAC) to facilitate their access to finance. Promoting gender equality and women’s economic empowerment among the tree growers is another key aspect of the pilot.
In Viet Nam, the pilot has been working with micro and small furniture makers in three wood villages. The pilot started in Lien Ha and later expanded to Van Diem and Dong Ky. As the direct result of the pilot’s technical trainings, the furniture makers in the wood villages reorganised their production by applying continuous improvement techniques which increased safety and reduced waste. Specialised trainings and the collaborations established with larger enterprises through the pilot significantly improved the MSMEs’ marketing and business development capacity.
The pilot is now being upscaled by improving the availability of low-risk locally grown timber, thereby contributing to the development of legal supply chains in the country. It is working with tree grower communities to improve their plantation management, support compliance with regulations and build market opportunities for their timber. The pilot is promoting gender equality and women’s economic empowerment among the furniture makers, the tree growers and the industry associations. It is also coaching women-led enterprises.
At the regional level, the Forest Smallholders Project is raising awareness about the situation of wood-based MSMEs, including gender equality in the forest sector, in regional policy platforms such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC). The Project is encouraging exchanges among national governments, civil society organisations (CSOs) and the private sector, building on national dialogue opportunities created through the pilots.