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Promoting Sustainable Forest Enterprises in the Lower Mekong Region: The Forest Enterprise Incubation Platform

Blog | Fri, 22 Sep, 2023 · 6 min read

In the countries of Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam, escalating global and regional demand for timber, forest, and agricultural products is intensifying pressure on forest and land resources in the region. By 2050, the gap between global wood supply and demand will widen significantly, compelling major timber regions to extract more, and further straining the already scarce and degraded forest resources of the region.

The UN-REDD Programme, supported by the Bridge for Billions and WWF, introduced a strategy to aid countries in the Lower Mekong Basin and China. This initiative aims to bolster forest governance, ensure legal and sustainable wood trading, and promote environmentally responsible investments in the regional forest sector.

Entrepreneurs are a vital segment of any economy; they play a central role in the way in which production is organised in the economy, they:

  • responsible for bringing to market new production and innovation,
  • more willing to accept and manage the risks which larger firms are reluctant to,
  • they promote competition and market dynamism by bringing new products and processes, and
  • they inspire and foster creativity, which plays an important role in aggregate productivity.

Yet, emerging small businesses encounter a number of challenges and are often less served by support systems. As a result, they have limited access to information on regulation, and less access to business development opportunities. As a result, it can also be more difficult to reach out and gain the attention of the more lucrative global market, or to access lower-cost financing opportunities to help them grow their business.

Recognizing this, the UNREDD programme launched the Sustainable Forest Incubation Programme in Vietnam and Thailand. This pilot incubation aims to invigorate entrepreneurial innovation in the Lower Mekong forest sector.

The goal? To support entrepreneurs and emerging enterprises, pioneering sustainable timber, agriculture, or non-timber forest ventures. We wanted to arm these entrepreneurs with essential commercial and technical competencies that will enable them to leverage evolving forest protection methods and cultivate businesses emphasizing biodiversity, climate action, and bolstering rural economies, all while prioritizing environmental considerations.

Our inaugural Sustainable Forest Incubation Programme cohort is now approaching its conclusion. We have collaborated with entrepreneurs across sectors: Timber, Ecotourism, Conservation, Agriculture, and non-timber forest derivatives like oils, resins, honey, and medicinal plants.

We have held two programmes, one in Viet Nam and one in Thailand. Our aim was to guide 50 entrepreneurs, assisted by 22 dedicated mentors. Over the course of the programme, participants reaped benefits like:

  • Eight technical training modules, supporting entrepreneurs on each stage of the business development process from value proposition, market segmentation, go-to-market strategy, and financial and operational planning
  • Six sessions by industry experts on market access, sustainability, and financing.
  • multiple networking opportunities and chances to interact with industry actors.

Moreover, our top seven entrepreneurs received specialized pitch training for an upcoming competition judged by industry experts. The standout enterprise will be rewarded with USD 5,000.

These past months have showcased awe-inspiring entrepreneurial journeys, from fledgling ideas to reinvigorated businesses with profound purpose. As we celebrate these achievements, we eagerly anticipate the promising futures of our graduate entrepreneurs and the impact that we hope they will have on restoring and securing the forests and land reserves of the region