Promoting gender equality and decent work: Cases from the Mekong region’s small-scale forest sector

T4.34 Work and employment in the forest sector: challenges and opportunities


Thomas Colonna1 , Ratchada Arpornsilp1
1 European Forest Institute



The European Forest Institute (EFI) has worked with close to 400 wood-based household businesses in Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Viet Nam. The main objective of the work is testing solutions to challenges that smallholders and MSMEs face to participate in legal and sustainable timber supply chains. EFI has been working directly with smallholder tree growers, furniture business owners and workers as well as local and national authorities, industry associations, financial institutions, vocational training schools and academia.

EFI has been training micro and small wood processors and tree growers on key technical topics ranging from continuous improvement and occupational health and safety to complying with laws and regulations and improving silvicultural practices. EFI is using a variety of strategies and approaches to support smallholders and MSMEs such as technical workshops, customized coaching, study tours to larger enterprises, on-the-ground engagement of local authorities, policy makers and financial institutions, the establishment of associations, etc.  

EFI has been coaching women-led enterprises and strengthening the role of women in tree growing communities and wood-based micro and small businesses. EFI is integrating gender aspects into technical trainings for private sector actors and conducting multistakeholder trainings and workshops on gender. This has generated interest among MSMEs and in some cases empowered women to engage more strongly in the businesses. It has also generated interest among the authorities and industry associations who are now more willing to promote gender equality in the forest sector.

EFI’s presentation will share lessons from these strategies distilled from direct observations and reflections in working with tree growers, MSMEs and partners. It will discuss approaches and methods to promoting equality and women’s economic empowerment in the small-scale forest sector and improving working conditions and occupational health and safety in wood processing workshops. Finally, the presentation will discuss obstacles and incentives to formalization.