Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rural communities can rely on locally controlled assets, such as forests, to develop economies

The Ford Foundation is developing a "wealth creation approach" to rural economic development that relies on existing assets controlled by local people to build rural wealth, including forests, farms, wind rights, workers' skills, social networks and innovation. As Marjorie Kelly writes for the Daily Yonder, "When rural communities develop these assets in response to market demand, when they connect with urban areas in ways that benefit both places and when they focus on creating multiple kinds of wealth – that’s when they begin to create wealth and livelihoods that benefit rural places over the long haul."

Wealth From Forests is one such approach. It allows local loggers, sawmills and manufacturers in southeast Ohio to produce finished wood products from local timber and sell them to consumers searching for sustainable, certified wood products. As orders come in, demand for sustainably grown logs grows, increasing the number of acres managed. Local operators benefit from having to learn about market opportunities and obtaining green certification. The program, which was started by Rural Action, a development organization in Ohio, is building a "value chain," Kelly writes. The goal is to create connections between forest owners, manufacturers and customers so they learn from each other and can see how their decisions impact the larger community.

It follows what the Ford Foundation has learned about the "wealth creation approach" over four years of trying to determine how best to build local wealth: build "value chains" to connect rural and urban areas in mutually beneficial ways; respond to market demand; work collaboratively and focus on building and measuring multiple forms of local wealth. (Read more)

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