Conditions for success

In view of possible disadvantages of plantations compared to alternative land uses the circumstances in which plantations present a viable economic option for smallholders should be carefully assessed. Doubtless, plantations are more attractive in landscapes already deforested with good infrastructure and clearly defined land tenure. It is also crucial that market risks are low; that is, that stable attractive markets already exist when the plantation is established. Also the opportunity to easily access local markets positively influences the viability of plantations for smallholders. Of fundamental importance is also the chance to establish fair, long-term partnerships with local actors involved in adding value to plantation products. In this respect, the existence of strong smallholder organizations is a key issue to ensure effective and favourable negotiations with relevant external players. The absence of powerful actors with competing land and resource management interests, as well as the existence of mechanisms that protect smallholders' interests are also helpful. Finally, limited profits from, or environmenal or legal restrictions to, competing land uses, especially agriculture, also enhance the viability of plantations.

In general terms, plantations tend to be more attractive for individual farmers than for communities, as farmers have stronger linkages to markets, are better connected to existing infrastructure and, furthermore, are more experienced in adopting and adapting technologies promoted by external actors. For smallholders living in remoter areas the immense market distances signify a critical barrier to viability of plantations at the outset. Yet, individual farmers also may have insufficient capacities, in particular of financial resources, land and organizational skills. Where the above-mentioned limitations to viable plantations occur, long-term technical assistance and adequate financing mechanisms are indispensable for success (Varmola and Carle, 2002; Almeida et al, 2006).

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