Forests Program of the Grassroots Foundation

Grassroots Foundation seeks to provide support where small grants can potentially make a big difference and affect policy and practice in the wider region or nation or internationally. This is an opportunistic approach; Grassroots seeks to support groups addressing emerging threats to the environment and human rights where little funding is available. Grassroots efforts are focused on Eastern Europe but it provides support to groups in other regions in its forests and banks and finance work. Grassroots often provides funding to a group for several years and at the same time tries to help it find other funding sources. For instance, groups in Indonesia challenging the pulp and paper industry now have access to several funders that can continue to support their work that were unavailable in 2006.

The forests program of the Grassroots Foundation has provided support to groups in Eastern Europe and Russia working on forest conservation, on sustainable forest use (FSC), and around the world to support forest peoples’ rights. In cooperation with the banks and finance program, the forests program has also provided support to groups challenging the expansion of the pulp and paper industry in the developing world.

Since 2005, the Grassroots Foundation forests program has provided funding in the following areas:

FSC: grants were provided to groups in Czech, Poland, Estonia, Ukraine, Sweden, Rumania, Belarus, Baltic region, CEE region and Brazil. Grants assisted the establishment of FSC working groups, the creation of FSC national standards for natural forests and plantations (Brazil), promotion of regional cooperation and regional FSC standards (Eastern Europe), and the use of the FSC standards to challenge destructive forest policies and practices of national governments and major forestry companies (Estonia, Poland, Belarus).

With the help of Grassroots funding, FSC standards have now been developed in several countries in Eastern Europe, and FSC certified forestry operations are producing and selling certified wood. The FSC approach has had a positive influence on national forestry policy in a numbers of countries.

Pulp and Paper: grants were provided to groups in Indonesia, South Africa, Brazil, Uruguay and Germany. Grants helped groups challenging plans to build new pulp mills and expand plantations, support local struggles to resist land grabs and converting forests and community farms to pulpwood plantations, informing the wider society about the damage caused by large-scale pulpwood plantations and pulp mills.

In South Africa, support from Grassroots enabled groups to challenge the expansion of existing plantations and mills and to assist groups in Mozambique to establish a network challenging land grabs by the pulp and paper industry which is trying to establish seven million hectares of Eucalyptus plantations.

In Indonesia, Grassroots funding assisted groups to successfully challenge plans to construct a pulp mill in South Kalimantan, and stop the expansion of a mill and plantations in East Kalimantan. Funding for this work in Indonesia has increased significantly, while it remains difficult for groups in South Africa to obtain funding (perceptions that this is a developed country) and Mozambique (where few funders are active). Groups in South America have more access to funding than five years ago.

Indigenous Peoples struggles: Grassroots has assisted groups in Peru, Russia and Indonesia to document traditional knowledge, to challenge forestry laws that violate community rights, and to challenge logging, plantation and mining permits on indigenous territories.

In Russia, Grassroots support has helped indigenous peoples regain control of their customary territories in areas near Novosibirsk, Siberia, and in the Russia Far East. Many indigenous communities have been assisted to understand their rights under national law, and to challenge logging plans that don’t respect their rights.

In Peru, Grassroots supported ORAU, an indigenous peoples support group that successfully challenged the legality of logging and mining concessions on indigenous territories in the Peruvian Amazon. In 2009, however, pressured by the negotiations for a free trade agreement with the USA, the government of Peru passed legislation that removed the legal protection for indigenous territories that allowed groups to challenge mining or logging on their customary lands. Indigenous communities in the Amazon blockaded national roads in protest, and more than 30 people were killed when the police forced open the blockades. The national parliament indefinitely suspended the new laws and began investigations in the violence, and indigenous peoples' rights.

Funding for indigenous peoples has increased over the last five years, but due to their remote location and marginalized status, indigenous peoples in many parts of the world have little access to funding, and their forest resources are under threat from expansion of logging, mining and plantations.

Forest Conservation: Grassroots has provided funding to forest conservation initiatives in Russia, Poland, Slovakia and Czech, helped build a network linking forest conservation groups in EU accession states.

In the Russia, Grassroots has supported Environmental Watch on North West Caucasus which has been challenging illegal logging, road and building construction by the Russian government inside a World Heritage national park. In Slovakia, Grassroots supported efforts to protect mountain forests from industrial logging, and to increase public awareness of the importance of mountain forests in controlling floods and droughts.

Support for forest conservation in Russia and Eastern Europe is growing but is still small, particularly for groups that seek to challenge destructive policy and practices from national governments.