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Limitations and opportunities for small and medium forest enterprises in The Gambia : an exploration of the business environment, business development services, and financial services Tomaselli, Maria Fernanda

Abstract

Small and medium forest enterprises (SMFEs) can promote the sustainable use of forested ecosystems, while also contributing to the livelihoods of forest-dependent people. SMFEs often face several challenges that threaten their ability to develop and grow, therefore, they usually require support in: reforming the Business Environment (BE), accessing Business Development Services (BDSs), and obtaining Financial Services (FSs). According to the literature, in The Gambia, the environment for community forestry has improved and communities have received training for developing sustainable SMFEs. Nevertheless, more information is needed about the challenges facing these enterprises, especially with regard to their access to FSs. This qualitative research had three objectives: 1) identify the opportunities and limiting factors facing SMFEs regarding the BE of The Gambia; 2) determine the opportunities and constraints of SMFEs concerning their business development and their need for BDSs; and 3) evaluate the accessibility to FSs for SMFEs, and determine strategies to improve the delivery of these services. A multiple case study approach was employed. In total, 16 SMFEs and 14 financial institutions were studied in the Western Region of The Gambia. Results indicate that the government has exerted a positive impact on the studied SMFEs by devolving land tenure to local communities, coupled with capacity building and support activities, and the application of simplified regulations. Associations of enterprises have been valuable in supplementing government efforts. Nevertheless, ill-conceived policies tied with weak enforcement, corruption and illegal activities, are major limitations still confronting wood-related SMFEs in the BE of The Gambia. The studied enterprises are at different stages in their business development; nevertheless, all revealed the need for a continual provision of BDSs. Concerning FSs, our data show that SMFEs have easy access to deposit accounts, but face limitations when accessing credit, especially from banks. Cooperative credit unions have been notable in providing loans; however, NGOs, associations, and government projects have taken the lead in delivering credit-only schemes. This study offers an updated view of SMFEs in The Gambia and illustrates some of the major challenges still facing them. Additionally, it is a contribution to the literature on small-scale forest enterprises and microfinance.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International

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