The Future of Forest Work and Communities 

forest work community

At the same time that community-based initiatives are being promoted and funded more than ever, globally we are seeing a mass exodus of people from rural areas, including forests, to cities. This urbanization is occurring rapidly: In 1975, 37% of the world’s population lived in cities; today, 53%. Currently, 90% of this urbanization is occurring in developing countries, mainly in the tropics and subtropics (UN-Habitat). Much of this stems from general population growth, but nearly a third is due to rural-urban migration – as globalization forces, or draws, people off their land, people are leaving rural and forested areas to find work in cities.

In this context of rapid urbanization and globalization, this group seeks to understand: What is the future of forest work, livelihoods, and communities in a rapidly urbanizing world? Will there be forest-dependent livelihoods in the future, and if so, what will they look like? In particular, what are the prospects for today’s young people living in forest-dependent communities? Our first step will review available evidence related to three key questions:

• What are the drivers and patterns of rural-urban migration at local and global levels?

• What role do land rights and resource control play in sustaining forest communities economically, culturally, and ecologically?

• What makes for ‘meaningful work’ in forest communities in the context of rapid globalization, especially for youth? What successful examples of engaging youth in innovation, entrepreneurship, and leadership are available for review and emulation?

By engaging and bringing together diverse fields of study, our group will explore what new knowledge is needed to address these questions, identify and learn from relevant case studies, and develop research tools and strategies required to move forward.

Contact: Sarah Wilson,