Although they suffer some obvious disadvantages, small rural producers also hold some competitive advantages that can help them successfully commercialize their ecosystem assets. Exploiting these advantages increases their economic leverage.
- Control of commercially valuable forest resources, land, or fishing rights . Poor households and communities with well-established resource tenure are sometimes in a position to parley this into commercial opportunities. This is especially true for those communities within reasonable proximity of expanding centers of domestic or industrial demand, such as inland cities far from commercial ports. Constraints on the private sector’s ability to meet wood demand in India, for example, have motivated more than a dozen companies to partner with rural farmers to grow trees on the farmers’ lands (Mayers and Vermeulen 2002:45; Scherr et al. 2002:4-5).
- Lower cost structure for some products . For communities or farmers with excess labor or land not currently under crops, there may be little opportunity cost for growing trees or establishing low-tech aquaculture ponds. These operations may have lower costs than large-scale plantations or high-tech fish-raising enterprises run by outside business interests. Agroforestry systems, for example, may offer lower costs for tree production because trees are produced jointly with crops and livestock. For products like wood fuel and charcoal, transportation costs even from rural communities may be lower than importing these commodities from international markets (Scherr et al. 2002:4-5).
- Sole providers of some products. Because of their access to ecosystems and their traditional knowledge, poor households may be in the best position to supply some niche markets, such as for medicinal plants, exotic fruits, or traditionally made handicrafts or art objects. They may also be in the best position to sell to