Good help is on its way

by Daimen Hardie on October 1, 2014

Land rich and cash poor.  Is there any better way to sum up the dilemma facing so many of our rural communities?  For us New Brunswickers, rural economics are especially tenuous these days.  The rural future in this province increasingly hinges on one question: how do we turn our natural wealth into economic prosperity without jeopardizing the fabric of our communities and the landscapes that define them?  In other words, how do we make a living off the land in the modern world without destroying the land and ourselves in the process?  Where conventional thinking is failing us, CFI believes that an unconventional, outside perspective might lend some valuable insight.  Fortunately for us, good help is on its way . . .

If you’ve been following natural resource issues in New Brunswick lately you’ll know that business as usual seems to only be getting us deeper and deeper into trouble – dividing our people and stifling innovation (think shale gas and the new crown forest strategy).  One problem is an attachment to the idea that creating economic wealth from natural resources is primarily about top-down ideas and industrial production.  If the answer were that simple though, New Brunswick wouldn't be in the state it is now.  The management of our vast public forests is a case in point.  We can pride ourselves on how completely our forests have been brought into industrial production – we did it better than any other province - but what we haven't done well is turn that production into wealth for our people.  NB now has the lowest forest products sector employment intensity in north eastern North America [1].  This means we’re the worst at turning the trees industry cuts off public land into jobs for our people.  What’s wrong with this picture?

CFI believes in looking at the problems facing rural New Brunswick communities as opportunities.  We believe in challenging convention and changing the conversation about rural development.  This conviction is largely based on our experience working in rural Tanzania, where the landscape is different but the problems are surprisingly similar.  Tanzania has taught us that rural communities with more say over the management of their natural resources can better meet both economic and environmental goals, and that open discussion and outside perspectives often foster innovation – something NB’s rural economies are in dire need of now.

Over the coming weeks, the director of our Tanzanian partner organization, Mbarouk Mussa Omar, will be working out of our Sackville office.  We are looking forward to hearing his perspective on the challenges facing rural communities here, and to receiving his guidance for our future work in the region.  One of the first events that Mbarouk will attend is the Great Resource Giveaway, a public discussion regarding the management of our greatest natural wealth, our public forests.  Please consider joining us, and lend your own voice to changing the conversation about the development of rural New Brunswick.

[1] Forestry Jobs and Forestry Management in the Maritimes and Northeastern USA. Naturaliste du NB Naturalist. Vol. 41. No.1 2014. pp. 34.

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