Academic research on smallholders’ forestland-use decisions is regularly addressed in different streams of literature using different theoretical constructs that are independently incomplete. In this article, we propose a theoretical construct for modelling smallholders’ forestland-use decisions intended to serve in the guidance and operationalization of future models for quantitative analysis. Our construct is inspired by the sub-disciplines of forestry and agricultural economics with a crosscutting theme of how transaction costs drive separability between consumption and production decisions. Our results help explain why exogenous variables proposed in the existing literature are insufficient at explaining smallholders’ forestland-use decisions, and provide theoretical context for endogenizing characteristics of the household, farm and landscape. Smallholders’ forestland-use decisions are best understood in an agricultural context of competing uses for household assets and interdependent consumption and production decisions. Forest production strategies range from natural regeneration to intensive management of the forest resource to co-jointly produce market and non-market values. Due to transaction costs, decision prices are best represented by their shadow as opposed to market prices. Shadow prices are shaped by endogenous smallholder-specific preferences for leisure, non-market values, time, risk, and uncertainty. Our proposed construct is intended to provide a theoretical basis to assist modellers in the selection of variables for quantitative analysis.
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