Smallholder Group Certification Project
PEFC's Group Forest Certification is a mechanism through which groups of like-minded small forest owners and holders can pool their resources to achieve third-party verified sustainable forest management certification.
This approach to certification was developed in response to the unique tenure system that characterizes an important proportion of forest areas in developed and developing countries alike.
Globally, about 25% of forest area is managed locally by families, communities and indigenous peoples. Group Certification allows smallholders to develop a better understanding of mutual interests and common needs, and share experiences and good practices. In addition, it should make certification affordable for smallholders when individual certification may be too expensive, allowing them to spread the costs, share the administration and organizational procedures, and provide economies of scale.
This project seeks to promote certification in those areas where it is less widespread, but where the sustainable management of forests has taken on increasing urgency in light of efforts to combat climate change and alleviate poverty.
The project focuses on sharing experience and facilitating cooperation amongst family forest owners, community forest groups and indigenous peoples in implementing sustainable forest management and pursuing forest certification. Recognizing that forest certification will only occur when sufficient technical capacity, organization and motivation of landholders exists, PEFC’s project uses a partnership approach to contribute to local needs and build capacity across a range of pre-requisites to certification.
In collaboration with international and local partners, PEFC is aspiring to innovate and develop solutions to promote rural livelihoods, improve access to markets and increase the uptake of forest certification.
The first phase of the project analyzed the experiences of small family forest owners in Europe in establishing group certification models and pursuing PEFC certification. The research examined existing practices and identified key elements influencing the uptake of forest certification amongst small landholders.
The current phase of the project is mobilizing this knowledge and a group of partners to work internationally and contribute to the establishment of enabling conditions that could expand certification amongst landholders in other parts of the world. Through a series of pilot projects, PEFC and partners are working in different parts of the world to understand the current challenges faced by small landholders in implementing sustainable forest management.
Pilot projects are currently underway in Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand and Vietnam:
In Malaysia, rubber wood has become an extremely important source of material for wood-based industries, and as such the market is looking to source certified products. The Malaysian Timber Certification Council (MTCC), already operates the national certification system for ensuring sustainable forest management. Working with rubber farmers in the peninsular, the project seeks to explore the feasibility of pursuing group forest management certification for rubber plantations.
Beyond scoping the technical feasibility, the project is working to stimulate interest in sustainable land management and consider the market benefits for pursuing certification. The project is led by MTCC, the Malaysian Timber Industry Board, the Malaysian Timber Council, and the Federal Land Development Authority (FELDA).
Community forestry plays an important role in the management of Nepal’s forests, and by legitimizing and regulating the sustainable use of forest resources, it can improve the livelihoods of millions of people.
FECOFUN (Federation of Community Users Nepal), GACF Nepal (Global Alliance for Community Forestry) and local partners are working to stimulate an inclusive dialogue at all levels of society about the important role of sustainable forest management, including district, regional and national level workshops to raise awareness.
The next step is to provide technical expertise to initiate a process of group certification to organize communities and increase their access to markets. With women playing a key role in community forest management in Nepal, their involvement will be critical to the success of the project.
Sourcing fiber from smallholder farmers is currently an innovative sourcing model used in Thailand to procure feedstock for pulp production. But while Thai-based companies are increasingly coming under pressure to offer certified sustainable products, the dispersed nature of smallholder farmers challenges the scope, relevance and cost-effectiveness of existing models of forest management certification.
The desired outcome of the pilot project is to establish an independent system of sourcing verification that companies can utilize to offer ‘non-controversial source’ product assurance. Working collaboratively with Thai farmers, companies and the certification body Bureau Veritas Thailand, the projects aims at supporting sustainable management and initiating the development of a national forest certification system.
In Vietnam 90% of the smallholders’ forest production is sold to wood chipping factories for intermediate processing for pulp production. Improvements in the supply chain could optimize the value of forest resources by increasing the product quality and access to markets.
AgriCord, the Finnish Forest Owner Association (MTK) and the Thua Thien Hue Cooperative Alliance have been working together since 2011 to strengthen the forest owner cooperative and support the development of the farmers’ skills to conduct sustainable forest management activities. Through certifying their forest resources, it is hoped that households would increase the income generation potential from their trees through access to new markets, improved buying relationships, price premium and improved product quality.