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Preparing South Africa’s Small-Forest Owners for Certification

The current models of forest certification in South Africa are unsuitable and unattainable for most of the country’s smallholders. With a national forest certification system currently under development, PEFC is supporting a project to enable the certification of these small-forest owners once the system is up and running.

south africa 1South Africa has long been at the forefront of forest certification in Africa. However, despite sustained efforts over almost 20 years, there has been very little success in the certification of the country’s small-forest owners.

Ensuring that small- and family forest owners are able to achieve certification has been at the heart of our organization since the beginning. We have pioneered Group Certification, an innovative mechanism that enables smallholders to work together to achieve PEFC sustainable forest management certification as a group.

With it more important than ever to have a forest certification system in place that is attainable for smallholders, stakeholders in the country are developing a national forest certification system in alignment with the PEFC international requirements. The system development is led by NCT Forestry, the largest cooperative for timber growers in the country, representing hundreds of small-forest owners.

Certifying smallholders in South Africa

As development of the national system progresses in South Africa, the 2016 PEFC Collaboration Fund is supporting NCT as it leads this process. Alongside general support for system development, this project will also focus on ensuring the country’s smallholders can gain certification once the national system is endorsed by PEFC.

A group certification tool will be developed that will allow both communal and private small-forest owners to achieve certification. The tool will include a risk assessment and a management system to address these risks and prepare the forest owners for certification. The tool will also go through a series of field tests before it is launched to ensure it meets the local needs.

south africa 4Training will be provided to smallholders in preparation for certification, with courses covering topics such as environmental management, first aid and chain-saw operation.

An awareness raising campaign will also be initiated targeting the South African forestry industry, smallholders and stakeholders, and will include the organization of regional information sessions and the widespread publication of articles in forestry publications.

Later in the process, once the national forest certification system has achieved PEFC endorsement, the project will help two groups of smallholders (one on communally-owned land and the other on privately-owned land) prepare for PEFC certification using the previously-developed management system.

Lead Organization

Project Partners

PEFC Certified

Forests area: 304 million ha
Forest owners: > 750,000
Companies (CoC): > 19,800

(as of September 2017)
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