Preparing South Africa’s small-forest owners for certification

With South Africa's national forest certification system now PEFC-endorsed, this project will ensure that small-forest owners are able to achieve certification and benefit from the advantages it brings.

Preparing South Africa’s small-forest owners for certification


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

This was predominately due to the previous models of forest certification in the country being unsuitable and unattainable for most of these smallholders.

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 developed a national forest certification system in alignment with the PEFC international requirements. The system development was 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 progressed in South Africa, the 2016 PEFC Collaboration Fund supported NCT as it led this process. Alongside general support for system development, this project also focused on ensuring the country’s smallholders could gain certification once the national system was endorsed by PEFC.

A group certification tool was developed to allow both communal and private small-forest owners to achieve certification. The tool includes a risk assessment and a management system to address these risks and prepare the forest owners for certification. The tool went through a series of field tests before it was launched, to ensure it met the local needs.

Training was 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 was also initiated targeting the South African forestry industry, smallholders and stakeholders, including the organization of regional information sessions and the widespread publication of articles in forestry publications.

Now 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.

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