Solutions for Smallholders

Small forest owners and communities are at the heart of FSC. We have launched a number of different initiatives over the last 25 years, and we have achieved a lot. The wealth of knowledge and resources we have built up was harnessed to inform our latest project, launched to look into new and innovative solutions. It is called the New Approaches for Smallholders and Communities Certification project.

FSC Smallholder and Communities
FSC Denmark

One size doesn’t fit all

The specific challenges that smallholders face are not only linked to the requirements of FSC certification, which are sometimes too complex or costly for them, but also to access markets that value sustainability. Some of the solutions we have provided to date include streamlined requirements, supporting mechanisms such as group certification or special funds and specific labels and marketing campaigns to help establish and maintain value chains.

The term 'smallholders' includes small-forest producers, local and traditional communities, and indigenous peoples. The term SLIMF – small or low-intensity managed forests – refers to small size forest or forests managed for low-intensity wood harvesting. Due to their specific characteristics, such as land size, ownership or internal governance, smallholders sometimes struggle to manage their forests in a sustainable and viable manner, making it difficult to comply with FSC specifications. To help them overcome these barriers, we have created tools specifically for smallholders.

Small or low-intensity forests

A small or low-intensity managed forest, or SLIMF, can qualify for streamlined requirements and auditing procedures that reduce the cost of implementation and audit.

Many countries include specific forest management requirements for SLIMF in their FSC forest management standards, aimed at facilitating the certification process for smallholders. Similarly, the auditing process can be adapted for SLIMF operations. Download the relevant document below to learn about the eligibility criteria for SLIMF that certification bodies use to determine if a forest is eligible. Check your national standard or talk to your national and regional office to find out whether this is the case in your country.

Group certification

To reduce certification costs, FSC certificate holders can also form a group. Group certification makes it easier, particularly for smallholders, to become FSC-certified, as it enables group members toan economy of scale, that optimize production factors, strengthen their negotiation capacity, allowing them to share the workload and reduce the cost of achieving and maintaining an FSC certificate.

Group certification is regulated by standard FSC-STD-30-005, FSC Standard for Group Entities in Forest Management Groups, which is currently under revision. The new version is expected to be effective on the beginning of 2021.

FSC-STD-01-003 V1-0 EN_SLIMF Eligibility Criteria.pdf
PDF, Size: 100.90KB
SLIMF Eligibility Criteria Addendum
PDF, Size: 355.68KB
FSC-STD-30-005 V1-1 EN FSC standard for group entities in forest management groups
PDF, Size: 359.59KB
User-friendly guide to FSC certification for smallholder
PDF, Size: 1.12MB
FSC step-by-step guide
PDF, Size: 1.13MB
FSC® Group Certification Toolkit
PDF, Size: 2.78MB
FSC Group Certification Toolkit - Supporting Documents (PDF)
PDF, Size: 3.14MB

New Approaches project

Meeting the need for internationally-recognised solutions that are locally relevant

During the last 25 years of operation, FSC has implemented several initatives to support smallholders. While we have achieved many successes, we have also learned that, together with adaptations of regular FSC certification, new and innovative solutions need to be developed for smallholders adapted to the different regions where they live.

Designing an FSC system for, and by, smallholders

Initiated by FSC’s Global Strategic Plan 2015-2020, the New Approaches for Smallholders and Communities Certification (New Approaches) project was created to include affected actors in the development of new solutions to improve access to, and uptake of, the FSC system by small forest owners and communities.

The New Approaches project is a highly-coordinated effort within the FSC system that draws resources and expertise from all areas and levels of the organization to meet the multiple needs of smallholders.

Past initiatives

From FSC´s early beginnings, smallholders and their needs have been a priority for us. During this period, the first FSC Social Policy was developed, a Social Policy Programme established, and several initatives launched to support smallholders, such us the Modular Approach Programme or the Made with Heart campaign. A chronological register of FSC's efforts to support smallholders can be found in the list below. For further details and supporting documents, please contact us.

  • FSC Smallholder Communities
    FSC DK / Namibia

    From 2005 to 2015

    • 2002 – Social strategy
    • 2004 – SLIMF policies
    • 2005 – Modular Approach Programme (MAP)
    • 2005 – FSC-Fairtrade dual certification pilot project
    • 2008 – Lisbon Process – from policy to support; CEFCO project; Smallholder Fund; European Smallholder Network
    • 2008 – FSC certification of conservation and protection areas – inclusion of ecosystem services in the FSC system
    • 2010 – Social Policy Programme created
    • 2011 – Smallholder Support Programme (Train the Trainers; Small and Community Label Option (SCLO))
    • 2014 – A set of iconic motions were approved in FSC General Assembly that were in the genesis of New Approaches project
    • 2016 – New Approaches for Smallholders and Communities Certification project was officially launched