The intent of the workshops was to discuss how to implement FSC certification for small forest owners and communities within a shorter period of time, through a process known as ‘continuous improvement’.

The continuous improvement approach would offer smallholders and communities clear steps to ensure their forestry activities fully complies with the requirements of applicable FSC standards. Conformity with FSC requirements is a challenge for small producers and communities and demands a significant investment, especially in tropical countries. This often outweighs the economic benefit that FSC can offer small forest owners.

Under the proposed concept, smallholders follow a pre-defined path to meet vital criteria. They also commit to continuously improving their performance and forest management.

To assess this proposal in local contexts, workshop participants evaluated the criteria that are critical to FSC certification. They also discussed the barriers that inhibit certification and articulated the factors that both characterize and distinguish smallholders across geographic regions. Participants also defined other services to make FSC certification more useful and relevant for smallholders, such as training, technical assistance, and market access.

The ideas generated from the workshops will inform the proposal for an FSC continuous improvement concept for smallholders and communities certification. The final report will be published in the first quarter of 2019 and will be followed by feedback to standard development groups and communities.

The workshops were led by the New Approaches for Smallholders and Communities Certification (or ‘New Approaches’) project team, in partnership with FSC Latin America regional and national offices. Standard development groups shared the specificities of their respective FSC national standards and contributed their extensive knowledge about FSC and its policies. Small forest owners and communities offered their perspectives based on their varied products, ecosystem services and types of forests – such as tropical forests and plantations – whether they were not yet certified or already certified. The 15 workshops took place in Honduras, Mexico, Chile, Ecuador, Brazil, Guatemala, Peru, and Bolivia.

For more information on these Latin American workshops, please contact Janja Eke, topic lead for continuous improvement in Latin America for the New Approaches project, at j.eke@fsc.org.

For more details on the New Approaches project, please contact Vera Santos, Project Manager, at v.santos@fsc.org.