What does the program entail?
The New Approaches project was established to support smallholders and communities to capitalize on responsible forestry practices through access to the FSC system. There are numerous societal advantages to supporting certification: in addition to strengthening forest management practices, certification promotes access to market benefits by smallholders and communities.
To realise these benefits, our committed team has worked extensively with stakeholders to address the challenges that smallholders and communities face. For one, smallholder and community needs differ depending on their proximity to existing responsible forest management practices. On top of that, certification can be an expensive process, and FSC rules and standards can seem complex. Finally, many smallholders and communities face capacity and access barriers in entering the markets and ultimately profiting from responsible forestry practices.
What have we achieved?
New Approaches has put smallholders and communities at its heart, listening to their needs and taking their views into account. Engaging with smallholders, community representatives and organizations that work closely with them has provided FSC with the knowledge required to design alternative routes to certification for small forest stewards all around the world.
We have developed a number of innovative solutions to improve or simplify FSC standards, ensure that smallholders and communities can adhere to their requirements and develop the capacity to achieve certification. Two recent highlights are: a revised forest management group standard to make group certification more relevant to small forest owners, and a simplified regional standard for smallholders in parts of Asia Pacific that has incorporated a user-oriented and risk-based approach towards certification.
FSC’s forest management group standard was revised to make it more relevant to small forest owners and allow smallholders and communities to certify in groups. The new forest management group standard allows for voluntary consideration of the role that forestry contractors play in the management of small forests. We have streamlined the internal monitoring processes that group managers are required to implement as part of the standard in order to receive certification, thus reducing associated costs for smallholders and communities.
We also designed a regional standard, tailored towards smallholders and communities in parts of Asia Pacific. The standard, which was simplified to include requirements only relevant for smallholder certification, and will cater to smallholders and communities in India, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam.
The engagement by the team resulted in the first FSC group certificate in Uganda in 2019, with three smallholders from the Ugandan Timber Growers Association collectively certifying an area of approximately 1,300 hectares, exemplifying that the correct combination of outreach and policy changes can encourage certification by smallholders. Some more great successes – the Czech Republic and Slovakia have seen FSC certified areas increase by 39 per cent between 2016 and 2018, while in Lithuania, for example, smallholder certification has tripled in only three years. We are looking forward to building on these successes to secure more group certificates worldwide.
We know that there is no ‘one size fits all’ solution to achieving smallholder and community certification on a mass scale. That’s why FSC has developed these new solutions and tools, and will continue to assess these and improve them and others in the future. Engaging smallholders and communities, simplifying FSC standards and providing group certification are all tools we use to ensure we foster a positive social, economic and environmental impact in our communities.
None of this would have been possible without our dedicated New Approaches team which has worked tirelessly to bring these innovative ideas to fruition. Throughout 2019 and 2020 we have focused on ‘developing and testing’ – trialling many concepts and gathering feedback from our colleagues, our members and our stakeholders on the ground. An exciting piece of this is the formalization of the internal program starting with a new name for “New Approaches.” This program will take the lead in coalescing all efforts towards a comprehensive and systematic approach towards empowering smallholders and communities within the FSC system. As we go forward in 2021, our team will be at the forefront of developing a new work area through innovative solutions and we look forward to sharing continued successes along the way.