But a challenge that a group of African forestry experts is determined to find a workable and practical solution to.

Last month (December 2018), the New Approaches technical working group met in Uganda to develop recommendations for improving access to FSC certification for smallholders and communities. The challenge for the group was to determine if continuous improvement could be integrated and implemented within the FSC system. The continuous improvement approach would offer smallholders and communities clear steps to ensure their forestry activities fully complied with the requirements of applicable FSC standards.

Implementing continuous improvement requires a step-wise approach, prioritizing the compliance to critical requirements and only after these are met, moving on to focus on the other requirements. FSC had already considered a similar solution through the Modular Approach Program , which included three steps towards certification: legal compliance, controlled wood and full FSC certification. The main difference being considered now is that smallholders would attain certification from the beginning, and not on the last stage as initially proposed in MAP. Applying this step-wise approach might reduce the initial activities and costs required from smallholders and communities to access certification. Discussions regarding this continuous improvement approach began last year with benchmarking workshops to learn from other certification schemes and stakeholders about the challenges and opportunities of this approach to smallholder certification.

The meeting was the first in a series to propose continuous improvement solutions under the New Approaches for Smallholders and Communities Certification (or ‘New Approaches‘) project. The Technical Working Group includes participants from Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya.

During the meeting, the working group revised the FSC Principles and Criteria. They formulated recommendations for the ongoing development of the FSC Tanzania and Uganda National Forest Stewardship Standards, after agreeing on the vital criteria. The group also reviewed two existing standards: FSC-STD-20-007, FSC standard for forest management evaluations and FSC-STD-30-005, FSC standard for group entities in forest management groups. Their recommendations will now be informing the revision process of these standards.

The working group also conducted field testing activities. These activities included the review of available data – e.g. relevant country-based information and desk research. The working group assigned a realistic timeframe for smallholder compliance to achieve certification under this step-wise approach. The timeline includes the minimum number of years required for compliance.

The working group will organize events – including consultations – from December to February throughout Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. They plan to engage with various stakeholders – such as existing and potential certificate holders. The group will then compile learning and findings generated during the consultation period. Their final report will be published during the first quarter of 2019.

For more information on the technical working group in Africa, please contact Annah Agasha, topic lead for step-wise solutions for New Approaches project, at a.agasha@fsc.org.

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