The concept incorporates FSC’s previous ‘modular approach programme’ and the research related to a motion FSC members approved on the development of a forest certification standard adapted to the realities of Indigenous Peoples and Traditional Forest Communities.

Under the banner of the New Approaches project, FSC is advancing the development of a continuous improvement concept. Based on the work done by the eastern Africa technical working group and a series of participatory workshops in Latin America, this new solution will offer smallholders and communities time-bound steps to fully conform with FSC forest management standards. The concept shares many similarities with a previous initiative that emerged after a related motion was passed at the FSC General Assembly in 2014.

To ensure the alignment between both projects, and the common goal of making certification more accessible for smallholders and communities, FSC organized several meetings from 2017 to 2019 to thoroughly discuss and share current and previous findings on forest management solutions for smallholders and communities. In an effort to draw lessons from previous work, stakeholders who were already involved in the previous motion-related project participated in these meetings, as well as in some of the consultation workshops held during the testing of the continuous improvement concept. The primary result was a plan to develop additional guidance for forest management standard setters. This plan incorporates all the findings to make certification accessible to both smallholders and communities.

“You do need to give special treatment to smallholders and communities because they do not easily fall under the FSC certification umbrella as is,” said Alan Smith, Social Member of the FSC International Board of Directors, who was an observer at the Bonn meeting. “And of course, the New Approaches programme is designed to facilitate certification for these two groups and hopefully deliver social welfare, economic development, and many other benefits that are not necessarily so evident when you talk about certifying a big company forest plantation. It's a different game. FSC is now beginning to adapt.”

A meeting held in Uganda in March 2019 provided the opportunity to use findings from the last Eastern Africa consultation workshop. Discussions included how to better integrate the previous work on communities’ certification with the continuous improvement concept. Representatives of the FSC New Approaches team, the FSC Eastern Africa technical working group for a continuous improvement concept, and of Forests of the World were present in this meeting. Various local stakeholders, including smallholders and communities’ representatives, also attended.

The meetings confirmed an overwhelming support to the concept claiming that sustainability is a path, rather than an end goal. “FSC certification has been difficult for smallholders due to too many requirements at entry, yet, over 80% of wood materials in Eastern Africa are sourced from smallholders. It is great that under continuous improvement, the entry requirements have been reworked to half, which will tremendously lessen the burden and make it workable” said Alois Mabutho from the New Forests Company, who attended the final consultation workshop.

“I feel very confident that as a first step of the journey, continuous improvement will work well for smallholders and communities with forest areas of ‘maybe 100 hectares.’ Therefore, more simplicity is required for the very small ones owning 1- 2 hectares or less. I pledge my support to discuss with my Environmental Chamber colleagues about these initiatives,” said Jens Holm Kanstrup from the Danish environmental NGO Forests of the World.

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

For more details on the continuous improvement concept in Eastern Africa, please contact Annah Agasha, FSC East Africa Project Manager, at a.agasha@fsc.org.