Small-scale, Low Intensity and Community Forests

FSC is building pathways for small-scale and community forests to achieve certification on multiple fronts by adapting our regulatory framework and creating optimal market conditions. 

In the FSC system, 'Smallholder' is the term used to describe anyone who owns, manages, or uses forests which are considered 'small' in relation to others in their region, or anyone who harvests timber at a low intensity. Smallholders also include ‘community producers’, even when their Management Units (MU) are large and/or their intensity of harvest is high.

Small-scale, low intensity and community forests around the world face similar issues in preserving their forests and implementing responsible forestry practices, and require tailor made approaches due to certain characteristics such as the size of land, internal governance models, and ownership or customary rights.


What is FSC doing to support these forests obtain certification?

FSC launched the New Approaches project in 2016 to help these forests withstand forest management challenges and overcome barriers to certification such as the number and complexity of the requirements, cost of certification and lack of access to sustainability markets. Read more on New Approaches here.

The project was later consolidated into a full-fledged program known as the Community and Family Forests (CFF) program which provides a toolbox that eases acquiring FSC-certification and provides benefits for these constituents. This toolbox consists of three distinct work streams:   

1. Policy Solutions: fit for purpose standards and procedures are building ways to achieve certification for small-scale, community and family forests around the world on various fronts:   


2. Market Tools: business and market-focused tools to address challenges in supplying commercially fit species, volume of supply, lacking the right equipment and business.   

  • Economic viability tool: allows community and family forests to analyse their land-based products by running various responsible management scenarios, including agriculture, cattle, and forestry.  
  • Volume aggregator tool: allows community and family forests to identify the range of the species they have and aggregate volumes, empowering them to negotiate collectively with the buyer.  

3. Enablers: FSC has identified a methodology that can more effectively address the disabling market conditions - especially in settings where a traditional value chain approach is not yet suitable: the Collective Impact Model. Read more here.   


The FSC Global Strategy 2021-2026 has a very strong commitment to increasing the forest areas managed by small-scale, low intensity and community forests. This pledge is specified in Goal 2.4 that carries out increasing support to Indigenous Peoples, communities, smallholders and workers.