The South African Forestry Assurance Scheme (SAFAS) values based tool was presented at the ‘Sustainable Wood for a Sustainable World’ (SW4SW) Regional Dialogue in Africa event which took place on 29 and 30 October in Pretoria as a value based platform for sustainable forest management land certification. Steve Germishuizen from NCT presented on this area of work on the first day of the regional dialogue with a presentation entitled ‘Role of forest certification in promoting sustainable forest management’.

Smallholders in the developing world have been excluded from forest certification and this has become a trade barrier for these vulnerable forest owners in the Global South. The Value-Based Platform has been developed within the SANBI Biodiversity and Land Use Project and aims to level the playing fields for forest owners globally.

Forest certification has been in existence for 26 years and between the two main international systems, namely the Forest Stewardship Council and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification, 425 million hectares have been certified. However, 87% of the worlds certified forest area is in the boreal and temperate regions of North America and Europe (including Russia). In such areas, governance systems are sophisticated and resources are plenty. However, in high governance environments the value of certification for improving forest management is questionable as the forests are mostly well managed and protected through legislation.

In Africa, thanks mostly to some very large certificates managed by global corporates we have certified only around 1% of the African forests. As for smaller-scale and community forest owners in the developing world – virtually none of these has been certified, outside of a few NGO driven projects. If we are going to bring forests from the developing world into certification we need to dramatically change the way we work. There are two reasons that a forest would not be able to be certified. Either, the forestry is not sustainable or the certification system is not appropriate for the context.

While it is clear that an alarming number of African forests are disappearing due to land-use changes such as agriculture, cattle, charcoal and logging there are many highly sustainable small-scale forests that cannot overcome the bureaucracy of certification.

To provide support for both these situations the Value-based forestry platform was developed. This GIS-based tool allows forest managers to identify and prioritize the values and risks to sustainable forest management. The platform has a broad range of applications as a management tool. SAFAS expects this to make certification much more effective in that it will highlight which aspects of management are most critical to sustainability.

Furthermore, this tool streamlines the entire certification process, reduces the administrative burden and providing the basis for group certification.  Most importantly, all these features will make certification more accessible for smallholders. We think that such a system solves many problems but principally,

  • It tailors certification for the landscape allowing managers of all scales to understand their key risks and apply their attention to these,
  • It allows access to small-scale operations by not burdening them with irrelevant aspects of the system, only those aspects which are important and they can control,
  • It allows certifiers to produce constructive audits that are relevant to the operation thereby greatly enhancing the impact and credibility of certification, and
  • Provides potential investors with a clearly structured profile of the risks to sustainability.

SAFAS is in the process of setting up a group certification system based on this platform for the whole of South Africa and huge interest has been shown in the system in countries throughout Africa.

SW4SW was adopted in May 2018 as a Joint Initiative of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, an outcome of the SW4SW Global Meeting held at FAO Headquarters in 2017. This initiative is jointly led by FAO, with support from its Advisory Committee on Sustainable Forest-based Industries, the Centre for International Forestry Research, the International Tropical Timber Organization, the World Bank and the World Wildlife Fund. For more information on SW4SW, please click here.

Author: Steve Germishuizen

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