The recently developed independent national forestry certification system for South Africa was recently endorsed by the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification system (PEFC)!  This much anticipated news was communicated at the recently held PEFC General Assembly which took place in Vancouver earlier this month.

The development of the national forestry certification system was in response to the inadequacies in international models of forest certification applied in South Africa which were unsuitable and unattainable for most of the country’s smallholders.  With more and more timberland in South Africa likely to fall under the control of communities and small-scale growers, it became imperative to develop a certification system that is more practical and relevant to local conditions.

The community of Ozwatini, based in rural Kwa-Zulu Natal partaking in small-scale tree farming, is one such communtiy that is hugely affected by this barrier to certification.  South Africa has long been at the forefront of forest certification in Africa. However, despite sustained efforts over almost 20 years, there has been very little success in the certification of the country’s small-forest owners.  Thus the primary objective of the initiative was to provide timber growers in South Africa with an alternative certification system that will enable the certification of small-scale timber growers and give them more flexibility and security in the marketplace.

The national forestry certification system aligns with the PEFC international requirements and leading the development of the system with support from various stakeholders was NCT Forestry, the largest cooperative for timber growers in the country, representing hundreds of small-forest owners.

“Given the rainbow nation’s socio-economic diversity, we believe it is essential that access to certification is fair for all scales for forestry. Using group certification under the PEFC, we anticipate improving the rigour and efficiency of certification in South Africa while allowing unprecedented access to smallholders,” said Steve Germishuizen from NCT.

The PEFC have pioneered Group Certification, which is an innovative mechanism that enables smallholders to work together to achieve PEFC sustainable forest management certification as a group. It is through this mechanism that a group certification tool was developed to allow both communal and private small-forest owners to achieve certification. The tool includes a risk assessment and a management system to address these risks and prepare the forest owners for certification. The tool will also go through a series of field tests before it is launched to ensure it meets the local needs.

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