A small Russian operator with a big impact
Victor Pankratov walks through his 820-hectare forest near the north-eastern Russian city of Kirov every day. He does this because he wants to manage his forest in a hands-on way that will help grow his business and make a difference to other small operators.
It’s been 11 years since Victor Zosimovich (his name of respect) was granted a 49-year lease of this land. He’d been in state forestry for 25 years and wanted to practically apply his knowledge. As he puts it, he set out to develop forest management “on the principles of sustained yield and for the long term while considering the interests of local people.”
Today, his company, PE Pankratov V.Z., is about to become the first Russian smallholder to attain FSC small or low-intensity managed forest (SLIMF) certification. He is developing his sawmill and forest as demonstration sites for promoting SLIMF certification in Russia.
His business is regarded as very unusual in Russian forestry, which is dominated by large companies with plantations of tens of thousands of hectares. Observers note that it has been difficult for small operators to run sustainable businesses in this landscape.
Victor Zosimovich is changing that. “My experience shows that it is much easier to develop a sustainable forest management model for a small enterprise,” he says.
Being small, he says, means that it’s easier for stakeholders to see how the business is operating. “I cannot afford to make mistakes and to disappoint local people because I personally know everybody living near[by].” He introduced public hearings in forest management planning to communicate with local people.
His dream was to turn the concession area into a model “where I could demonstrate how to improve species composition and to increase forest productivity without the use of clearcuts (cutting down every tree).”
Victor Zosimovich says his forest was dominated by secondary deciduous species: 65% was aspen and birch, indicating disturbance, and only 35% was conifers. Conifers, common in native forests and of more economic value, now make up 55%.
His FSC Smallholder Fund grant was used for training, development of a forest management plan aligned with FSC requirements, and buying processing equipment.
It also went to conducting forest inventories. Studies of forestry in Russia note a reluctance to do inventories, which are seen as unprofitable. Victor Zosimovich insists on inventories, an important part of management to sustain ecosystems. It will mean more profits in the longer term.
Deep timber processing facilities were added in 2012. Even low-quality wood is processed into spade handles, brick pallets, firewood and sawdust. There is no waste. “All my products are used by local people for construction … and gardening.”
He plans to expand by finding opportunities in non-timber resources from his forest, such as mushrooms, berries and honey. He’s also looking at agricultural development.
Victor Zosimovich is inspired by his work. “I am able to realize my personal ambitions, satisfy local people’s needs for forest products … provide job opportunities to locals, and see the positive effect of non-clearcuts on the environment.”
A forester and several lumberjacks work in his forest and five people have processing jobs. A contracted team of five harvests manually. This kind of practice helps sustain jobs in rural areas. In big forestry companies, the trend is towards mechanization.
With Nadezhda Yefimova, Victor Zosimovich consults to prepare companies for certification. Ms. Yefimova says he offers good lessons for smallholders. “By using non-clearcut harvest techniques and doing silviculture work, he helps save the forest and its wildlife for future generations while forming resilient and productive stands.”