Lithuania Awarded Its First Group Certificate
Tuesday, 7 November 2017
‘Darnūs miškai’ (Sustainable Forests), a group of 70 individual private forest owners, achieves FSC certification totalling 30,000 hectares of boreal forest.
The seed is planted
In February 2017, the New Approaches to Smallholder Certification (New Approaches) project hosted an engagement event with stakeholders in Vilnius, Lithuania. A field trip was also scheduled to the forest site belonging to the first Lithuanian FSC-certified private forest owner, a cooperative company called Miško draugas (‘Forest Friend’).
“We invited our colleagues from the Baltic regions, who continually inspire and push us to innovate,” says Aidas Pivoriunas, Project Coordinator at FSC Lithuania. “Our members and stakeholders in the country are motivated and determined to show that we too can achieve great things for the world’s forests, together.”
On the two-hour ride from Rokiškis to Vilnius, the Latvian and Estonian delegation representatives shared ideas and experiences. There were also two oral presentations about the existing group certification schemes in Latvia and Estonia. Iveta Desaine from Skogssällskapet Latvia shared her story about how she was involved in setting up the FSC group certification scheme for smallholders. And then Kadri-Aija Viik with Pille-Riin Ressar from Ühinenud Metsaomanikud continued with even greater enthusiasm about how they are approaching first Estonian FSC group certification scheme in 2018.
At the back of the bus a group of Lithuanian participants, mainly consisting of smallholders and industries, formed a roundtable for discussion. The lessons learned and the information gathered proved beneficial to Lithuanian stakeholders that attended the field trip. So much so that, soon after the event, one participant said, “we have something to do to make a change, we too can achieve what Estonia and Latvia have.’
That was the kick-off of the FSC group certification scheme. In March, several private forest owners, together with representatives from timber processing industries, formed a working group to determine how the group certification model could be established for smallholders in Lithuania.
The journey towards group certification for ‘Sustainable Forests’
According to official statistics, around half of all forests in Lithuania are State-owned – 1,088,500 hectares. A further 838,500 hectares belong to private forest owners.
A decision was made that industries should cover at least half of the certification costs. An informal industrial group was established, representing five timber-processing companies (SBA, Ikea Industry Lietuva, VMG, Baldai Jums, Freda and Mutimeda), and agreed to cover the salary of a group certification manager. This represented a turning point, as industry players have never before been this directly involved in private forest management solutions.
The founding working group asked lawyers to search for a best possible solution to establish the group management organization. The recommendation was a non-profit nongovernmental organization driven by a single director, with a steering committee for strategic decision-making. The committee has representatives from private forest owners’ association, individual smallholders, industry, contractors, Lithuanian Fund For Nature, and FSC. Thus, the institution was established in April and named Darnūs miškai.
A group manager to lead the way
Jovita Urbikaitė, who at that time worked at one of the State Forest Enterprises and was responsible for tasks related to FSC certification, took up the position of Group Manager and launched a hugely ambitious plan to run the first ever Lithuanian group management model in private forest certification. Jovita had a target to reach – at least 20,000 hectares of private forest land should be FSC-certified by the end of 2017.
Between May and August, Jovita met with every potential group member, visited their forests, announced the auditing tender, carefully checked the documentation and forest management plans, organized several training activities for interested forest owners, and presented reports. In completing these tasks, she drove nearly 6,000 kilometers a month. The group forest management auditors were selected via international tender, in which four certification bodies submitted their proposals.
What’s next for Darnūs miškai? On 13 November 2017, there will be a meeting with all group members to be awarded their FSC group certificate; it will be the first time the members of the group will meet.
For more detailed information on this story, please contact Aidas Pivoriunas, Director of FSC Lithuania at firstname.lastname@example.org or Darnūs miškai Group Manager Jovita Urbikaitė at email@example.com
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