FSC International – Forests for All Forever

Facts & Figures

200,767,572 ha certified
35,438 CoC certificates
1,597 FM/CoC certificates

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New approaches to smallholder certification
Designing an FSC system for, and by, smallholders

© FSC GD / Christian Irrgang

Since our beginnings more than 20 years ago, FSC’s smallholder programme has developed organically over time as adaptations of the large-scale FSC model.

Our work has provided real benefits to a multitude of small forest owners across the globe (see the adjacent box for some examples). While we’ve achieved many successes, it’s been obvious to us that we’ve not wholly succeeded. We’ve learned that large-scale cannot be adapted effectively to small-scale; and we’ve learned that what works for small forest owners in one context, won’t work in others.

The experience of our organization does not match that of the peoples and communities

Backed up by calls from our members and guidance from FSC’s Global Strategic Plan 2015-2020, we knew we needed a new approach to smallholders. While we have 20 years of experience in smallholder certification, the experience of our organization does not match that of the peoples and communities that have called the forest their home for generations.

We’ve risen to the challenge with two core values: This new approach to smallholder certification must be innovative in that it must evolve in ways that are new to us and to the global forestry industry. And it must be fundamentally grounded in the realities of small forest owners, forest-based communications and Indigenous Peoples across the globe. With this in mind, New Approaches Initiative to Smallholder Certification (New Approaches) was born.

Enabling smallholders to design a certification system that works for them

New Approaches aims to develop a modern, dynamic, participatory, and rights-based approach to smallholder certification within the FSC system. We need to listen, learn and partner with smallholders to help them find their own solutions to the challenges they face. We will use our strength of bringing diverse groups together to enable smallholders to design a certification system that works for them, in their context, while at the same time, maintaining a balance with the credibility of FSC certification.

We need to shape our tools to meet local realities

New Approaches is still in its infancy. As we grow together, we know we’ll make mistakes. But we know we’ll overcome those obstacles so that we can – by developing culturally appropriate and locally adapted engagement models – shape our tools to meet local realities.

Who are FSC-certified smallholders?

FSC defines smallholders as small forest producers, and local and traditional communities and Indigenous Peoples engaged in FSC-certified value chains.

This definition includes forests held by local communities, small woodlots and plantations, and forests managed for low-intensity wood and non-wood harvesting.

Opening the door to local and global markets

By taking what’s worked over the past 20 years, and combining this with current innovations and solutions, and the real needs of our stakeholders, we know we’ll succeed.

New Approaches is being rolled out in phases. Our first phase, Engagement, will involve exactly that – engaging our smallholders across the globe. Those already certified under FSC’s smallholders umbrella, all have one thing in common: they produce a small supply of products, which makes it difficult for them to access local and global markets.

One of our first goals is to map our smallholders’ market-related needs so that we can work with them to develop new solutions to tackle the challenge of selling their goods on an efficient scale.

Creating a system that works for all

New Approaches is a highly coordinated effort within the FSC system that will continue to draw resources and expertise from all areas of the organization to meet the multiple, differing, and sometimes overlapping, needs of smallholders.

It is only by working together that we can achieve our joint goal of protecting our forests for future generations.

Providing Real Benefits

FSC smallholder systems, tools, policies, and practices have provided real benefits to individual smallholders around the world. Here are some examples: