Tuesday, 13 March 2018
Sustainable Forest Management in Namibia on a growth path
Bush encroachment is estimated to affect up to 26 million ha (32%) of Namibia’s land and has severe negative consequences on key ecosystem services, especially agricultural productivity and groundwater recharge. Agricultural productivity in Namibia has declined by two thirds throughout the past decades, mainly due to the negative impact of bush encroachment. The phenomenon affects both commercial and communal farming in Namibia, mostly the central, eastern and north-eastern regions.
Charcoal is one of the main products produced from encroachment bush. Namibia has a well-established charcoal sector, which comprises approximately 600 producers, producing approximately 120 000 tons/annum and employs a total of 5 000-6 000 workers. Currently, most producers are farmers, who venture into charcoal production as a means to combat bush encroachment on their own land. Namibia is the world’s 6th largest producer of Charcoal, with the main export markets located in South Africa and Europe – UK, Germany and Belgium in particular.
Currently, there are 6 Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Forest Management (FM) and Chain of Custody (COC) certificates in Namibia, of which 5 are Group Scheme certificates representing 32 Small and Low Intensity Managed Forests (SLIMF) and medium scaled farmers.
Jumbo Charcoal was the first to initiate and achieve FSC forest management certification 17 years ago, via a Group Scheme for farmers in Namibia. Today, they are the largest group scheme in the country and have successfully maintained their certification since 2001. “The Group has changed and adapted our business over the years to meet the FSC forest management requirements.” says Ian Galloway, Owner of Jumbo Charcoal.
FSC Certification has brought positive change to Charcoal production in the Country, with the compliance to national legislation, improved working conditions and accommodation for workers, and improved market opportunities to certified farmers – both in terms of market access as well as improved pricing.
The Cheetah Conservation Fund (CCF) has been FSC certified since 2005 and contributes to the protection of the Cheetah in Namibia. Namibia has a third of the world’s cheetah and is committed to protecting this vulnerable species. CCF Senior Ecologist and Forest Steward Matti Tweshingilwa Nghikembua points to the natural fit with FSC principles: “We are trying to lead by example with a win-win that combines biodiversity conservation with improving livelihoods by restoring a productive savannah. We are linking economics, biodiversity and social aspects – and saving a species”.
The most recent certificate to be issued was to CMO Logistics (Pty) Ltd in March 2018. The Group Scheme currently has 3 members, but the CEO of CMO, Michal Brink, has indicated that the group scheme has plans to expand to 50 members by December 2018. The issuance of this certificate has resulted in Namibia reaching 200 000 hectares of FSC certified land.
Namibia is in the process of developing an FSC National Forest Stewardship Standard with a target of finalising it in 2019. The Draft Standard is currently out for Public Consultation. “The Standard will bring local relevance, cater for all scales of operations and guidance in application for the charcoal, biomass and non-timber Forest Product sectors” says the Pieter Potgieter from the Namibian Charcoal Association (NCA), he adds that “The international market demands more and more FSC produced charcoal and prize benefits will favour such produced Charcoal in the near future.”
Ms. Manushka Moodley, FSC Sub-Regional Coordinator for Southern Africa, indicates that “FSC certification in Namibia has progressed over the years. The country has seen growth in FSC certified area as well as in the number of active FSC chain of custody certificates. Stakeholders representing all interested and affected constituents are engaged and FSC Africa will continue to support stakeholders in Namibia in Standard Development and their journey in achieving and maintaining their FSC certification”.