Small Holder Updates


Thursday, 27 October 2016
Breaching the gap: designing smallholder-inclusive certification

smallholder NAI (© FSC Africa)© FSC Africa

On 13-14 September, a group of 36 experts from allover the world (all linked to East and southern Africa), with different professional backgrounds assembled in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. This diverse group of individuals were invited by FSC to provide their input to the first Eastern and Southern Africa expert engagement workshop on smallholder certification.


This exciting initiative is related to the New Approaches Initiative to Smallholders Certification (NAI) project, a global initiative by FSC International’s Social Policy Program. NAI is intended to design a bottom-up approach certification system in recognition of the realities and challenges faced by smallholders across the world. The concept is simple: a system for smallholders designed by smallholders.
The group comprised of smallholders themselves, traditional communities and/or their representatives, Certification Bodies (CBs), Standard Development Group (SDG) members from different countries, group managers, private consultants, Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), private companies, technical representatives from government institutions and FSC staff.

We hoped that these two days would result in fresh ideas, solutions, new innovations and approaches to developing a smallholder inclusive certification that would breach the existing gap in the current FSC system. We were not disappointed!

Some of the background questions shaping the workshop included interrogating the definition of a smallholder, and whether the NAI project presents a possible new framework for smallholders which can be followed.

A key theme was considerations around risk, and that FSC plans to learn from examples and improve systems for smallholders with consideration to a risk based approach.

When attendees were asked what they would change about FSC to benefit smallholders, answers included improving market access, simplification of processes, all-inclusive certification, replacing concepts of scale and intensity with risk, and providing technical assistance to smallholders.

Stakeholders such as Mpingo Conservation Development Initiative presented their personal experiences with FSC certification, highlighting the challenges such as costs but concluding that FSC certification has many benefits and is needed. Technological advances such as the use of TransparentForests were also highlighted as these could potentially hold great benefits for smallholders.

Discussions on the final day were intended to provide concrete ideas around designing the framework of a smallholder inclusive system focusing on a risk-based approach. A variety of topics were addressed, including making FSC certification for smallholders simpler and more efficient, government engagement, the logistics of risk assessments and how to drive NAI forward in both existing and new frameworks.

The workshop was one of a few consultations and engagements that FSC will undertake in finding solutions for smallholders certification.

A number of key points will be taken forward, including the identification and creation of task forces in key areas, addressing issues at international, regional and national levels, identifying short-term solutions (possibly assisted by NFSS), and a resource mobilization strategy led by FSC.

A need for flexibility in the existing Normative Framework was identified, as was the simplification of standards and accreditation/verification procedures. We will explore the use of a risk based approach instead of a rule based approach. FSC will initiate an engagement with the Rain Forest Alliance/SAN around their continuous improvement approach and identify how it can be adopted by FSC. The use of technology as a tool for information and land management will be explored in more detail going forward.

It was clear that most users do not fully understand the FSC system. On a short to medium term, FSC identified training as a key intervention to enhance knowledge transfer and sharing amongst users of the FSC system across the relevant sub-regions in Africa.
The feedback from the workshop has been very positive and we look forward to continuing this journey!

“Coming into this workshop as an outsider, it really stuck me how the challenges in making certification relevant for smallholders that FSC is working to overcome are so similar to so many supply chains and other certification schemes. I think we can all learn from each other, and the ideas that have emerged from our discussions, for example the use of risk-based approaches, or looking at issues at a landscape or jurisdictional level, are all ideas that could have a wider currency in forest certification. I am happy to serve as a contact point between FSC, Proforest and the SHARP partnership going forward.”
Tony Hill, Proforest


© Forest Stewardship Council® · FSC® F000100