A new community handbook from TFT, ‘Sustainable Community Forest Management: A Practical Guide to FSC Group Certification for Smallholder Agroforests,' aims to help smallholder farmers run successful businesses that meet the sustainability requirements of international buyers.
“Many smallholders risk being cut out of wood supply chains by not distinguishing themselves from illegal loggers,” says Robin Barr from TFT.
TFT is a global non-profit organisation that helps companies and communities deliver Responsible Products. We act on the ground in forests, farms and factories to help create products that respect the environment and improve people's lives.
Barr, Senior Manager at TFT and one of the handbook’s authors, explains: “Millions of people around the world rely on smallholders for timber and other daily commodities such as fruit, nuts, coffee, tea and cocoa. Yet there is a very real danger smallholders will be excluded from markets because, despite often employing excellent practices, many have no official accreditation. As a result, some buyers needing to comply with legislation such as the EU Timber Regulation or the US Lacey Act to prove timber legality think engaging with these smallholders is too complex and are instead turning to big players who can more easily become certified or legally verified.”
At the same time, more governments in developing countries are handing land rights to local people, so it’s important that they are empowered to address the sustainability concerns raised by international buyers to really optimise these new opportunities. The handbook helps smallholders legitimise their role in global supply chains.
Smallholder agroforests are the ‘invisible link’ in global wood supply chains, with an estimated 558 million people managing 1 billion hectares of the world’s agroforests. Huge amounts of wood are coming from them, but they’re rarely spoken about in conferences or wood market reports. Nonetheless, they are major wood providers to international furniture and plywood markets, and in many countries have surpassed natural forests in the volume of wood that they are supplying to global markets.
The community forest handbook brings together almost a decade of TFT’s experience carrying out ground-breaking work with such smallholder supply chains in Indonesia, Laos and India to set up traceability systems, document legality of the wood, and achieve FSC certification, as well as setting up long-term viable business structures for the communities. Many of the projects have gone on to achieve global recognition.
Scott Poynton, founder and executive director of TFT, says: “The more communities there are working together and the more trading power they have, the more we can together really make a difference in supporting them, giving buyers confidence that communities can supply responsible wood. The community handbook is helping to make that possible.”