FSC has been a success, but can play a more constructive role
30 October 2014
Green Resources (GR) was a pleased to participate in the celebration of FSC’s 20th anniversary and the 7th General Assembly in Seville in September 2014. At this juncture GR wants to emphasis on the importance of forest management certification and the role that FSC can play to help move plantation forestry in Africa forward. The world demand for wood fibre could triple by 2050, according to forecast by WWF and other organisations, in order to meet growing demand and reduce the pressure on natural forests such that deforestation can be halted. Africa is one of the two key regions of the world where new forest has to be established to meet this demand.
At the same time, it is critical to realise that the newly established forests are small drops in the ocean. There is only 86,000 ha (gross) of FSC certified forestry plantations in Africa (ex. RSA and Swaziland). Worse, the rate of planting has dropped over the last 3-4 years, and will most likely stagnate at this lower level next year.
FSC is the leading certification for sustainable forestry management and an important part of the successful forest companies in Africa. Four of the six largest commercial reforestation companies are FSC certified. Green Resources has more than 60% of the African (ex RSA and Swaziland) FSC certified plantation forests. We focus our operations around the FSC principles because our employees believe it is the right way of doing forestry and because our shareholders and lenders want the company to aim for the highest international standards for sustainable forest management. FSC play a vital role in reducing the risks and increasing security for investors.
Thus, FSC has significant responsibility and a huge opportunity to facilitate a growth in sustainable managed forest plantations. To move forward, Green Resources supports the following ideas, as promoted by CEO, Mads Asprem, at the General Assembly’s FSC+20 Forum.
Ecosystem services represent some of the major benefits of forestry. These should be reported and can generate revenues. We believe that FSC’s move into ecosystem service certification in general and carbon certification, in particular is very useful. Climate change is more important than ever, even if the policies and trading mechanisms have been failures partly because the project development and monitoring has been too complicated. There are a myriad of different and overlapping certification standards, leading to high costs of compliance and discouraging new projects to be developed. Most carbon/ ecosystem standards have significant overlap with FSC. FSC should therefore speed up the development of ecosystem standards as add-ons to the basic FSC certification.
Unfair competition from Government forests
While most plantation forests in Africa (ex RSA and Swaziland) are Government owned, none of these are FSC certified. We compete for customers in the same markets and for employees (employees of non-FSC certified forests may have opportunities that are more difficult to create in FSC certified forests), etc. This is unfair competition. Worse, most of these forests are not sustainably managed, regardless of what criteria is employed.
FSC should target Government forests to increase the certification footprint. Importantly, many of these State Forests (directly or indirectly) receive financial support from OECD countries. FSC is in the position to demand that donors require sustainable forest management certification of state forest as a condition for receiving ODA to the forestry sector.
Increased focus on Africa
FSC must work on expanding certification in frontier countries, where it may be difficult, but where FSC really can make a difference. We are pleased with the establishment of an FSC office in East Africa. FSC must discuss and solve issues that are important for Africa. There is also need for training, both of foresters and auditors that often come from far afield. East Africa has (some of) the best foresters in the world graduating from forestry school and universities. However, they lack experience and their education might not have covered all topics.
Importantly, if it wants to be on the side of the Africans, you must participate in creating the future, not only conserve the past. Plantation forestry, conservation and biodiversity are synergetic when done properly. FSC, and all the organisations behind it, could play a hugely constructive role ensuring that these synergies are explored and that we get positive development going forward.
Change the 1994 rule
The 1994 deforestation rule is out of date and is particularly harmful for the rural and poorest areas of Africa. Large areas of Africa have been deforested during the last 20 years, primarily caused by slash and burn agriculture, charcoal production and fires. Millions of people have participated in this process. Africa cannot and will not watch large areas of waste land remain unproductive. If FSC wants to remain relevant in Africa, it must facilitate the restoration and re-development of degraded forest. By leading the way, FSC can guide the process. Plantation forestry in Africa could primarily be restoration forestry if the right tools are in place. Today, FSC is at risk at becoming a bystander.
FSC must be true to its principles and focus on spreading these to the frontiers of sustainable forestry around the world. A regional standard for East Africa could be an important step in this direction. However, we warn against national standards. We have FSC certified in three different African countries and other companies do also operate in several countries. We use FSC as an active and important management tool, which is much easier if we can share exactly the same standards across borders. We do not want to spend the resources required to establish a number of national standards, and we do not believe they exist anyway. Auditing will be more expensive with national standards, and national standards could lead to lack of transparency something we do not want.
Mads Asprem, CEO: email@example.com
Nilza Puna, Group Certification Manager: firstname.lastname@example.org
About Green Resources
Green Resources is Africa’s largest forestation company and a leader in East African wood manufacturing. The company has 41,000 ha of standing forest in Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda, established through its own planting activities. It operates East Africa’s largest sawmill in Tanzania and electricity pole and charcoal plants in Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda and is also one of the first companies globally to receive carbon revenue from its plantation forests.
Green Resources was established in 1995 and is a private Norwegian company with 80 shareholders. It employs more than 4,000 people and has invested USD 250 mn equity in its African operations since. Green Resources holds land to establish more than 100,000 ha of additional plantations with an aim to serve the growing regional and global demand for wood products. Its strategy is based on growing wood for both traditional uses (sawn timber, panel board, packaging, paper, tissue, etc.) and for the growing bio-chemical and energy sectors. It is a leader in carbon finance. Green Resources has probably planted more new forest than any other organization in Africa during the past ten years, and is the African (ex RSA) leader in FSC certified plantation forestry.