Fostering Partnerships to Promote PEFC Certification in Hungary
As interest for PEFC certification grew, the 2012 Collaboration Fund supported a long-term project to develop a Hungarian national forest certification system. The project came to a successful conclusion in 2016 with the submission of the national system to PEFC for endorsement.
Hungary was one of the few remaining European countries with a significant share of private forest owners yet to have a national forest certification system. Almost half of the country’s more than two million hectares of forest area are privately owned, with the vast majority of properties being smaller than one hectare.
Given the challenges of certifying small forest owners, it is not surprising that 85% of Hungary’s total forest area remained uncertified.
There was therefore great potential for advancing forest certification in Hungary through the development of a national forest certification system in line with PEFC requirements, which are specifically designed to cater to the needs of smallholders.
PEFC certification in Hungary - a long journey
Local stakeholders began considering setting up a national PEFC system as far back as 2002.
However, they faced a challenge in one of PEFC’s fundamental requirements: the establishment of a “National Governing Body”. This is a local organization responsible for managing a national forest certification system, and entirely independent from PEFC International.
Because of Hungary’s short history of private forest ownership (private ownership was nearly non-existent prior to 1992), the country lacked a strong association that could take on this role.
However, private forest owners, contractors, and forest professionals were showing increasing interest in PEFC certification. This was backed up by a study from the University of West Hungary concerning the feasibility of PEFC certification in Hungary, which showed a number of stakeholders were increasingly interested in the benefits that PEFC can provide.
Developing a Hungarian forest certification system
In response to the this growing demand, ERFARET, a research and development organization founded by the University of West Hungary, initiated a project to foster partnerships to promote PEFC certification in the country.
With support from the 2012 PEFC Collaboration Fund, the project built capacity among private forest owners, initiated the development of a Hungarian forest certification system, and promoted PEFC certification in general.
A big step forward came in May 2013 as the Hungarian Forest Certification Non-profit Ltd was established as the National Governing Body, before becoming a PEFC National member in early 2016.
The project came to a close in the summer of 2016 as the Hungarian Forest Certification Non-profit Ltd submitted the Hungarian national forest certification system to PEFC for endorsement.
While the project has finished, the remaining funds will be used to finance the independent assessment of the national system - a vital component of the PEFC endorsement process.
While the development of the Hungarian national forest certification system was the focus, this project also worked to rasie awareness among private forest owners and the general public.
Several workshops with private forest owners and state forests took place, with more planned to continue into the future.
Art competitions for children and online campaigns were also carried out to bring the attention of the general public to the importance of sustainable forest management and PEFC certification.