Fostering Partnerships to Promote PEFC Certification in Hungary
With interest growing for PEFC certification in the country, the 2012 Collaboration Fund is supporting a long-term project to develop a Hungarian national forest certification system.
Hungary is one of the few remaining European countries with a significant share of private forest owners that is yet to have a national forest certification system. Almost half of the country’s more than two million hectares of forest area are estimated to be privately owned, with the vast majority of properties being smaller than one hectare. Only 4% of owners have forest properties larger than 5 hectares.
Given the challenges of certifying small forest owners, it is not surprising that 85% of Hungary’s total forest area remains uncertified. There is 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 have been considering setting up a national PEFC system since as far back as 2002.
However, they faced a challenge in one of PEFC’s fundamental requirements: as a decentralized organization with a bottom-up approach to forest certification, PEFC requires 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.
Private forest owners, contractors, and forest professionals have been showing increasing interest in PEFC certification in the past few years. This is 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.
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 aims to build capacity among private forest owners, initiate the development of a Hungarian forest certification system, and promote PEFC certification in general.
The Hungarian Forest Certification Non-profit Ltd was established as the National Governing Body for Hungary in May 2013, becoming a PEFC National member in early 2016. The development of the Hungarian national forest certification system is now approaching the final stages, with the pilot test of the sustainable forest management standard expected to be finished soon. Once complete, the system will be ready to submit to PEFC for endorsement.
In addition to the development of a Hungarian national forest certification system, this project also focuses on raising awareness among private forest owners and the general public.
Several workshops with private forest owners and state forests have already taken place, with more planned once the sustainable forest management standard has been finalized. Art competitions for children and online campaigns have also been carried out to bring the attention of the general public to the importance of sustainable forest management and PEFC certification.