Caring for our forests globally
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Smallholder Group Certification Programme

Paper from Farmed Trees 2PEFC's Group Forest Certification is a mechanism through which groups of like-minded small forest owners and holders can pool their resources to achieve third-party verified sustainable forest management certification.

We developed this approach to certification in response to the unique tenure system that characterizes an important proportion of forest areas in developed and developing countries alike.

Globally, about 30% of forest area is managed locally by families, communities and indigenous peoples. Group Certification allows smallholders to develop a better understanding of mutual interests and common needs, and share experiences and good practices.

In addition, it should make certification affordable for smallholders when individual certification may be too expensive, allowing them to spread the costs, share the administration and organizational procedures, and provide economies of scale.

Programme Objectives

Our Smallholder Group Certification programme was first launched in 2010. It promotes smallholder certification in areas where it is less widespread, but where the sustainable management of forests has taken on increasing urgency in light of efforts to combat climate change and alleviate poverty.

The programme is focused on sharing experience and facilitating cooperation amongst family forest owners, community forest groups and indigenous peoples in implementing sustainable forest management and pursuing forest certification.

Group certRecognizing that forest certification will only occur when sufficient technical capacity, organization and motivation of landholders exists, we use a partnership approach to contribute to local needs and build capacity across a range of pre-requisites to certification.

In collaboration with international and local partners, we aspire to innovate and develop solutions to promote rural livelihoods, improve access to markets and increase the uptake of forest certification.

The first phase of the project analyzed the experiences of small family forest owners in Europe in establishing group certification models and pursuing PEFC certification. The research examined existing practices and identified key elements influencing the uptake of forest certification amongst small landholders.

Since then the programme has worked in a range of ways to stimulate policy dialogue, share experiences across the globe, and build practical solutions through projects at the local level.

For example, in November 2017 we convened a field dialogue with the Finnish Agri-Agency for Food and Forest Development (FFD) to exchange knowledge and building capacity on group certification. The dialogue enabled the group of experts to share experiences and advance the development of innovative models for group certification.

We are currently supporting smallholder projects in Nepal, South Africa, and Vietnam...


nepal project pic 2017Community forestry plays an important role in the management of Nepal’s forests, and by legitimizing and regulating the sustainable use of forest resources, it can improve the livelihoods of millions of people.

In an effort to expand the forestry sector in a sustainable manner, as well as to reform government policy toward sustainable development, we are supporting the country’s stakeholders as they develop a national forest certification system – the first of its kind in Nepal.

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South Africa

The current models of forest certification in South Africa are unsuitable and unattainable for most of the country’s smallholders. With a national forest certification system currently under development, PEFC is supporting a project to enable the certification of these small-forest owners once the system is up and running.

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In Vietnam 90% of the smallholders’ forest production is sold to wood chipping factories for intermediate processing for pulp production. Improvements in the supply chain could optimize the value of forest resources by increasing the product quality and access to markets.

AgriCord, the Finnish Forest Owner Association (MTK) and the Thua Thien Hue Cooperative Alliance have been working together since 2011 to strengthen the forest owner cooperative and support the development of the farmers’ skills to conduct sustainable forest management activities. Through certifying their forest resources, it is hoped that households would increase the income generation potential from their trees through access to new markets, improved buying relationships, price premium and improved product quality.