Supporting the development of forest certification in Southeast Asia
From supporting the development of national systems, to ensuring certification is accessible to the many small- and community forest owners, our work in this region is set to expand significantly in the coming years.
Southeast Asia is home to the world’s third largest area of tropical rainforest, containing some of the richest and most valuable resources and habitats on earth. As well as an important source for timber production and rural employment for the region, these forests also have an important effect on watershed protection, biodiversity and the global carbon balance.
In addition to the natural forests, planted forests are also common throughout Southeast Asia. In many countries, it is plantation forests, both large and small-scale, and trees outside forests that contribute the most to productive forestry.
Despite the importance of the region’s forests, the uptake of forest certification in Southeast Asia has remained low - only 3.5% of forests are currently covered by certification. In order to scale up the level of forest certification in the region, there is a need for new approaches, innovation and investment to support sustainable forest management and make certification accessible and effective for forest owners.
PEFC in Southeast Asia
We use a multi-faceted approach to support the diverse range of stakeholders interested in advancing forest certification in the region. In addition to supporting the development of national forest certification systems in several countries, we are working with a variety of partners to pilot test new approaches to group certification for smallholders, support value chain development and provide training to build the required capacity for forest certification to succeed.
National System Development
From the first step all the way through to submission to PEFC for endorsement, we are supporting stakeholders to develop their own national forest certification systems in a number of countries.
The 2016 PEFC Collaboration Fund supported Thai stakeholders as they developed a certification system that responded to the needs of the country's smallholders, many of which grow trees outside forests, such as rubber trees. In late 2016, the Federation of Thai Industries (F.T.I.) became the PEFC national member for Thailand. In 2018, they submitted their system to undergo an assessment towards PEFC endorsement.
With a committed government and engaged local stakeholders, Vietnam is also well on the road to developing its own national forest certification system. In late 2018, the Prime Minister approved the project on sustainable forest management and forest certification by establishing the national forest certification system, in line with PEFC international requirements. A few month later in 2019, the Vietnam Forest Certification Office (VAFS) was launched. The newly established office will coordinate forest certification activities in Vietnam and manage the national forest certification system, including its application to PEFC for endorsement.
As Myanmar continues to reform its forest sector, we are partnering with the Myanmar Forest Certification Committee (MFCC) to support this transition to the sustainable management of its forests. MFCC and project partners have since made steady progress to develop and offer practical solutions for the forest sector which verify the legality and traceability of harvested wood. In parallel, MFCC is continuing to prepare for PEFC membership and strengthening the national certification system to meet PEFC’s requirements.
With PEFC’s vast experience in providing cost-effective certification solutions for small forest owners, we are compelled to transfer this expertise to Southeast Asia where robust models for affordable group certification are drastically needed.
Through our Smallholder Group Certification programme we are invested in a range of activities to:
- Share experiences on group certification across the globe.
- Build capacity of smallholders and their organizations.
- Invest in local projects that are building new and appropriate models for group certification, especially in the developing world.
Over the years we have supported group certification innovation projects in Malaysia, Nepal, Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. Many of these projects are long-term co-operations between local organizations and PEFC.
We continue to innovate and develop solutions to promote rural livelihoods, improve access to markets and increase the uptake of forest certification.
Supply Chain Development
In order to provide an additional incentive to the countries embarking on the system development process, another important aspect of our work in this region is to support the development of sustainable supply chains. In particular, we are working with a range of partners to increase the trade of sustainably-produced forest products within domestic, regional and international markets.
Responding to the growing demand for PEFC Chain of Custody certification in Viet Nam, we run a PEFC Support Desk at the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association (HAWA) office in Ho Chi Minh City. This office acts as a center point for providing technical support to the furniture processing hotspot of Ho Chi Minh City, and other adjacent provinces.
We are also working with partners in Cambodia to leverage chain of custody certification of sustainable charcoal in order to enhance forest protection and community livelihoods.