Promoting sustainable forest management among Latvian forest owners
Latvia is a forest rich country, with three million hectares of forest covering half the country’s land mass.
All the forests owned and managed by the state are PEFC-certified, making up just over half the country’s forest area. The remaining forests (49.6%) are under private ownership – 150,000 private forest owners with an average property size of just 6 ha. But this fragmented property structure means private forest certification has so far proven to be a challenging task.
Since its creation, PEFC has developed group certification as a proven and effective option for small, family- and community-owned forests to obtain certification. An alternative approach to individual certification, it allows multiple forest owners to become certified as a group and share the financial costs arising from certification.
In the past, group certification in Latvia had been very limited, with forest owner cooperatives only in the early stages of development. The development of group certification will now enable many private forest owners to achieve certification and consequently gain access to global timber markets, especially those requiring both wood and non-wood forest products from certified sources.
PEFC and Group Certification in Latvia
With the goal of developing group certification in Latvia, the PEFC 2013 Collaboration Fund supported PEFC Latvia's pilot project and awareness raising campaign.
PEFC Latvia worked with the Forest Owners’ Cooperative “Mežsaimnieks” to implement a group certification pilot project. Unfortunately, unforeseen financial constraints meant this forest owners association has not yet achieved PEFC forest certification.
However, the forest assocation MA Krāslava did successfully gain PEFC group certification in July 2016 - the first private Latvian forest owners in the country to do so. It is hoped that this success will act as an example to other forest owners, associations and cooperatives considering the certification of their forests.
A significant part of this project was also dedicated to awareness raising among private forest owners, improving their knowledge and awareness of both sustainable forest management and PEFC certification.
Several activities towards this goal were carried out, including participation in a Forest and Wood fair and the organization of two seminars with forest owners’ associations. PEFC Latvia also developed a series of brochures covering PEFC Sustainable Forest Management certification, Chain of Custody certification and the opportunities that Group Certification gives small forest owners.
The objective of the awareness raising activities was not only to make forest owners aware of certification, but also to ensure that they have the information they require in order to start the certification process. Towards this aim, PEFC Latvia carried out an opinion poll among forests owners to gain information on their insight, knowledge and awareness of forest certification.
With the first private forest owners successfully achieving PEFC forest management certification through group certification in July 2016, this project has now come to a close. However, PEFC Latvia will continue working with and supporting the country's small-forest owners, as more move towards the PEFC certification of their sustainable forest management practices.