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October : The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Africa journey

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4 October, 2016

The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Africa journey

Where we come from.

FSC certification in Africa started in South Africa in 1997, when timber plantations in South Africa were first certified. At the time, the process was managed from the FSC International headquarters in Bonn, Germany. Over time, Africa was recognized as a key area for FSC certification.

Many communities in the region still depend on forests to meet their basic needs. Additionally, certification is needed to not only address issues such as illegal timber and deforestation, but also to responsibly manage large and important tropical forest areas. Part of the strategy for conserving critical natural forests includes utilising well managed plantations, such as the plantations in South Africa, to meet consumer demand.

The FSC Africa team has grown from 1 to 8 staff members in only 3 years. Each member of the team brings unique and valuable experience and perspectives to create a better experience for certificate holders and members in the region, and to increase FSC's presence in Africa. We now have a presence in a number of countries in East Africa, southern Africa and the Congo Basin. Going forward, we will explore opportunities to establish a presence in West Africa. In addition to expanding our presence, we will encourage and facilitate ongoing roundtable dialogues. A number of these discussions have already taken place in countries including Uganda, Tanzania and Mozambique. These dialogues are essential to the process of making the FSC system locally relevant.

In East and southern Africa, the number of smallholders presents unique opportunities for new strategies to develop smallholder-inclusive solutions. The recognition of this opportunity resulted in the recruitment of an experienced project manager with an emphasis on smallholder solutions. Additionally, the prevalence of plantations in South Africa and the related opportunities prompted the employment of a regional coordinator for southern Africa.

Where we are going.

The FSC Africa strategy is aligned with the FSC International strategy, which includes the empowerment of smallholders, increasing the market value of FSC, and developing new solutions. In Africa, we have a 2020 vision:

  • Maintaining existing certification;
  • Increase our presence by expanding into new countries within the three sub-regions and expand into West Africa;
  • Doubling the certification in the region;
  • The empowerment of smallholders and other under-represented groups; and
  • Increasing the recognition of the FSC brand in the marketplace.

Despite challenges such as lack of recognition of the brand and its importance, there are many opportunities in the region. Corporate social responsibility is growing as an integral business practice across the continent. The African Restoration Initiative has committed to the restoration of 100 million hectares of deforested land by 2030. Africa has an important stakeholder base including indigenous groups and other communities.

Africa now has representation on working groups and technical committees encompassing various issues such as Intact Forest Landscapes, Minimum Wage, the Policy and Standards Committee and the Pesticides Working Group.

Who is FSC?

Our success depends on far more than just the FSC staff. As a membership organisation, our members play a vital role in determining policies, standards and the strategy for FSC going forward. Certificate holders are also important role-players who represent the embodiment of our standards in their daily business operations. They have the opportunity to engage on relevant topics and themes, and to contribute to solutions which will assist in achieving the 2020 vision.

FSC Friday 2016

On 30 September, FSC Africa celebrated FSC Friday in partnership with Mondi South Africa by launching a guerrilla awareness campaign in Parkhurst, Johannesburg. Large printed cardboard trees lined 4th Avenue for the day, drawing attention to the FSC logo and what it represents.

More of these initiatives are planned in future to raise awareness amongst consumers and encourage responsible purchasing behaviour.

Source: FSC Africa