Expanding Group Certification to Support Smallholders to Sustainably Manage the World’s Forests

“In the face of climate change and the mounting pressures on the world’s forests, we all need to do more to support forest owners and managers to manage our resources sustainably,” said Ben Gunneberg, CEO of PEFC International, commenting on a recent expert meeting in Madrid.

“Ensuring that forest certification is realistic and affordable for smallholders is an essential part of this equation and PEFC is dedicated to supporting the expansion of group certification globally.”

To share experience between countries and learn from Spain’s vast experience in delivering group certification for smallholders, an international group of forest experts gathered together in Madrid, Spain in early December. Spain is one of the world leaders in enabling small forest owners to gain certification through the group certification model, with group and regional certification accounting for 84% of forest certification in the country.

Over the two-day event, delegates from Cameroon, Guatemala, India, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Nepal, New Zealand, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand and Viet Nam received first-hand knowledge from the Spanish national forest certification system (PEFC Spain), Regional governments, forest owners, companies and service providers.

“What is particularly exciting about the Spanish context is the level of government involvement in enabling regional certification of the country’s forests,” highlighted Sarah Price, Head of Projects and Development at PEFC International. “With the world’s governments currently pledging their support to reduce the impacts of climate change in Paris at COP21, here in Spain we can actually see this being put into practice.”

“With forests playing such a crucial role in our society and delivering so many ecosystem services and products, we can’t afford not to support forest certification. Sustainable forest management is in the public interest,” said Fermin Olabe, Forest Service Director, Navarra Government.

The technical exchange on group certification offered profound insight on the practical ways forest owners in Spain are supported in pursuing certification, accessing forest management plans and delivering sustainable forest management for all the benefits it provides.

“Sustainable forest management and forest certification are vital for the development of rural communities living in or dependent on forests, as they generate employment and wealth,” said Ana Belen Noriega, National Secretary of PEFC Spain. “This is why we need to ensure that these forest owners are able to achieve certification.”

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