Certification for Community Enterprises:
Photo by Michelle
Zweede, USDA Forest Service
certification has helped some
community-based operations, it
is not viable for others due to
many factors, such as high start-up
costs and increased competition
from tree farms.
Molnar is the director of the Communities and Markets
Program for Forest Trends, Washington, DC.
Chiquitanos have their lands back. For centuries, this
Bolivian indigenous group had struggled for government
recognition of lands that had been Chiquitano since time
immemorial. In 1986, with help from local nongovernmental
organizations and international donors, 25 Chiquitano
communities formed a block for managing 131,000 acres
(53,000 hectares) of forest land. In 1995, the Chiquitanos
won certification from the Forest
Stewardship Council. Two years later, impressed by
Chiquitano achievements in forest stewardship, the Bolivian
government formally recognized the tribe's territorial
1993, about 50 community enterprises have been certified
worldwide, mostly in Latin America. From its inception,
forest certification has had social as well as environmental
goals. As the Chiquitanos can attest, there have been
some notable social successes.
many places, however, certification has yet to win the
support of forest communities. In fact, a study in 2003
revealed some daunting challenges ahead.*
A quarter of the forests in the developing world are
community owned or managed, a figure that is likely
to double in the next 15 years. Yet certification has
reached less than 1 percent of these forests.
Photo by Michelle Zweede, USDA Forest
Chiquitanos won certification from the Forest Stewardship
Council, leading to the Bolivian government's recognition
of their long-standing territorial claim.
aren't more community-based forest enterprises getting
certified? The Forest Trends study indicates some of
is difficult to tailor certification standards to
local values and scales while still keeping them globally
natural forests face growing competition from tree
farms. Certified markets do not yet differentiate
natural from plantation products.
peoples worry that accepting outside standards and
expertise will keep them from building on their own
traditional knowledge and nurturing their own forestry
costs are especially high for community-based enterprises,
which tend to be small, informal, and inexperienced.
certification costs for communities are borne by donors
or through grants, but the limited availability of
such funding restricts the number of community-based
enterprises that can become certified.
difficulty is that other community enterprises, such
as ecotourism or agroforestry, might have their own
certification schemes. Communities might find it too
cumbersome to engage in several unrelated certification
are ways of bringing more forests under certification.
In several countries, for example, the Pan-European
Forest Certification system has established special
criteria for cooperatives formed from groups of smallholders.
It also has special criteria for community-based forest
enterprises in France.
enterprises also need more support from governments,
donors, and nongovernmental organizations in laying
the foundations for their participation in certification
programs. In particular, they need more organizational
and technical capacity, more business skills, and more
the bottom line is this: Communities need to see more
payoffs from sound forest management. Markets for environmental
services, such as biodiversity or carbon sequestration,
might offer some of the needed incentives. More work
is needed to give communities and smallholders access
to such markets.
fate of forests in developing countries depends on the
fate of forest communities. Certification can have social
as well as ecological payoffs, as the Chiquitanos discovered
when they won tenure of their lands. But certification
also faces enormous challenges. New communities find
it challenging to enter the process, and certified communities
are unsure that markets will support their interest
in recertifying. Their future-and the future of forest
communities worldwide-will depend on better strategies
for bringing the benefits of good forest management
to community-based forest enterprises.
See Forest Certification and Communities: Looking Forward
to the Next Decade (at http://www.forest-trends.org/resources/pdf/forest_communities.pdf),
sponsored by Forest Trends, a nonprofit organization that
advances sustainable forestry and poverty alleviation