Engaging Smallholders to Expand Sustainable Timber Certification

Sustainability certification is widely used to promote sustainable practices, improve transparency and gain market access for sustainable products. However, the extensive requirements and paperwork involved can make attaining certification difficult for smallholder farmers.

To help address this, Partnerships for Forests collaborated with the Forest Stewardship Council in East Africa to promote group certification uptake by the Western Tree Planters Association (WETPA) in Western Kenya, and so achieve responsible management of their woodlots for timber and other tree products and services. Technical training and mentorship were provided, including the sharing of lessons learned by Tanzanian P4F-grantee Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative. A total of 70 WETPA smallholder farmer members, 49% of who were women, participated in the capacity building.

As a result, WETPA is in a position to establish its own group certification scheme – initially for 100 members, and to be expanded to all 8,000 WETPA members over the next four to five years. The initiative shows that group certification and use of tools such as the FSC’s Continuous Improvement Procedure make FSC certification more accessible to smallholder farmers and promote sustainable forest practices, improve livelihoods and strengthen market access.