Green Resources (GR) is pleased to participate in the celebration of FSC’s 20th anniversary and the 7th General Assembly. At the same time GR wants to stress the importance of forest management certification to help move plantation forestry in Africa forward.
Seville, September 10th, 2014
While FSC is the leader and an important part of the successful forest companies in Africa, it is critical to realise that what have been accomplished is a drop in the ocean. There is in total less than 75,000 ha of net FSC certified plantations in Africa (ex. RSA and Swaziland). Worse, the rate of planting has been dropping the last 3-4 years, and will most likely be lower next year than last year. At the same time, Africa is one of the two-three key areas in the world where new forest has to be established in order to reduce the pressure on natural forests/ deforestation and to meet the doubling or tripling of demand for fibre forecast by many observers over the next 30 years.
“FSC has been a success in African plantation forestry. Four of the six largest commercial reforestation companies are FSC certified, and we believe these include the four strongest companies. Green Resources has more than half of the African (ex RSA and Swaziland) FSC certified plantation forests and we focus our operations around the FSC principles because our employees believe it is the right way of doing forestry and because our shareholders and lenders want the company to aim for the highest international standards for sustainable forest management.” says GR CEO Mads Asprem.
Today, FSC certification is a pre-requisite for attracting long term finance for forest plantations in Africa because forest investors are looking for secure, relative low returns. FSC play a vital role in reducing the risks and increasing the security for investors. However, there are few institutions investing in establishing new forests outside a few South African countries and FSC should try to pay more attention to these potentially attractive stakeholders.
This calls for action, and there is little room for complacency. To move forward, Green Resources supports the following ideas, also promoted by CEO, Mads Asprem, at today’s FSC+20 Forum.
Ecosystem services represent some of the major benefits of forestry. It should be reported and can generate revenues. We believe that FSC’s move into ecosystem service certification in general and carbon certification, in particular is very useful. Climate change is more important than ever, even if the policies and trading mechanisms have been failures partly because the project development and monitoring has been too complicated. There are a myriad of different and overlapping certification standards, leading to high costs of compliance and discouraging new projects to be developed. Most carbon/ ecosystem standards have significant overlap with FSC. FSC should therefore speed up the development of ecosystem standards as add-ons to the basic FSC certification.
Unfair competition from Government forests
While most plantation forests in Africa (ex RSA and Swaziland) are Government owned, NONE of these are FSC certified. We compete for customers in the same markets and for employees (employees of non-FSC certified forests may have opportunities that are more difficult to create in FSC certified forests), etc. This is unfair competition. Worse, most of these forests are not sustainably managed, regardless of what criteria is employed.
FSC should target Government forests to increase the certification footprint. Importantly, many of these State Forests (directly or indirectly) receives financial support from OECD countries. FSC should demand that donors require sustainable forest management certification of state forest as a condition for receiving ODA to the forestry sector.
Increased focus on Africa
FSC must work on expanding certification in frontier countries, where it may be difficult, but where FSC really can make a difference. We are pleased with the establishment of an FSC office in East Africa. FSC must discuss and solve issues that are important for Africa. There is also need for training, both of foresters and auditors that often come from far afield. East Africa has (some of) the best foresters in the world graduating from forestry school and universities. However, they lack experience and their education might not have covered all topics.
Importantly, if you want to be of the side of the Africans, you must participate in creating the future, not only conserve the past. Plantation forestry, conservation and biodiversity are synergetic when done properly. FSC, and all the organisations behind it, could play a hugely constructive role ensuring that these synergies are explored and that we get a positive development going forward.
Change the 1994
The 1994 deforestation rule is out of date and is particularly harmful for the rural and poorest areas of Africa. Large areas of Africa have been deforested during the last 20 years, primarily caused by slash and burn agriculture, charcoal production and fires. Millions of people have participated in this process. Africa cannot and will not watch large areas of waste land remain unproductive. If FSC wants to remain relevant in Africa, it must facilitate the restoration and re-development of degraded forest. By leading the way, FSC can guide the process. Plantation forestry in Africa could primarily be restoration forestry if the right tools are in place. Today, FSC is increasingly becoming an impotent bystander.
FSC must be true to its principles and focus on spreading these to the frontiers of sustainable forestry around the world. A regional standard for East Africa could be an important step in this direction. However, we warn against national standards. We have FSC certified in three different African countries and other companies do also operate in several countries. We use FSC as an active and important management tool, which is much easier if we can share exactly the same standards across borders. We do not want to spend the resources required to establish a number of national standards, and we do not believe they exist anyway. Auditing will be more expensive with national standards, and national standards could lead to lack of transparency something we do not want.
Green Resources is Africa’s leading forestation company and a leader in East African wood manufacturing. The company was established in 1995 and is a private Norwegian company. Green Resources employs more than 3600 people and have invested more than more than USD 125 million in its African investments.
Contact: Mads Asprem; firstname.lastname@example.org