Pictures: © PEFC International
by Steffen Dehn and Alessandra Grosse
During the PEFC (Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification) Stakeholder Dialogue, held in Bali on the 17th and 18th of November 2016, participants from the public and private sector as well as civil organizations discussed the topic “Sustainable Landscapes for Sustainable Livelihoods: Delivering Positive impacts through forest certification”. We were excited not only about the beautiful beaches that awaited us in Bali, but also to learn how PEFC, the world’s leading forest certification organization, considers an integrated landscape approach. Almost 300 million ha of forests in 20 countries are PEFC-certified and over 18’700 companies benefit from the PEFC Chain of Custody.
In their opening keynotes, both Terry Sunderland (Center for International Forestry Research) and Dr. Sadanandan Nambiar (formerly Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization) set the context for the two days of discussions. They stressed that global environmental and social changes, such as continuous population growth, will also be reflected in changing consumption patterns and further sustained this aspect by referring to a report from the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), which estimated that a 70% increase in food production will be needed in order to meet food demands of 9.1 billion people by 2050. The speakers further highlighted the link between forests, agriculture and food security as well as the role of forests in meeting poverty alleviation goals.
By providing this platform for sharing knowledge, experiences and best practice examples from around the world, PEFC shows that they acknowledge recent developments such as the increasing emphasis that is put on the role of forests for meeting, for example, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This demonstrates that PEFC is willing to use the momentum generated by international agreements and thereby to contribute to international goals. The speakers also highlighted an urgent need to manage complex landscapes in a holistic way and to integrate different land uses into a single management plan.
One potential solution – the landscape approach
During the stakeholder dialogue, the presentations and discussions evolved around the main themes of the landscape approach. Therefore, it was crucial that Terry Sunderland provided a definition which we summarized in the following paragraph. Different stakeholders see multiple uses and purposes in each landscape component and therefore value them in different ways. An integrated landscape approach is a tool for managing complex landscapes while considering the needs, rights and responsibilities of different stakeholders as well as taking into account the international development agenda. Where environmental, biodiversity and human well-being targets compete with, for example, agriculture or mining, a landscape approach seeks to provide concepts and guidelines for meeting not only social and economic but also environmental objectives. This should not only allow for sustainable development in a given mosaic of land uses and ownership but also for improved communication between different stakeholders.
Take home messages
A central theme to which many speakers referred was the urgent need to think about forests as being embedded in complex landscapes where human and biophysical system are tightly interconnected. “Forestry is not only about forest but also about food and livelihoods”, commented Dr. Nambiar. They stressed that with so many poor people around the world relying on forests for their livelihoods, these are essential when wanting to reduce poverty and ensuring food security and thus emphasized the crucial role of ecosystem services that healthy forests provide, such as clean air, purified water and regulation of the global climate. It would thus be necessary to think about the bigger picture when attempting to engage in sustainable forest management.
A second highlight were the practical examples about how a landscape approach can be operationalized for forest conservation and restoration. A best case presented was the Restorasi Ecosystem Riau project that started in 2013. The APRIL Group, a leading Indonesian pulp and paper company and initiator of the project. The project aims at restoring 150000 ha of previously deforested or degraded peatland as a unique, bio-diverse forest reserve and was described as a case where corporate engagement extends beyond short-term economic interest.
Furthermore, Agus Utomo from Burung Indonesia reminded the participants that about 50% of worlds’ biodiversity is found outside of protected areas. Conservation efforts can thus highly benefit from extending into productive landscapes. Speakers from the public sector echoed these messages and further highlighted the need for citizens’ involvement and the necessity to raise more awareness for sustainable land uses.
The need for fostering partnership to achieve sustainable forest management was a third central theme during the conference. It was highlighted that complex and multipurpose landscapes come along with multiple stakeholders that value landscapes for different good and services. To integrate this diversity of expectations and landscape uses would thus require transparent negotiation processes, trust-building and the creation of a shared vision.
And where does forest certification fit in?
As the leading tool for confirming the sustainable origins of forest products, the meeting emphasized many ways that certification needs to continue striving in order to further support sustainable landscapes and livelihoods. It was stressed that both in the marketplace and the policy realm, certification needs to continue calling call for more consumer demand and international recognition to the many credentials of sustainable wood and forest products. It was further highlighted that growing trees is perhaps one of the cheapest and most effective ways to tackle climate change related problems. Stronger market demand for wood could also mean that growing trees will strengthen rural economies and reduce poverty in many landscapes where it is still persistent. Speakers of the closing plenary agreed that in order for certification to better facilitate this positive feedback loop, it needs to tackle the challenges of implementation, especially in Southeast Asia. In this regard, the meeting called for smarter approaches for certifying smallholders, embedding innovation, promoting additional forest-based products and services and making it more affordable. In short, if the world values forests and trees then we need to make sure it is also a valuable proposition for farmers and land owners all around the world.
Managing dynamic landscapes in times of uncertainty can be a very challenging task. At the end of the conference, participants agreed that it is important to keep learning from both best practice examples but also from challenges and failures that come up on the way. Flexibility in planning, periodic review and adaptive management can be great tools to keep on track for meeting long-term goals and to ensure scope for actions if new challenges arise. During the conference PEFC shared its recent work for establishing a standard that focuses on certification of trees outside forests (TOF). This standard will take into account that TOF are an important part of the global forest resource, improve local livelihoods and advance sustainable landscapes. Since adaptive management and the urgency to act are recurring terms in the global sustainability roadmap, it is great to see that PEFC explores new ways to actively get involved.
About the authors:
Steffen Dehn is enrolled as a student of the International Forest Ecosystem Management Bachelor program at the University for Sustainable Development in Eberswalde, Germany. Alessandra Grosse is a graduate of the Master program Environmental Governance from the Albert-Ludwigs-University in Freiburg i.Brsg., Germany. Both are currently interns with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) in Indonesia. For questions and feedback contact the authors via e-mail: steffen.Dehn(a)hnee.de; alessandra.grosse(a)yahoo.com.