International forest certification body PEFC endorses locally developed South African standard

On 14 November, at its general assembly in Geneva, the Programme for Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC) announced its endorsement of the South African Forestry Accreditation Scheme (SAFAS), a local initiative that seeks to make forest certification more accessible to small-scale timber growers.

The endorsement of the SAFAS scheme and its forest management standard is an important milestone for the industry in South Africa. The standard is a homegrown standard specifically designed to be applied to plantation forestry in South Africa, developed as an additional standard to the well known Forest Stewardship Council ® (FSC®) standard for a number of reasons including practicality, ease of implementation in small operations and to overcome the risk of only having one certification system.” David Everard, Chair of Forestry South Africa’s Environmental Management Committee.

The SAFAS scheme was initiated as a result of the South African forestry industry recognising the increasing demand for sustainably produced timber, and the potential trade barrier certification poses to small-scale forestry units and emerging timber growers.

In South Africa, about 80% of the plantation area has been certified to the generic international FSC standards. “While these standards are internationally recognised, they are also generic, expensive and not well suited to small-scale timber growers, which means that only large organisations tends to certify their plantations,” explains Craig Norris, SAFAS national governing body member and forest technology manager for NCT Forestry.

SAFAS provides a solution for small-scale and emerging timber growers who want to certify their products, but are currently unable to access the FSC system. “It is these farmers that most need support, access to markets and development to ensure a vibrant sustainable forest industry that promotes social development in poor rural areas,” notes Craig.

Small-scale and emerging growers also represent the largest group of timber producers in South Africa’s forestry sector, according to Michael Peter, executive director of Forestry South Africa, which represents the sector comprises around 20,000 small-scale growers as well as 1,300 medium sized commercial growers and 11 large corporate growers. “As the SAFAS standard is home grown, directly relevant to a range of South African conditions and more flexible with respect to group schemes, we hope that this move will facilitate the full involvement of small-scale growers and improve the sustainability of the forestry industry.” concludes Michael.

According to Craig, a PEFC – endorsed certification systems offers a variety of other advantages, including:

  • The potential for regional, group and individual certification

  • International recognition of national systems, placing more emphasis on requirements relevant to the local conditions.

  • A more pragmatic approach around chemical use.

While many companies will probably opt to run both FSC® and SAFAS (PEFC-endorsed) systems, with NCT Forestry planning to manage Group schemes for both systems. Craig predicts smaller operations are probably going to opt solely for the SAFAS accreditation.

Implications on pesticide use

When it comes to pesticide use, the SAFAS standard is directly aligned with national legislation and only allows chemicals that are registered for use in forestry in [accordance with Act36/1947].” David Everard

This ensures that a good quality of crop protection chemicals (pesticides) are supplied to the users and that these chemicals do not adversely affect the environment or public interest.” Craig Norris

One of the pesticide related requirements the SAFAS system does place emphasis on, is the need for easily accessible information. This is a role that TIPWG, in particular their website, plays very well.” David Everard

/ Pesticide interest piece