Fair Wood initiative show cases market model for smallholder sourced timber that drives forest restoration

The Fair Wood partnership, a team of entrepreneurs, NGOs and marketing experts showcased a market model that has the aim to be an influential tool in reversing the destruction of forests while at the same time giving a secure income that allows forest smallholders in the global South to become agents of forest restoration.

Fair Wood
Madelene Ericsson, Hennes & Mauritz.
Jasper Makala from Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative.
Maria Ines Miranda, Managing Director, SSC AMERICAS.

Participants from all over the world representing different actors in the value chain arrived in Stockholm eager to know about how the Fair Wood model is currently exploring the possibilities of enabling market access for smallholder timber suppliers and sawmill entrepreneurs in a way that actually supports the forest ecosystems that they depend upon. Participants in the showcase included; smallholder/community representatives, sawmill entrepreneurs, manufacturing customers, corporations, designers and architects, value chain financiers - enabling growth of small forest enterprises, organizations promoting forest restoration and climate mitigation, potential enabling partners and funders of the Fair Wood Program.

- Our vision is to see a growing number of farmers in the South protecting and managing their forests – because it creates value for them. We believe responsibly managed forests paired with a fair and well-functioning market for forest products could provide livelihoods for communities and smallholders who today live in extreme poverty, says Maria Ines Miranda, Managing Director, SSC AMERICAS

Forest certification is an important component in the Fair Wood initiative as it creates both incentive to manage the forests in a more sustainable and transparent way and at the same time opens up market opportunities. A panel discussion featuring companies interested in sourcing smallholder timber from the South revealed strong interest in corporate sustainability policies that produced visible positive results on the ground that can be communicated to customers.

- Transparency has become much more important today and our consumers want to know where and how a product has been produced. However, we believe that transparency should go both ways; that the forest smallholders should also be able to see the final products that has been made using their wood. This can increase the sense of ownership, and the added value can be shared throughout the entire supply chain, says Madelene Ericsson, Hennes & Mauritz.

Since the inception of FSC it has been a challenge to support smallholders in the global South to reach the international market. One significant challenge for smallholders in the global South is that there is little demand for certified timber in their countries; instead the opportunity is international where the demand is higher. Jasper Makala from Mpingo Conservation and Development Initiative, which has been FSC certified since 2009, emphasizes that FSC is not just important in terms of improved forest management but also for dealing with legal and market issues.

- Since it is illegal to export round wood in Tanzania, and we have difficulties to process the wood, I think it is important for FSC to help smallholders to get the right skills and processing plants. Because of misuse our government has banned the use of chainsaws, but since we are FSC certified we are exempt from that ban, says Makala.

Where do we go from here?
The Fair Wood initiative is presently carrying out a research funded year financed by Sida (the Swedish government aid agency) from which this showcase was a part of by investigating interest among relevant actors.

- This is exactly the kind of support and market access that smallholders in the global South need and aligns itself perfectly with the goals of FSC’s latest Global Strategy 2020. FSC needs to continue engagement in this initiative so we can support smallholders, create access to the global market and increase forest restoration, says Rose Dumas, Outreach Coordinator FSC Sweden

The Fair Wood Partnership currently consists of the Eco-Innovation Foundation, WWF Sweden, WWF UK, FSC Sweden and Pivot Point1. The partners have backgrounds in the fields of forest management, forest conservation, timber processing, forest certification, development and environmental marketing.