Supporting community forestry certification in tropical countries by increasing actor engagement across scales
For over two decades, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification for community forestry has occurred in tropical countries. However, community forests represent just over 1% of the total FSC-certified forest area worldwide. Certification can promote more socially and environmentally responsible forest management while delivering economic returns to communities, but communities face challenges to obtaining, maintaining, and benefiting from it. Our analysis of the published literature finds that community forestry certification delivers many social and environmental benefits, often more so than economic returns, highlighting the importance of addressing these challenges so that potential benefits can be realized. The FSC has pursued numerous design innovations to help communities overcome challenges to certification, summarized here. We draw on case studies from Mexico, Brazil, and Tanzania to examine the roles that public and private stakeholders at different scales can play in supporting community forestry certification, and the benefits they obtain from engagement. We find that international, national, and local governments and NGOs, business partners and other market chain actors, and FSC and third-party certification bodies all have critical support roles to play. We also find that engagement often aligns with their interests, benefiting them. Systematically documenting the benefits of community forestry certification for diverse actors across scales, communicating about these benefits, and encouraging engaged actors to recruit other stakeholders may be key to helping community forestry initiatives obtain and maintain certification, and scaling it up. Doing so could help increase biodiversity conservation, sustain forest ecosystem services, and alleviate poverty in tropical countries.