MCDI chosen as field test site for FSC draft International Generic Indicators
The Forest Stewardship CouncilTM (FSCTM) – widely regarded as the global gold standard for responsible forest management – are undertaking the second major revision of their International Standard, have selected MCDI as a field site to test their draft International Generic Indicators (IGIs).
The FSC International Standard is based on 10 Principles which cover social, economic, ecological and cultural issues related to forest management. For each principle, there are a set of Criteria to which foresters must adhere to demonstrate that they are managing forests responsibly, and thus qualify for FSC certification. To make it easier for forest managers and FSC auditors to identify whether a project has met or failed to comply with FSC Standards, each criterion is broken down into a set of indicators: the IGIs are the basic default set. These improve the credibility of FSC Certification by ensuring that the Principles and Criteria are applied consistently between projects and geographic locations, especially in areas – like Tanzania – where National and/or Regional Standard Indicators are yet to be developed.
To date, the FSC International Standard has tended to assume that forests are managed by commercial businesses, not rural communities. Thus, some of the Criteria are less relevant to community forestry when compared with others. This can make it tricky to reach agreement with FSC auditors as to what is an appropriate standard that should be expected of communities, especially as there are a strict set of indicators in place which must be achieved. MCDI have experienced these challenges when applying FSC certification to community managed forests in Tanzania, which is partly why in 2013 we switched to a simpler standard for Small or Low Intensity Managed Forests (SLIMF) for the FSC Group Certificate that we manage. While the SLIMF certificate is still credible from the point of view of timber buyers, some of the standards are relaxed, meaning that there are fewer areas for potential failure. This has lowered the overall risk for MCDI, but still leaves us having to meet a number of Criteria that do not well match our situation.
Thankfully, the FSC-accredited auditors who assess us, although they were not unaware of this challenge, nominated MCDI as a field site for testing the revised set of IGIs developed under the draft new FSC International Standard in 2014 (the second draft of the IGIs can be downloaded from: http://igi.fsc.org). Our involvement is exciting for a number of reasons. Firstly, it demonstrates that FSC find our work interesting, want to listen to the challenges we face, and that they believe they can learn from using us as a case study. It also places us in a good position to influence the new Criteria: FSC representatives visited one of the communities included in our Group Certificate: Nanjirinji A, in April 2014 which allowed us, along with members of the Village Council and Village Natural Resources Committee (VNRC), to articulate our concerns and make recommendations of how the IGIs could be adapted so that they are more appropriate to the local context. Finally, the process may in time lead to a new FSC Standard designed specifically for community-managed forests.