FSC Certification of plantations in South Africa criticised

In November 2008, just before the FSC General Assembly, Global Forest Coalition released a report criticising plantation certification in South Africa. The report’s authors, Wally Menne and Blessing Karumbidza of The Timberwatch Coalition, asked the question “Can the FSC forest certification model be used to demonstrate sustainability in large-scale agrofuel crop production?” Their answer is a resounding “no”.

The report looks in detail at the FSC certification of the industrial tree plantations belonging to the company Hans Merensky Holdings and its subsidiary Singisi Forest Products, which have been FSC certified since 2002 by SGS Qualifor.

“The question that now needs to be asked,” write Menne and Karumbidza,

“is how two of the most reputable ‘forest’ certification systems [FSC and PEFC], which have consistently been misrepresenting environmentally damaging and socially disruptive industrial tree plantations as forests, have been able to maintain that illusion? In the case of the FSC it would appear to be the clever co-option of environmental and social NGOs and academics into its tri-cameral structures, where once again an illusion of democratic decision-making and positive social and environmental gains has been created. Meanwhile, on the ground, global deforestation, and the destruction of agricultural land and natural areas through the establishment of new tree plantations have accelerated to unprecedented rates since the inception of ‘forest’ certification! Is this mere coincidence? Can it be shown that FSC has helped to reduce deforestation and destruction of ecosystems by certifying plantations?”

Among the findings of the research was that around Singisi, “an area of intense poverty”, work on the plantations is increasingly being sub-contracted and wages are falling.

The authors note that,

“The development of the plantation sector and its expansion into the tribal areas of the former homelands is related to the history of apartheid land seizures, and the desire to advance white enterprise at the expense of the poor black majority.”

The report can be downloaded here.

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