Solutions for Smallholders & Communities

Smallholders and communities are at the heart of FSC. We have launched a number of different projects over the last 25 years, and we have achieved a lot. The wealth of knowledge and resources we have built up was harnessed to inform our latest project, launched to look into new and specific solutions. It is called the New Approaches for Smallholders and Communities Certification project.

FSC Smallholder and Communities
FSC Denmark


The term 'smallholders' includes small-forest producers, local and traditional communities, and indigenous peoples.

The term SLIMF – small or low-intensity managed forests – refers to smallholders or forests managed for low-intensity wood harvesting. 

Due to their specific characteristics, such as land size, private ownership or internal governance, smallholders sometimes struggle to manage their forests in a sustainable and viable manner, making it difficult to comply with FSC specifications.

To help them overcome these barriers, we have created tools specifically for smallholders.

New Approaches project

Meeting the need for internationally-recognised solutions that are locally relevant

During the last 25 years of operation, FSC has implemented several projects to support smallholders. While we have achieved many successes, we have also learned that, together with adaptations of regular FSC certification, new and specific solutions need to be developed for smallholders and the different regions where they live.

Designing an FSC system for, and by, smallholders

Initiated by FSC’s Global Strategic Plan 2015-2020, the New Approaches for Smallholders and Communities Certification (New Approaches) project was created to include affected actors in the development of new solutions to support smallholders' access to, and maintenance of, FSC certification.

The New Approaches project is a highly-coordinated effort within the FSC system that draws resources and expertise from all areas and levels of the organization to meet the multiple needs of smallholders.

Past, present and future initiatives

A chronological register of FSC's efforts to support smallholders can be found in the list below. For further details and supporting documents, please get in touch.

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    From FSC´s early beginnings, smallholders and their needs have been top of mind for us. During this period, the first FSC Social Policy was developed, a Social Programme established, and projects launched to support smallholders, such us the Modular Approach Programme and the Smallholder Support Programme.

    Past – 2005 to 2015

    • 2002 – Social strategy
    • 2004 – SLIMF policies
    • 2005 – Motion 54 – Modular Approach Programme (MAP)
    • 2005 – Motion 65 – FSC-Fairtrade dual certification pilot project
    • 2008 – Motion 27 – Lisbon Process – from policy to support; CEFCO project; Smallholder Fund; European Smallholder Network
    • 2008 – Motion 44 – FSC certification of conservation and protection areas – inclusion of ecosystem services in the FSC system
    • 2010 – Social Policy Programme created
    • 2011 – Motion 28 – Smallholder Support Programme (Train the Trainers; Small and Community Label Option (SCLO))
    • 2011 – Motion 29 – New SLIMF eligibility criterion
    • 2011 – Motion 44 – Improved chain of custody certification access for small enterprises
    • 2014 – Motion 11 – Review of FSC certification system to adapt to smallholders
    • 2014 – Motion 83 – Forest certification standard for indigenous peoples and traditional forest communities
    • 2014 – Motion 88 – Smallholder market strategy focused on improving market access
    • 2015 – 2015-2020 Global Strategic Plan
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    The New Approaches for Smallholders and Communities Certification Project was launched. Learning from previous experience, and working in collaboration with smallholders and communities, the project aims to improve access to, and uptake of, the FSC system by small forest owners and communities.

    Present: 2016 to 2018

    • March 2016 – New Approaches for Smallholders and Communities Certification program launched
    • August 2016 – Literature review
    • July 2016 – New Approaches presented to FSC network
    • 2016 – Engagement, outreach and participatory events – Engagement events are held around the world to collect inputs from smallholders and communities (two in Africa (Sept 2016 and May 2017), two in Asia-Pacific (October 2016 and Feb 2017), two in Europe (Nordics Jan 2017 and Baltics Feb 2017) and Latin America)
    • 2016 – Market research (global market survey and consumer research survey)
    • 2016 – SCLO trademark revision
    • 2017 – Smallholders fund analysis report
    • 2017 – Motion 46 –New Approaches Programme as a high-level priority for advancing smallholder and community certification
    • 2018 – Continuous improvement – best practices for 'stepwise' approach access to FSC certification
    • 2018 – Forestry contractors – recommendation on how best to incorporate them into the FSC system
    • 2018 – Pilot tests set up – compliance with IGI 6.5.5 (China); smallholders access program (US); type III group model (global North)
    • 2018 – Asia-Pacific simplified regional standard
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    Initial results and conclusions are starting to emerge. The best solutions will be scaled up internationally, while new concepts, such as multi-standard approaches, will be further analyzed.

    2019-2020 – upcoming activities

    • 2019 – Multi standard and landscape approach analysis
    • 2019 – Pilot tests results
    • 2020 – Group Certification Standard revision – improving smallholders group certification
    • 2020 – Guideline for Standard Developers – how to better include smallholders and communities in national standards