Certified Sustainable Practices Forestry
It is estimated that Zambia annually loses about 400,000 hectares of natural forest, largely due to deforestation and the conversion of forests to other land uses such as agriculture. Forest plantations cover about 75,000 hectares in Zambia or 0.1% of the total land area. A lack of enforcement of certain timber standards relating to the construction industry further impacts on deforestation. To improve the quality of timber in building construction, Zambia needs to pay particular attention to timber standards such as dimensions, moisture content and grading, all of which will contribute to green construction practices. This means that the country will have to evaluate the sawmilling sector in order to boost the future of wood as a construction material and to create decent green jobs within the construction industry in Zambia. The principal challenges facing the creation of a green construction sector relate to initiating sustainable forest management. The first challenge is integrating reforestation, which includes growing, nurturing, managing and harvesting trees for useful products. The second challenge is the conservation of soil, air and water quality, with the objective of creating green and decent jobs. An important tool to achieve this is the development of a national framework for sustainable forest certification. Sustainable forestry management is in line with the Revised Sixth National Development Plan (RSNDP). The RSNDP promotes, amongst others, sustainable forest and land management practices by enhancing community and private sector participation in forest management, including plantations.
Greening of the forestry sector: Forest certification in Zambia
Forest certification was proposed as a tool to ensure that sustainable forest management is done in conjunction with local communities and traditional leadership. It is available to all operations involved in growing and harvesting trees, including SFEs.
Operators who apply good practice in land and forestry husbandry are eligible to receive forest certification, as they reduce land degradation and illegal logging. Such practice improves the general condition of the forests and increases forest health and vitality to protect biodiversity. Consumers can be provided with information on the production status of the forests from which timber and other forest products originated. Forest certification is likely to have multiple impacts on the timber value chain, such as:
- An increase in the operational cost for timber processors and traders of between three and five percent;
- Introducing best practices in the procurement of forest raw materials, which will emphasise the importance of assuring that raw materials come from legal logging;
- Introducing better oversight in the timber industry (from raw materials to final products), which should guarantee that timber producing communities are not exploited; and
- Reforming public procurement and forest policy, since, with the support of government, it should be possible to compel large, private building construction firms to demand timber from certified forests, specifically those that adhere to green building codes.
Job creation, skills development and forest certification
Certification requires the coming together of different factors: business development, raised awareness and creating a national, sector-specific approach to forest certification which includes all stakeholders in the forestry sector. Some initiatives include:
- The FAO, in collaboration with the Forestry Department and other stakeholders in the timber sector, will ensure that the skills set of SFEs and community organisations is improved. Community nurseries for women and the youth will be established, and farm forest growers and local wood processing companies will receive training in various aspects of timber growing and management of smallholder plantations. The project aims to change the mind-set of SFEs to focus on long-term investment for more income and improved livelihood rather than on short-term gains;
- The FAO’s Market Analysis and Development Tool will be used to assist community based tree and forest product enterprises in developing income-generating tree and forest product enterprises, while incentivising sustainable management and protecting resources;
- The Zambia Bureau of Standards, in conjunction with other stakeholders in the construction sector, will develop timber standards to be used in green construction in Zambia;
- To meet the cost of certification, group certification through forest management units and SFEs, will be promoted; and
- The FAO, in collaboration with the Copperbelt University and Zambia Forestry College, will introduce forest certification into their curricula to raise awareness about forest certification.