Local perceptions of forest certification for community-based enterprises

Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification has been promoted as a way to encourage and recognize community-based forest enterprises (CFEs). However, certification has proved more difficult for CFEs than expected, and few certified operations have achieved the highly anticipated market benefits of certification. This has led to questioning of the compatibility of certification with CFEs, though few studies have directly asked local CFE actors their perceptions on this issue. This study investigates perceptions of certification for two CFEs in Brazil’s western Amazon. The specific objectives of this study were (1) to determine the positive and negative aspects of certification as perceived by community members, their principal support organizations, and other key stakeholders, (2) to identify the relative importance of these perceived positive and negative aspects, and (3) to analyze the differences in perceptions between actors. Data were collected through structured interviews and a review of pertinent documents.

Overall, the most positive aspects were economic and social, and the most negative aspects concerned the certification process and, to a lesser extent, the associated economic expenditures. Community members typically scored the positive aspects higher and the negative aspects lower than the support organizations. This is likely due to differences in roles and vantage points of these actors. In general, informants agreed that positive aspects of certification outweighed negative ones. This stands in contrast to some communities in other parts of Latin America that are contemplating dropping certification.

Two particular conditions may have enabled operations in this study to overcome common constraints for CFEs: (1) membership in a regional producers group, and (2) strong political, technical, and financial support from the state government. Their experiences specifically highlight the need to adapt the certification process for CFEs and demonstrate that obtaining market benefits is possible. # 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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