Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification: Expanding at landscape level through incorporating additional ecosystem services

Payment of Ecosystem Services (PES) is emerging as an important market-based solution to global efforts for climate change mitigation, biodiversity conservation and poverty reduction. There are emerging markets for ecosystem services, for example – forest carbon in the voluntary markets. But the business transactions for these services severely suffer from a lack of credibility and transparency. One of the reasons for this could be the lack of “instrumentation” developed for these markets. As Nepal has gained a unique experience in group certification for forest management as well as chain of custody certification, it is extremely relevant that Nepal should now explore the potential of enhancing the economic and environmental benefits through expanding forest certification by incorporating additional ecosystem services.

In this perspective, ANSAB joined hands with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) to develop a multi-country project “Expanding FSC Certification at Landscape level through Incorporation Additional Ecosystem Services (ForCES)” to be implemented with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) grant and co-finance of various partners with the goal to improve and promote responsible forest management for a range of ecosystem services through the medium of FSC Certification. The project aims to incorporate expanded and enhanced global and national environmental standards of FSC certification which are applied to emerging markets for biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services as an initial step for upgrading successful models in order to improve ecosystem functions. Since October 2011, the project is being implemented in four countries namely, Nepal, Vietnam, Indonesia and Chile.

In Nepal, the project is being implemented in over 120,000 ha of land in Charnawati and Gaurishankar landscapes of Dolakha district encompassing 26 VDCs and 1 municipality and representing 15 ecological zones. The major ecosystem services considered in the sites are tourism, carbon enhancement, hydrological services, disaster risk reduction and NTFPs.

The project has, so far, contributed to finalize FSC global standards-(International Generic Indicators-IGI) for range of ecosystem services. FSC’s global standard of forest management certification incorporating biodiversity and ecosystem services has already been approved in March 2015 which needs to be adapted at the regional or national level in order to reflect the diverse legal, social and geographical conditions of forests and to be implemented at the Forest Management Unit (FMU) level. Thus, ANSAB has been facilitating the FSC’s National Forest Stewardship Standards (NFSS) development process in Nepal that provides a basis for forest owners or managers wanting to make claims that forest management practices have no adverse impacts. With the formation of the Standard Development Group representing three chambers – environmental, economic and social, national level standards have been drafted which will go to public consultation next month. It will provide benchmarks (indicators) for the interested forest owners and are applicable to all forest operations seeking FSC certification for all forest types, regimes and geographic areas to manage the forests: i) Environmentally appropriate: Protecting and maintaining natural commu­nities and high conservation value forests, ii) Socially beneficial: Protecting and maintaining natural commu­nities and high conservation value forests, iii) Economically viable: Building markets, adding best value, and creating equitable access to benefits.

The spatial mapping of selected ecosystem services (recreational services, biodiversity conservation and NTFPs in Gaurishanker Landscape and carbon sequestration, soil conservation, hydrological services, and NTFPs in Charnawati Landscape) has been carried out. The business/PES model are under development for drinking water, recreational services, carbon and NTFPs and a total of 89 forest management units (more than 14,000 hectares) are preparing for FSC’s forest management certification for range of forest products and ecosystem services.

As Nepal is moving toward ecosystem service markets and climate change initiatives, it is expected that the project will have important contribution to build national capacity in these directions. Activities of this pilot project will not only avail technical and financial support to the pilot project area but also help in providing guidance to the policy makers and stakeholders to create rules, laws, regulations, and policies.