By Morten Brodde
People really matter. Without the reinforcement of their rights - solving the climate crisis will be more difficult. Wednesday’s keynote session “Transforming Forest Solutions Together with Indigenous Peoples, Communities, Smallholders, and Workers” celebrated people. The stewards who play a crucial role in the responsible use of our forests and the people who are part of the value chain for forest-based materials. We heard three stories from representatives from Indigenous Peoples, workers, and smallholders who shared challenges, achievements, and the value that FSC can bring to them.
The potential of FSC labour requirements
The first story was from Dong Tolentino, representative from BWI (Building and Wood Workers' International Asia & Pacific). In his daily work he promotes ILO labour standards and workers’ rights and welfare.
Dong was in the technical working group developing the core labour requirements that was introduced for FSC Chain of Custody certified companies in 2021.
"The auditable requirements enable auditors to look into details in terms of how the certificate holders comply with the requirements, for example with regards to ensure no child labour. Auditors can ask for copies of profiles of the employees and can talk directly with the workers”.
Respecting Indigenous Peoples in the “Russian Amazon”
The next story of the importance of people was from Rodion Sulyandziga, Chairperson of the FSC Permanent Indigenous Peoples Committee and representative of the Udege tribe. Rodion Sulyandziga has many years of experience working on the promotion and protection of Indigenous Peoples’ rights. Being an Udege he has first-hand knowledge of challenges faced by Indigenous Peoples in his region.
“The biggest threat is commercial and illegal logging, which jeopardize all our traditions and wildlife. And our wellbeing.”
His people have been living in the Russian Far East in the Bikin River Valley basin also referred to as the “Russian Amazon” for many, many years. They are hunters who also go fishing and trapping, and their forests rich in species have great cultural value for them. Rodion shared the key principles for protection of his people’s rights and the forests they live in.
“Respect of Indigenous Peoples’ rights, recognition of land rights and our traditional knowledge, are basics for any kind of decision making. It’s FPIC. Free, Prior and Informed Consent. And of course, the most challenging part building trust and partnerships between states, environmentalists, and Indigenous Peoples organizations.
In that way, FSC also plays an important role for the Udege people.
Giving a voice to smallholders in Thailand
The last story came from Maiprae Loyen, Managing Director in AGRIAC, Thailand. Maiprae has more than a decade of experience in the natural rubber business, and her country is the world’s biggest exporter of natural rubber. 1.7 million households are working in Thailand’s rubber plantations - 80 % of them are smallholders meaning an average of 2.5 hectares per plantation, per household. 10 years ago, the number was 10 hectares.
“The costs of their production are increasing year by year together with an aging society. Rubber is a very important commodity of the world, and the market is highly competitive. The market board is the only place the industry is focusing on. But the people that makes those numbers, they are real people. And they are the backbone of this business.”
Maiprae Loyen quit her job a few years ago and founded AGRIAC with a business partner with a clear mission: Giving small rubber plantation farmers in the south of Thailand a voice in the market and help them improve their working and living conditions, output, and earnings, and protect their environment.
AGRIAC recruits and train farmers, matches demand with suppliers and provides a tracing tool for customers to ensure the sustainability and transparency from forest to factories.
Today, the company collaborate with more than 2,000 smallholders. The company has an FSC Forest Management group certification with 500 forest units and ambitions to grow. For AGRIAC FSC is a tool that helps promote responsible forest stewardship and decent working conditions for smallholders.
“FSC has moved that spotlight to shine on them, because FSC is focusing on plantations and smallholders. And the scheme is forcing the supply chain to look back on what these people are doing and has created new opportunities for a company like ours”, explained Maiprae Loyen.
Want to know more?
Read more about how FSC work to make a difference for people all around the world here: https://fsc.org/en/why-forests-matter/people