Emerging markets grasp need for sustainability

The world’s emerging markets, including Africa, generally have a bounty of natural resources, but the perception that these resources are being stripped and consumed wholesale by developed economies must be reconsidered.

Kim Carstensen, executive director of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) says emerging economies are increasingly aware of the need for prudent use of natural resources. This has led several to adopt certification systems to facilitate their responsible use, such as that of FSC.

Mozambique, for example, in 20014 had the highest annual percentage growth of certified forests, which helps promote protection of its natural forests. The certification of forests for sustainable and responsible use increases the efficient use of forest products. In 2014, just 7% of world’s forests were plantations, but account for 33% of forest products produced, Carstensen explains.

“Forest plantations can produce up to 10 000 times as much as natural forests, a ratio which helps to helps relieve some of the pressure on natural forests and reduce deforestation.

This holds great potential for responsible business as economic growth in Africa presents a ready market close by. Africa needs more wood but needs to preserve its natural forests, so the solution is rigorous certification.

“We need to debunk the notion that Africans don’t care about certification or responsible use of renewable resources. Consider for example that there are now 6-million hectares of certified forest in Central Africa.”

Carstensen warns, though, that there has been a slight decrease in pace at which forests in the Congo Basin and that this be addressed. Other examples of the need for action included illegal timber use, a market estimated to be worth $5-billion a year.

The destruction wrought by illegal timber use includes not only the loss of species and habitats, but accelerated climate change, with 15 tonnes of carbon emitted into the atmosphere per hectare of illegally harvested timber.

This is one of the reasons that FSC held its In Good Company workshop ahead of the XIV World Forestry Congress, which starts in Durban next week, this week, where it will be held for the first time in Africa.

There are currently 417 FSC certificates in 19 African countries. The industries in which certification has been undertaken range from printing, packaging, paper mills, paper manufacturing and logging, to wood charcoal, wood furniture, and various wood products.

FSC also has 121 members from Africa who actively participate in the decision-making and governance of the organisation.

“This congress and the IGC are pivotal events for the sustainable use of Africa’s forests, which in turn are linked directly to biodiversity and livelihoods on the continent and ultimately, to life on Earth,” Carstensen adds

The importance of forests can’t be overstated: they help mitigate climate change, ensure adequate supply of fresh water, enhance biodiversity as well as sustainable incomes, livelihoods and food security, he concludes.

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