Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests spearheading a movement for Forest Certification in India

Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests
NCCF joins hands with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Change, State Forest Departments and stakeholders in spearheading a movement for forest certification in India 
Forest certification contributes to promoting Sustainable Management of Forests, Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), commitments under the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and in meeting the objectives of various international commitments under the UNFF, UNFCCC, UNCCD and UNCBD.
The Sustainable Development Goals are a call for action by all countries to promote prosperity while protecting the planet. They recognize that ending poverty must go hand-in-hand with the strategies that build economic growth and address a range of social needs while tackling climate change and environmental protection.
Past few decades have seen rapid economic growth in India. But, in order to continue the same, it is essential to ensure the sustainable management of our natural resources, while addressing the concerns for climate change, loss of forests and biodiversity, desertification, urban air quality and loss of livelihoods etc. 
We need to have Standards, based on which the sustainability of our natural resources, the forests, trees outside forests, non -wood forest products, protected areas , water bodies and wetlands etc could be assessed and certified in accordance with the internationally accepted best practices.
Certification is an emerging global movement that supports sustainable development, economic growth, trade, livelihoods, value chains, consumer protection, while enhancing competitiveness, fostering technological development and fully meeting the requirements of health, safety, and environmental conservation.
Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests (NCCF) a not for profit organization of India, is actively engaged in diverse conservation activities including, development of globally benchmarked and India specific sustainability certification standards for various constituents of our natural resource base, as its core working area.
NCCF is working in active collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare, the Ministry of Commerce and Industry, the State Forest Departments, ICFRE, IIFM, EPCH, ITC, QCI, NABCB, ICRAF, CIAT, IUCN, ICIMOD, CAFRI, TRIFED, GGGI, GICIA, WII, WWF India, World Bank, JICA, FAO, UNCCD and many more.
NCCF is a member of PEFC Governing Council for India, member of IUCN and has got Observer Status of UNCCD.
Our Forests:
Forests play a critical role in amelioration of the global environment, alleviating effects of climate change and natural disasters, are an integral part of water and carbon cycles, conserve biodiversity, provide food, medicine, wood and renewable raw materials for our diverse requirements. India is blessed with rich and varied wealth of forests and wildlife, which are being managed on scientific lines for the last more than 150 years. 
 
India ranks 10th in terms of forest area in the world as per Global Forest Resource Assessment (GFRA) 2020, accounting for 2% of total forest cover of the world. India has 16 major forest types and is one of the 17 mega-diverse countries with four global biodiversity hotspots. As per India State of Forest Report, 2019, the total forest cover of the country is 71.22 mha (21.67% of the geographical area). The total forest and tree cover constitute 80.72 mha (24.56% of the geographical area) which includes 2.89% (of the geographical area) as Trees outside Forests (ToF). Carbon stock in India’s forests is 7124 million tonnes. The Protected Area Network includes 103 National Parks, 544 Wildlife Sanctuaries, 76 Conservation Reserves and 46 Community Reserves. There are around 1,73,000 villages located in and around forests with an estimated dependent population of around 275 million.
Source: Forest Survey of India
Forest Certification:
Forest Certification is a tool, which is used to assess the quality and contemporariness of the management practices against the predefined norms of a Standard. Contemporariness is to be understood in terms of the environmental and social concerns of the governments, communities and consumers within and outside the country. Management practices across the sectors today, and increasingly in future, will be tested on the anvil of these common concerns, and also of course on the paradigm of economic sustainability. 
Forest Certification,is one such instrument which is applied using a Standard to take care of the environmental, economic and social concerns of important stakeholders. A good Standard is the one, which is country specific, here suited to India’s forestry and management practices, but at the same time is internationally recognised. In India, we need certification standards that promote sustainable management of forests as well as trees grown on non-forest lands, called trees outside forests (ToF). It must be mentioned that a forest or a plantation or a forest product that has undergone the process of certification commands a premium, i.e., brings in additional economic returns compared to a non-certified entity or product.  
Chain of Custody Certification:
Chain of Custody (CoC) certification provides independently verified assurance that certified wood contained in a product originates from well-managed forests. The entire flow of wood material from forest to consumers must be monitored and documented to demonstrate its origin. In addition, this minimizes risk that timber is from illegal harvesting and enables companies to demonstrate alignment with regulatory requirements (e.g. European Union Timber Regulation (EUTR). 
Arrangements for conducting Certification Audit:
 
Certification audit is conducted by independent third party i.e. Conformity Assessment Body commonly referred to as Certification Bodies (CBs). The audit includes activities that cover document review, procedures, SOPs, meeting with top management, compliance with legal regulations, field inspections etc following standard operating procedures.
NCCF has entered into a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the National Board for Accreditation of Certification Bodies (NABCB), a constituent Board of the Quality Council of India (QCI) and a member of International Accreditation Forum (IAF), for accreditation of the CBs to conduct certification audit, thus facilitating international equivalence to India’s certifications. Many CBs will now be available to conduct the certification of a large number of government forests and private plantations including farmers’ trees. PEFC endorsed NCCF certification will be available to our industry at affordable cost, and will improve competitiveness of Indian industry and also promote wood-based exports such as furniture, handicrafts, pulp and paper, and packaging material, etc.
 
Certification; the current status: 
Globally over 500 million ha (8%) are certified and 47,810 CoC certificates have been issued. In India, so far 0.99 million ha of forest area is certified and 670 Chain of Custody certificates have been taken by various industries like Pulp & Paper Industries, Wood and wood based industries (plywood, furniture, MDF, handicraft, etc.), Printings and Packaging industries, etc.
Benefits of Forest Certification:
Forest Certification provides both non-financial and financial incentives to the forest departments and forest-based stakeholders to improve upon their management for enhanced environmental, social and economic benefits. In many cases, the most immediate benefit of certification for forest managers is the streamlining of forest operations due to improvements in efficiency and greater control of production processes. 
Forest certification helps improve the working conditions and safety and health of forest workers, lead to improved forest conservation outcomes, and encourage sustainable forest use. It helps in branding and international recognition of forest management entities and boosts the public image of companies, which pursue certification in their own forest operations or  purchase only certified products.
Emergence of the Indian Scheme of Forest Certification: 
So far, there had been no Indian scheme of Forest Management Certification. NCCF came into existence as a Society in 2015 and took up the work of developing the country specific and globally aligned certification standard for India through a multi-stakeholder group after following the UN norms of standard setting process. NCCF Forest Management Certification Standard is fully in conformity with the objectives of National Forest policy, National Working Plan Code 2014 of the Ministry of Environment and Forests, Bhopal India Process of the IIFM  and international best practices in certification, duly reflected in its Themes, Principles, Criteria and Indicators, making it easier to implement and comply with, as per the international norms of certification.
 
NCCF’s certification scheme has been endorsed by the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC), a globally recognized certification organization, giving it an international recognition.
Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) has been actively promoting certication. Forest Certification is an eligible activity for funding under CAMPA  (Compensatory Afforestation Fund Rules, 2018). The Ministry has written to all State Forest Departments to initiate forest certification in some divisions, having reasonable economic activity, like extraction of timber, NWFP and bamboo etc. NCCF is providing professional support to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and State Forest Departments in taking up certification.
NCCF has been actively providing professional assistance to the MoEF&CC,State Forest Departments and the stakeholders in certification matters through sensitization workshops, training programmes and advisory services.
Recently, Uttar Pradesh Forest Corporation (UPFC) has taken up certification of 13 forest divisions with an area of around 3.5 lakh hectares using NCCF Forest Management Certification Scheme. Many State Forest Departments have initiated action for certification of few forest divisions. Tripura Forest Department has initiated the process of forest certification in West Tripura and Khowai districts of Tripura and Karnataka Forest Department in Yellapur Division, Uttarkannada District, Karnataka, as per NCCF-Forest Management Certification Standard. Many other states have identified the divisions for certification.
Trees outside Forests Certification Scheme:
NCCF has also developed a certification scheme for Tress outside Forest (ToF), the first of its kind not only in India but anywhere in the world, that is intended to cover certification of agroforestry plantations, urban trees and forests, scattered trees in farmland and homesteads, trees along roads, canals, railway lines and in orchards and gardens. This Standard has been developed in consultation with diverse stakeholders including the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare. The scheme will bring much-needed recognition to the wood and timber produced by farmers on their lands, ensure better markets and price premium for their  produce and augment availability of certified wood and wood based raw materials to the industries. Large scale adoption of the certification will certainly contribute to the government’s resolve to double the farmers income.
 
Our other Sustainability Standards:
 
NCCF is also developing standards for non-wood forest produce, protected areas and wetlands, quality planting material, ecotourism, biomass & biofuels and land degradation neutrality. 
 
NCCF is also developing a Carbon registry-India (CR- IT which is India centric, carbon offset market mechanism comprising of GHG emissions reduction and removal enhancement projects and associated methodologies. CR-I is intended to provide a platform for listing, registration and verification of projects, issuance of net emissions reduction units, trading and tracking of carbon credits and approval of new methodologies.
Forest certification acknowledges a country’s dedication to responsible forest management and its efforts to maintain a sustainable supply of forest products and services from healthy, diverse, and productive ecosystems. NCCF’s India specific, yet internationally benchmarked certification standard, being user friendly, will go a long way in conserving and enhancing our rich forests and biodiversity.

For more information, please contact:

A.K. Srivastava
Director General
Network for Certification and Conservation of Forests
(Former Member of the Indian Forest Service)
www.nccf.in
Email: <dg@nccf.in>
Tel: 0120- 6758611/6758614
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