With agricultural expansion to account for 90 percent of deforestation, it is essential to place sustainability at the heart of all food production - not just activities logging - if we are to meet this commitment.
But ensuring the legality of timber production and trade is also a vital piece of the puzzle, especially when much of global agricultural expansion begins with tree cutting, and this activity is often required. Illegal.
Illegal logging degrades forests, undermines countries' efforts to manage them sustainably, contributes to biodiversity loss and threatens livelihoods. It undermines progress made in achieving many Sustainable Development Goals, including Goals 8 (decent work), 12 (responsible consumption and production), 13 (climate action) and 15 (life on land). Although it is difficult to assess the extent of illegal logging, the international criminal Police Organization (Interpol) estimates that its value is between 51 and 152 billion dollars per year.
The good news is that progress is being made in tackling the trade in illegally logged timber, for example through bilateral trade agreements between timber-exporting countries and the European Union.
Countries are striving to increase the demand and improve the supply of legal timber, increasingly shaping a global trading environment where the legality of timber imports must be demonstrated. As countries tighten the rules to enable sustainable production, there is a risk that one of the biggest players will be left behind, with far-reaching impacts not only for deforestation, but also for the means of transport. subsistence and national economies.
Micro, small and medium-sized enterprise (MSME) wood producers and processors play a central role in meeting the growing demand for forest products around the world. It is estimated that MSMEs provide more than 50 percent of total employment related to forests, the number in some countries like Guyana from 80-90 percent.
MSMEs are often the backbone of global supply chains for large companies. And the majority of the domestic market demand for forest products in tropical timber producing countries is met by MSMEs, often eclipsing the volume of timber exports from any given country.
MSMEs in the forest sector are essential to ensure that the use of forest resources is legal and sustainable in the future.
But MSMEs can face obstacles in meeting the legality standards required for increasingly sophisticated and global insurance processes.
Despite their size and limited resources, they are expected to comply with legal requirements that are often designed for industrial-sized businesses. So what can we do for us? ensure they aren't inadvertently left behind - which can mean they have little choice but to turn to illegal practices to stay afloat?
Over the past six years, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the European Union (EU) have contacted some 3,300 MSMEs in 20 countries through the through the FAO-EU Program for forest Law enforcement, governance and trade (FLEGT) .
What is clear from this work is that MSMEs and their supporting partners need direct support. This includes awareness of packaging legality and compliance training, as well as the development of business skills, and the promotion of peer-to-peer networks to share experiences and best practices. It is essential to foster business-to-business exchanges - where MSMEs can prove their ability to provide legal documents to businesses that need them for export markets.
In addition, MSMEs that work with legal timber must be able to compete successfully with those that use illegal timber.
This requires regulatory frameworks that MSMEs can comply with and their effective enforcement. It also means creating demand for legal timber so that companies economically benefit from being legal.
Communication campaigns can simultaneously raise awareness and inform the public and businesses, thereby creating market pressure. In Guatemala, the National Forestry Institute commissioned a campaign called Todos has legalidad (Everyone for legality), which affected more than 170,000 people through social media and led to the 'registration of more than 300 companies in the National Forest Register.
Ultimately, MSMEs must be part of the solution. Who could be best placed to play a first-hand role in ensuring that forests are used legally and sustainably, and thus safeguard their own livelihoods and those of generations to come? Ongoing and targeted support, MSMEs can be leaders in the fight to reverse forest loss and build more sustainable economies by providing a legal, traceable source of timber and livelihoods sustainable.