In a busy second day at ITTC-59, a recurring theme was the impacts of the EU Deforestation-Free Regulation (EUDR). The Civil Society Advisory Group panel, in their discussion of how small and medium enterprises (SMEs) and local communities are preparing to meet the EU’s requirements for traceability in the timber supply chain, anticipated challenges for smallholders. Producer and Consumer countries returned to this topic in their discussion of global industry trends during their Annual Market Day discussion. They also delved into the details of projects that have been funded through the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) to consider their success factors and lessons learned.
The Expert Panel for the Technical Appraisal of Project Proposals informed ITTC-59 delegates that the panel has recommended five project or pre-project proposals for funding support, out of seven proposals received. Ex post Evaluation Reports of six completed projects were then presented.
The Committee on Economics, Statistics and Markets (CEM) considered lessons learned from efforts to develop the National Forest Stock Monitoring System in the Philippines, capacity building to reduce illegal logging and trade in Panama, and implementing a DNA timber tracking system in Indonesia. General recommendations emanating from these evaluations noted the need for: regular review of projects that are experiencing significant delays, active engagement with stakeholders, and ITTO scrutiny and approval of any proposed realignment affecting an approved project’s logical framework matrix. Indonesia welcomed the strategic nature of the DNA tracking system, while the evaluators suggested that commercial application would rely on expanding the database of 100 timber species to cover more than 1,000 species that are commercially traded in that country.
The ex-post evaluator of two Committee on Forest Industry (CFI) projects highlighted the success of a capacity-building project for efficient and sustainable utilization of bamboo resources in Indonesia, which had resulted in increased use of bamboo and local processing, as well as involvement of women's groups in bamboo propagation. The project even resulted in the building of a bamboo pavilion at the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Summit in Indonesia earlier in November 2023. In relation to a project for wood-based biomass energy in North Sumatra, Indonesia, however, the CFI noted that successful capacity building efforts were limited by the need for concurrent energy policy reform.
The Committee on Reforestation and Forest Management (CRF) considered a thematic group evaluation of forest landscape restoration projects, which found that all projects had embraced participatory and inclusive approaches but had given less attention to gender issues. The evaluation, which was based on a review of 14 end-of-project reports, recommended greater integration of peer learning approaches, and implementing systems of reward, recognition and incentives in order to encourage good practice.
The Civil Society Advisory Group (CSAG) presented a panel discussion on how SMEs and local communities are preparing to meet the EU’s requirements for traceability in the timber supply chain. RECOFTC, the international non-profit group focused on resilient communities and sustainable forest landscapes, highlighted perspectives from small-scale commodity producers in Indonesia and Thailand, who face additional scrutiny under the EUDR. RECOFTC recommended strengthening farmers’ organizations, engaging in certification schemes and legal reform, and building capacity in geolocation technologies. Other civil society presenters also highlighted their challenges, including lack of access to financing for women who contribute directly to forest restoration yet are inadequately involved in public decision making.
The US and others noted that smallholders face challenges in complying with requirements for geolocation and traceability, especially with regard to low-value products and products that are packaged in bulk. In response, the EU asserted that the EUDR will give smallholders, women, and local communities a stronger position in the supply chain and enable them to gain a better price for their products.
In the afternoon, delegates heard about policy work conducted under the CEM regarding market access, sustainable forest management (SFM) and chain of custody certification, collaboration between the ITTO and the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) regional organization, and independent market monitoring.
As part of the ITTC’s Annual Market Discussion, participants then discussed global trends in timber markets, with world population growth driving increased timber demand for housing and building materials. Speakers highlighted the potential for smallholders to benefit by growing commercial timber, based on clear land tenure and strong markets, and noted the potential of technology innovation. Two such examples of innovation were Thailand’s “e-tree concept” for digital tracking of plantation trees, and the use of “mass timber” comprising thick, compressed layers of wood that can be used as structural load-bearing elements in construction to replace conventional materials. Citing UN Environment Programme (UNEP) figures, one speaker suggested this innovation could reduce global carbon emissions by 14 to 31%.
Speakers affirmed ITTO as a long-term player in commercial forestry and urged the organization to apply the policies and guidelines it has already developed to support governments, SMEs, local communities and other actors.