An examination of challenges and issues facing sustainable forest management and forest certification in China
This study investigated the challenges facing the adoption of sustainable forest management (SFM) and forest certification in China. To achieve this goal, the perceptions of four influential direct and indirect stakeholders were examined to reveal the awareness, understanding, interest, motivation, and barriers to adopting SFM and forest certification. The four stakeholders consisted of Chinese small-scale forest farmers who have received small forest land from the collectives through the new forest tenure reforms, Chinese market officials working for forestry property markets, Chinese wood products manufacturers, and Canadian wood products retailers. In addition, the new forest tenure reforms and their supporting mechanisms, including forestry property markets, were assessed in terms of their impacts on the promotion of SFM and certification in China. The study revealed general low levels of awareness and understanding about SFM and forest certification amongst various stakeholders in China, with forest farmers having particularly low awareness. Several challenges to the adoption of SFM and forest certification in the period before the new forest tenure reforms were identified by the small-scale forest farmers, including insecure and unclear forest tenure, inconsistent forest policies, inadequate finances, under-developed infrastructure and transport system, and lack of efficient knowledge and technical transfer. Market officials were found to have limited knowledge of SFM and forest certification but their role in educating forest farmers and promoting SFM and certification is particularly important, as government support is considered to be critical to the early and rapid uptake of SFM and certification in China. Chinese manufacturers expressed immense interest in forest certification despite the identified barriers. From their perspectives, the biggest barrier was the lack of market demand for certified wood products. Canadian retailers were chosen as a substitute of Chinese retailers to gain insights into how a more advanced market for certified wood products might evolve, and how the demand might evolve in China. The new forest tenure reforms and forestry property markets are likely to overcome many of the challenges and enable forest farmers to adopt SFM and certification. That said, the widespread adoption of SFM and certification amongst various stakeholders has a long way to go.