A group of smallholders in Vietnam has obtained Forest Stewardship Council certification (FSC) for their Acacia plantation forest. Although the certification aims to improve livelihoods via economic, social, and environmental benefits, there are concerns amongst smallholders regarding the outcomes from their certification decision as well as difficulties in maintaining the certification. This article assesses the benefits and challenges of forest management certification from the perspective of small household groups who have achieved FSC certification. The FSC has brought new opportunities for farmers, such as increased selling price and extended trade networks, but is also associated with significant obstacles such as high initial and annual surveillance audit fees, difficult paper work, and complicated procedures for selling wood. Additionally, the small size of the plantations and low expertise in forest management make it more difficult and costly for farmers to achieve certification. There is a heavy dependency on donors for financial and technical support. Because subsidies from organizations like the World Wide Fund for Nature Vietnam are unlikely to continue indefinitely, the benefit of certification for smallholders is uncertain. Feasible actions to increase the sustainability of the group are suggested, including increasing the responsibility of the group members, enhancing the awareness and capacity of the local people, and searching for additional support from other organizations and wood processing companies. From the macro level, a national forest stewardship council should be established so that the audit cost for certification would be reduced.
Certification Forest management FSC Sustainable development