Since 2014, Proforest’s APN has been working with partners to address the widespread lack of practical understanding of sustainability initiatives in West and Central Africa. The APN approach focuses on building practical experience by providing opportunities for trainees to undertake technical work with experienced experts – or mentors. This often takes place on the premises of ‘host’ companies, who also benefit from the experience by receiving a baseline assessment of their operations in order to set them on the path to sustainability.
In 2016, Mondial Veneer Ghana Limited hosted a mock assessment of its operations by trainee auditors as part of an APN mentoring exercise. Expert mentors guided the trainees who provided feedback to Mondial on their performance in relation to the FSC standards. Using this baseline assessment, Mondial has been able to address gaps in its operations in order to recently achieve FSC Forest Management Controlled Wood and FSC Chain of Custody certification, representing a major step towards achieving full FSC certification.
‘’In recent times, due to certification service demand, RA has increasingly used alumni of the APN mentoring programme. They succeeded in maintaining RA auditing quality and client care service both in terms of technical quality of auditing and reporting but also in adopting an excellent auditing behaviour’’ - Sandra Razanamandranto, Africa Director of the Rainforest Alliance
It is another success in the APN’s impressive track record. Since 2014, the APN has trained a total of 313 practitioners across West and Central Africa – 76 of whom have undertaken specialised on-the-job training in aspects of sustainability such as HCV, legality verification, RSPO and FSC auditing in practice. The initiative has proved so effective that many reputable certification bodies increasingly use APN alumni to deliver audits and assessments in the region. For example, Rainforest Alliance (RA) and Control Union have recently engaged APN-trained practitioners to undertake FSC Controlled Wood and RSPO assessments in Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire. With an expanding pool of skilled practitioners, there is also growing request by production companies for APN practitioners to fulfil roles as sustainability officers in the region.
The APN also continues to support civil society organisations (CSOs) by building their capacity to undertake legality verification audits. In June 2017, 15 CSO representatives in Ghana participated in training to qualify as FLEGT/VPA legality verification observers. This involved a two-day class-based training followed by an on-the-job legality verification mock audit that assessed the operations of two medium-sized forest enterprises against the VPA legal standard. The trained practitioners will represent Forest Watch Ghana as observers on legality verification audits to be carried out by the Timber Validation Division (TVD) of the Forestry Commission (FC). This training not only strengthens CSO understanding of the verification process in practice, but also increases recognition of their emerging role as observers (and monitors) of the FLEGT/VPA legality verification process.
The APN also currently supports technical capacity building of civil society independent forest monitoring teams in Liberia and Cameroon, with plans underway to extend support to other countries of the Congo Basin in collaboration with partners.