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Projects in Sub-Saharan Africa provide evidence of a successful circular bioeconomy – interview with Darren Lapp

This interview is part of the ‘Forest Governance Unpacked’ series with key experts in forest governance. It was developed in the context of the NewGo! project which aims to provide scientific knowledge on lessons learned from initiatives related to zero deforestation, forest restoration, and sustainable forest finance. The project sets the ground for the EFI Governance Programme.

Tell us a bit about who you are. 

Darren Lapp in 1971 in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. Douglas fir trees in the background. Credit: Dorothy Lapp archive.

My name is Darren Lapp and I’m the Chief Executive Officer of the New Forests Company.  I grew up in a small forestry town in British Columbia, Canada, and have spent the last 25 years in various roles in forestry.  I’ve been lucky enough to work in the industry on four continents, including the last seven years in Sub-Saharan Africa.  My role encompasses several aspects of governance; the setting of strategic direction from a company perspective, working with key stakeholders on policy related matters, and ensuring the company is following all local and international laws and expectations.


What is forest governance?

I think proper forest governance, perhaps more than most other industries, is very much a multi-stakeholder function and requires the cooperation of the forest owner or tenant, various levels of national government and international regulatory agencies, as well as individuals, communities, associations, and other businesses involved with, or impacted by forest management.  Governance comprises the development of laws, regulations, policies, norms, and operating ground rules by which decisions on the utilization of all forest resources (including biodiversity and other values) are made.


Why is governance needed?

Gender employment opportunities in focus at the NFC Pole Plant in Mityana, Uganda. Credit: Candice Taylor/New Forests Company

Referring to the geography that the New Forests Company operates in, Sub-Saharan Africa, there is a broad spectrum of adherence to any form of governance, which I suppose is a polite way of saying there are companies which follow closely laws, regulations, and social and environmental expectations and norms, and others which follow few to none.  This is exacerbated by the fact that many countries have forestry acts and laws that are less developed than others.  Establishing proper governance is key to addressing all stakeholders’ concerns.  

What are the challenges with governance today in the light of what you said in the previous question?

Frankly, the challenge with robust forest governance in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa is that not everyone follows a framework, and this disadvantages individuals and communities, and further disadvantages the companies who are trying to follow proper governance – it can be hard to compete with the cheaters. 

What are the positive changes that you have seen happening in the context of forest governance?

A Community Association (CA) in Uganda performing Risk Management on an NFC Plantation. Credit: Candice Taylor/New Forests Company (NFC)

In the last 18 months, we have seen multinational companies start to pay attention to their own sustainability policies in Sub-Saharan Africa, and demand, or at least favour, wood products from certified sustainable sources. A third-party forest management certification shows a forest operator is abiding by local and international laws, respecting, and creating opportunities for communities, and addressing biodiversity and other values.  It is an indicator of robust governance.  This change in demand is being driven by the market, which is the best way to ensure proper governance.

Please provide an example of a success story/case study.

Community engagement meeting in Kilolo district, Tanzania, where NFC prioritise inclusion of women and youth. Credit: Candice Taylor/NFC

New Forests Company Uganda operations, in particular, are an excellent example of multi-stakeholder engagement and collaboration.  The Company espouses a Shared Value philosophy to collaborate effectively with communities and other stakeholders, and the plantation projects are beginning to demonstrate a proper Circular Bioeconomy with outgrower-farmers, commercial plantations, microfinancing of community projects, conservation areas, and industry elements all present in the forest estates. 

Visit the NewGo! project website

Read the other interviews of the ‘Forest Governance Unpacked’ series:

Community participation makes for better forest governance in Ethiopia – interview with Tefera Mengistu

Stakeholder participation in forest governance is key for sustainable forest management – interview with Eva Müller

Curbing forest loss with and for the local communities in Uganda – interview with Rose Kobusinge

Involving and remunerating local communities to save the Amazon – Interview with Johan Wittkamper

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