TFT (formerly the Tropical Forest Trust) addresses deforestation by working with forest companies to help them transform themselves and the stories of their products.
Working with logging companies in the Congo Basin, TFT realised that while they were not in short supply of agronomists, foresters and biologists, there was a real lack of social expertise and understanding of how to engage communities. TFT felt that this expertise was lacking across the whole logging sector and in 2009, it set up the Centre for Social Excellence (CSE) to address this gap. The CSE trains exceptional graduates from across Africa to be Africa’s forestry managers of the future in an attempt to promote excellence and improve understanding between forestry companies and indigenous communities living in African forests, encouraging dialogue and sustainable forestry management practices.
The CSE offers a one-year programme taught in the classroom and through practical field-based training that covers a broad range of social, ethnographic and forestry management topics, including participative mapping techniques which aim to incorporate the views and rights of indigenous people living in and around forest concessions. This will not only allow indigenous communities a voice in the use of local resources but also will assist forest companies to work towards attaining (and moving beyond) Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, the industry standard for responsible and sustainable forest practices.
Whilst the CSE initially set out to train people living in the Congo Basin, it has recently widened this focus to include West and East African students. Specifically, Synchronicity Earth is funding the CSE as a way of supporting a future generation of young African conservation leaders to bring new ideas and challenge the status quo. More generally, TFT has a strong reputation in the NGO and donor community and collaborates with diverse partners from the local to international level. It recently received an award for involving indigenous communities in its work.