The HCSA Toolkit

Photo: RAN

The High Carbon Stock Approach (HCSA) Toolkit is a coherent set of requirements and guidance that provides plantation companies and land managers with a practical and credible tool to end commodity-driven deforestation in tropical landscapes.

It identifies High Carbon Stock (HCS) forests through initial stratification of the vegetation using satellite images and field data collection and analysis – and provides a step-by-step ‘Decision Tree’ to understand the conservation value of HCS forest patches. Using the Toolkit results in the creation of an Integrated Conservation and Land Use Plan that defines the areas to set aside for conservation, monitoring and management.

The HCSA Toolkit is holistic and multi-layered – it integrates other land use planning approaches such as identifying High Conservation Value (HCV) areas containing rich biodiversity and vital ecosystems and ensuring respect for the rights of indigenous and traditional communities to their lands.

One of the biggest problems has been to simply define which forests need to be protected from agricultural expansion and create a global standard to implement No Deforestation commitments - the HCSA Toolkit is the first field-tested, system-wide approach identifying HCS forests and conserving them across the tropics

Why create an Integrated Conservation and Land Use Plan?

How and where new agricultural development takes place is the crux of tropical deforestation. One of the main outputs of applying the HCSA Toolkit is to create an Integrated Conservation and Land Use Plan (ICLUP). An ICLUP optimises the conservation of HCS forests and HCV areas, allocates lands suitable for commercial production, improves livelihoods and embeds the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities to give or withhold their consent to any new development.

Please see our Interim Guidance for information on how to develop and implement an ICLUP.

Developing an ICLUP is intended to avoid and mitigate conflicts with local people by formalising community validation of, and agreement to, plans that define how land will be used before operations begin.

Validation of an ICLUP ensures that the plantation companies or land managers and all affected rights holders and local communities have a shared understanding of different land uses, management and monitoring activities. They have a shared and agreed plan of who has what rights and responsibilities in each area of land.

Who uses the HCSA Toolkit?

The Toolkit modules are practical guides that outline the requirements for plantation companies, land managers and for qualified assessors appointed to conduct conservation and human rights assessments. They set out how plantation companies and land managers engage with communities affected by proposed developments and how communities must be active in the process from the beginning.

The wider influence and impact of the HCSA Toolkit comes through its use in financial institutions, commercial banks, commodity user companies and brands and civil society initiatives. Here the Toolkit is used and referenced as the standard approach to ensure investments in agribusiness or forestry, or sourcing forest-risk commodities, does not negatively impact HCS forests, HCV areas or violate the rights of local communities and indigenous peoples.

The HCSA Toolkit modules and guidance documents are freely available, open-access resources available to download from the tables below. The HCSA periodically revises the Toolkit and issues Advice Notes to respond to technical queries.

We continue to develop and adapt versions of the Toolkit for implementing the approach at various scales, including for smallholder farmers and through the large-scale landscape and jurisdictional initiatives.

We warmly welcome and encourage feedback from qualified practitioners and all those who use the HCSA Toolkit.

The HCSA Toolkit

Available to view online or download in English, Indonesian and French Social Requirements’ Training Materials

HCSA Advice Notes

HCSA Advice Notes provide clarification or interpretation of requirements in the HCSA Toolkit and HCV-HCSA Assessment Manual to respond to technical queries arising from implementing the HCSA methodology and the evaluation of HCSA and HCV-HCSA assessment reports.

Advice Note 1: HCV-HCSA Assessments
i. Use of national land cover classification systems
ii. Number and location of forest inventory plots
iii. Due diligence requirements
iv. Local people’s lands for food security and livelihoods

Advice Note 2: HCV-HCSA Assessments
i. Social requirements
ii. Assessment preparation
iii. Social background study
iv. Land tenure and use study

Advice Note 3: HCV-HCSA Assessments
Forest inventory plots

Advice Note 4: HCV-HCSA Assessments
i. Land cover classification
ii. Ground truthing

Advice Note 5: HCV-HCSA Assessments
i. Patch analysis
ii. Connectivity

Advice Note 6: HCV-HCSA Assessments
i. Age of satellite imagery at the time of field visits when field work is delayed
ii. Clearance of potential HCS forest or HCV area detected during the assessment

Advice Note 7: HCV-HCSA Assessments
i. Mangrove Areas
ii. Village Boundary Mapping in Papua New Guinea

Advice Note 8: HCV-HCSA Assessments
Swidden Areas and Deforestation

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