FAO-EU FLEGT Programme

Household timber producers supported through the iTwood traceability system


Household plantations in Viet Nam manage approximately 3.69 million hectares of plantation forests. Plantations are a central part of an extensive reforestation programme in which Viet Nam has embarked on, committed to planting 1 billion trees nationwide by 2025. Plantations also represent an important source of timber for the fast-growing wood processing industry in Vietnam, which contributed over USD 12.6 billion to the Vietnamese economy in 2020. 

The nature of household plantations in Viet Nam makes it difficult to manage them and to ensure full traceability of the origin of household plantation timber. Household producers are often informal, scattered and manage small areas of plantations (less than 1 hectare per household). They have complicated and diverse forest tenure systems and production models and often lack the capacity, knowledge, and resources to meet regulatory requirements or demonstrate compliance. It is anticipated that household producers will initially be affected by the implementation of the Viet Nam Timber Legality Assurance System (VNTLAS), which will increase legality verification and supply chain control measures. VNTLAS will trigger forest governance gains but is likely to increase costs linked to formalisation and legal compliance – potentially excluding a part of smallholder producers from legal timber trade. 

Recognising this risk, the Forestry Economics Research Centre (FEREC), in partnership with the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Programme, upgraded and tested the iTwood traceability system for use by household plantations, allowing more efficient and transparent plantation management whilst supporting timber traceability and facilitating participation in formalised legal timber supply chains and trade.

Meeting household needs for traceability 

Funded by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the iTWood system was initially developed for private organizations engaged in producing and selling planted timber. The initial system design did not include provisions for household timber plantations. 

Considering this, FEREC set out to update the system to serve the needs of smallholders. FEREC surveyed actors along the timber supply chain, including household timber plantations, ‘middlemen’, timber processing units and traders, to gain an insight into the challenges they faced in documenting and demonstrating legal timber production and trade. A particular focus was placed on challenges faced by household producers to ensure that their situation and capacities were at the forefront of further system development.  


Source: FEREC

Using the survey results, FEREC upgraded the existing iTwood system to be more user-friendly and reduce  delays caused by verification by digitising the submission and verification of legal documents such as land-use data and documents required to demonstrate the legal origin of timber. The system helps create Legal Wood Profiles and generates QR coded legal timber dossier or packing list following the requirements of the VNTLAS. The system also facilitates the verification by local authorities of the legal origin of plantations managed by individuals and households. A notable feature of the upgraded system is an e-commerce and trading platform that connects demand with the supply of fully traceable household plantation timber. Trading platforms such as these incentivize legality among small-scale producers by creating new legal markets, allowing producers to draw economic advantages from their legal status. 

Key stakeholders, including households, forest owners, forest traders, small-scale wood processing units and verification entities, including provincial and district level Forest Protection Department (FPD) offices and Commune People’s Committees, received practical training on the use of the updated system and its associated features. Mass Organisations such as the Farmers' Union, Women's Union, and provincial and district FPD staff participated in a training-of-trainers course. This local-level expertise is expected to support the rollout of the iTwood system and ensure its future sustainability.

‘This project and its results are very significant, offering a smart solution to strengthen the traceability and management of household plantation timber so that the millions of household tree growers in Viet Nam will be able to document the legal origin of their timber clearly and more efficiently, facilitating verification of compliance with VNTLAS requirements’, explained Bruno Cammaert, the Regional Coordinator of the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme for Asia and the Pacific

Connecting iTWood to other traceability systems

The iTwood system focuses on documenting the legal origin of plantation timber, facilitating legality verification along the timber supply chain. FEREC is also interested in linking the system to the Handicraft and Wood Industry Association of Ho Chi Minh City (HAWA), Due Diligence System (DDS) launched in July 2021. The HAWA DDS ultimate objective is to help HAWA members to compile and submit quality data to facilitate due diligence by operators buying from them. To achieve this, the HAWA DDS starts by facilitating the collection and screening of data on the legality and traceability of timber sources by HAWA members. The data made available through the iTwood system can feed into the HAWA DDS.

According to Mr. Zung Dao, Project Manager of HAWA DDS, ‘The iTwood system will become a reliable input for HAWA DDS and will contribute to addressing challenges faced by households. Ensuring that these systems can communicate and mutually reinforce traceability will allow an unbroken chain of custody from forest to factory and, ultimately, the consumer’. 

The iTwood system will continue to develop into the future by expanding the services and features offered to users, developing smartphone compatibility, and further digitization of evidence of legal compliance.  


Read more about the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme’s experiences, best practices, and lessons learned drawn from working with micro, small and medium enterprises and other areas of support here.

The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations is a global demand-driven initiative that provides technical support and resources for activities that further the goals of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan. The Programme is funded by the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom. 

Since 2016, the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme has supported 22 projects in Viet Nam, amounting to over USD 1 650 000, primarily focusing on developing timber legality assurance systems, capacity building, and institutional strengthening.