Rainforest Alliance communications specialist Eugenio Fernandez Vasquez discusses our work to ensure that community forestry businesses are harvesting and processing wood sustainably, sharing benefits equitably and developing smart, responsible business plans.
Archive for the ‘Forestry’ Category
Forests are skilled multi-taskers: They house countless wildlife species, protect soils and water sources, prevent erosion, help regulate the global climate and provide us with the goods we use every day, including wood, paper, coffee and cocoa. But did you know that the following five items also originate in forests?
Whether it’s the ball that your kids toss on the playground or the soles of your most comfortable shoes, the natural rubber in these products is made from a milky white sap that flows from the rubber tree when part of its bark is removed. A quick-growing species, the rubber tree provides important income to indigenous populations and gives forest communities an economic incentive to conserve their forestlands. Though native to South America’s Amazon region, rubber trees are now cultivated all over the globe. In Guatemala, the Rainforest Alliance has verified a forest carbon project designed to raise money for the establishment of sustainable rubber tree plantations, which will help restore degraded pastureland and sequester greenhouse gas emissions.
The last time you pulled a non-synthetic cork out of a wine bottle, did you realize that the stopper came from an oak tree? The outer bark of the cork oak – a tree found throughout southwestern Europe and northwestern Africa – is cut and peeled and can be made into wine stoppers, bulletin boards and other items. Because the cork oak is able to regenerate its outer bark, each tree can be harvested multiple times, making cork a renewable resource. Plus, harvested trees are good for the climate — they store up to five times more carbon than unharvested cork oaks. The Rainforest Alliance has been working with cork producers in Spain and Portugal to help them manage their forests sustainably, and winemakers such as Oregon’s Willamette Valley Vineyards are already using FSC/Rainforest Alliance Certified™ corks to seal their wines.
3) Brazil Nuts
The Brazil nut tree is a finicky specimen. In order to produce fruit, it requires that its forest home be undisturbed and that it contain a particular type of orchid whose exotic flowers attract the specific bee species that are necessary for pollination. It’s also a hard nut to crack, literally; only the agoutis, a large rodent, has teeth sharp enough to break through the fruit’s woody shell. But the tree’s fussy behavior pays off in a big way: Brazil nuts are rich in protein and their oil is used in many beauty products, making them one of the most economically important non-timber forest products in the Amazon and earning valuable income for the communities that collect them.
A distilled liquor known for its rich, smoky flavor, mezcal is produced from the maguey plant, which grows in the dry forests of southern Mexico. (Also known as wild agave, maguey is a relative of the plant used to make tequila.) The heart of the plant is roasted in a pit oven using charcoal that’s often derived from local trees, a practice that has resulted in deforestation. To help combat this problem, a former Rainforest Alliance Kleinhans Fellow has been working with the residents of one of Mexico’s poorest regions to help them produce this potent spirit in a sustainable manner.
Your neighborhood pharmacy may be your first stop when you’re under the weather, but when it comes to many of our medicines, the forest is the ultimate source. Quinine, for example, is derived from the cinchona tree and is used to prevent and treat malaria. The bark of the Pacific yew tree contains paclitaxel, a chemotherapy drug, while in traditional medicine, the fruit and leaves of the sapodilla tree (the species from which chicle is produced) are used to treat diarrhea, coughs and colds. All told, forest plants have helped to prevent, treat or cure inflammation, rheumatism, diabetes, muscle tension, surgical complications, heart conditions, skin diseases, arthritis, glaucoma and hundreds of other conditions.
Thousands of people in Peru’s Madre de Dios region earn their living by gathering and selling Brazil nuts, which grow wild in the Amazon rainforest. With support from the United States Agency for International Development and Fondation Ensemble, the Rainforest Alliance has helped hundreds of them to improve their forest stewardship, working conditions and incomes. By working with the Brazil-nut gatherers’ associations in eastern Peru, the Rainforest Alliance has strengthened the conservation of their forest concessions while raising their members’ standard of living.
Yuliani, regional coordinator for the Rainforest Alliance’s Bali office, writes about a recent trip to the Indonesian island of Borneo — the third largest island in the world – where she joined a forest management surveillance audit of PT Erna Djuliawati at Camp II Bukit Beruang in Central Kalimantan. The Rainforest Alliance team was tasked with assessing the forestry concession for compliance with the Forest Stewardship Council’s standards for socially, economically and environmentally responsible management. Her group included a number of Rainforest Alliance staffers: Indu Bikal Sapkota, lead auditor and associate regional manager; Langlang Tata Buana, auditor and forest management and verification specialist; and Satria Astana, a local auditor.
Day 1: The Flight to PontianakThis was not an easy trip. To reach to the concession area, we spent about three hours traveling by air and 14 hours traveling by land. We departed from Bali and made a quick stop in Jakarta, before landing in Pontianak. Descending into Supadio airport, in Pontianak West Kalimantan, I spotted clear green forest and the Kapuas River down below. I expected to feel a cool wind welcoming me as I exited the plane – instead, I was enveloped by intense heat. Pontianak is also called Bumi Khatulistiwa (or Equator City) because it is exactly at the equator’s line; the city has a monument called Tugu Nol Derajat (or Monument Zero Degree).
The following day, we would begin the long trip to the concession site.
Day 2: A Bumpy Ride
We left our hotel at 7:00 am and began the long, bumpy ride. During the drive, we passed many bustling villages where river transportation is favored over land transportation. The distance between each community is sometimes vast, and most houses are built from wood. Despite their remote location, most of the communities are well connected to the outside world with TV receiver antennas emerging from their roofs. Because it’s fruit season in Pontianak, we saw many durian (Durio zibethinus), rambutan (Nephelium lappaceum) and duku (Lansium duranum) sellers along the road. All of the local produce looked delicious!
We made three stops on the way to the camp, finally reaching our destination (exhausted) at about 9:00 pm. Most of thecompany’s management staff, including the concession manager of PT Erna Djuliawati, were gathered at the restaurant and waiting to greet us before we headed to sleep in their guest house. The late night greeting was a sweet, unexpected surprise. A cameraman was also waiting for us; I joked with my team that – tired as we were — we’d all look awful in the picture.
Day 3: The Audit Begins
We began the audit process (opening meeting) by introducing the team, explaining our roles and responsibilities, discussing the client’s response to previous corrective action requests (CARs), reviewing documents, talking about the logistics of the field visits, and explaining the principles under review. It was the first time I’d participated in an opening meeting, and I was a bit nervous. For the rest of field audit, we split the team into two groups: I was paired with Indu, and Langlang was with Astana.
Day 4: First Day in the Field
We walked around the property and went to the core forest areas to observe the way that the concession had identifiedHigh Conservation Value Forest (HCVFs) areas, set up fuel stations to check for water contamination, and how it monitored erosion and fire. We also saw their permanent sample plot, an active harvesting area and a log landing space. To save the time, we had lunch on the way to the river bank area.
Since this was my first experience joining an audit, I asked my team many questions about the correct practices for sustainable forest management. This really helped me to understand the whole process and allowed for very comprehensive learning in a short period of time.
Day 5: Second Day in the FieldMy team was focusing on evaluating the camp facilities: staff and worker housing, school, clinic, prayer facilities (mosque and church), community cooperatives and marketplaces, log concentration yard* and recycling factory.
Overall, I was impressed with the way that the company takes care of their employees: providing proper accommodations, building strong infrastructure to support their work in a remote area, and providing direct benefits to the local community and its workers by offering education, transportation and a health clinic at no charge.
Day 6: Third Day in the Field
We spent half of the day visiting the nursery area and the community’s sacred sites. We began in the early morning, and were lucky to see a Rangkong bird, some red monkeys, a Bornean orangutan and wild piglets walking along the street. It was a real nature show.
After lunch, we prepared for closing meetings and to share the findings of our audit with the client.
Day 7: Last Day in Camp
We left camp bright and early, anticipating the long drive ahead of us. But first, we were each asked to plant a tree (bearing our names) in the camp’s memorial grounds. It was midnight when we finally returned to Pontianak; the team was exhausted.Overall, the audit went well! The concession’s management representative thanked the Rainforest Alliance, commenting on our great work and professionalism. He said that we’ve already helped the company to achieve its motto – “Reliability and Quality is Our Business” – and expressed hope that we would always work together in sustainable forestry. The concession team felt that the Rainforest Alliance’s touch benefited the company’s management and staff, as well as improved community life in their concession area.
Special thanks to my team for their support, guidance and audit knowledge. Many thanks to Erna’s team for their support, hospitality and introduction to delicious Kalimantan food. I hope to return someday and have another badminton tournament!
*Log concentration yards – usually located near forests – are used to deposit and sort loads of logs in different sizes, species and grades.
For twenty-five years, the Rainforest Alliance has been a conservation organization and not a policy organization. So we don’t often take positions on legislation. But we’ve made an exception for the Lacey Act, a law requiring that all wood products and plants imported into the United States come from legal sources. Ever since it was amended to include coverage of forest products in 2008, we’ve gone on record many times to express support for it, including in the wake of controversy over recent Lacey enforcement actions against Gibson Guitars.
We’ve publicly defended the Lacey Act, and will again, because Lacey is a global game changer. It has positively reinforced pioneering forest legality initiatives begun early this century by the EU through the FLEG (Forest Law Enforcement and Governance) effort, spurred initiation of similar legislation in countries as different as Australia and China, and buttressed the actions of many NGOs and civil society organizations fighting to stop illegal logging and trade.
Lacey also brought together a unique, ground-breaking coalition of stakeholders, from environmental organizations to forest products businesses, united in a desire to confront the challenge of illegal logging and illegal trade. Though recent Lacey enforcement actions have strained some of those relationships, the vast majority of the coalition remains absolutely convinced of the importance and value of the amended Lacey Act.
The respected Chatham House, a UK-based nonprofit thought-leader on international and current affairs, has documented welcome reductions in illegal logging or trade over the past few years, and enacting the Lacey amendment has been part of the reason. Though Lacey’s impact has already been demonstrably strong, and the Rainforest Alliance does not believe that changes to the actual legislation are necessary, Lacey enforcement might still benefit from a tune-up to make it even stronger.
Instead of a threat to amend the law, the current spotlight on Lacey might be viewed as a potential opportunity to raise and clarify legitimate questions about how the law works practically and how it could work better. The increased attention on Lacey has already prompted the Department of Justice to state clearly that individuals carrying a guitar are not targets of Lacey enforcement. US officials indicate that was never the case anyway, but the clarification is still a good thing.
Other good things might come out of the current focus on Lacey enforcement. It might be an occasion to think about how Lacey could be made more effective in fighting illegal logging and trade. Can enforcement efforts be better funded? How can we make sure these efforts are aimed at the key drivers of illegal trade and logging?
But all government policy, even strong policy like Lacey, has its limits. To protect forests and habitats around the world, we also need public/private partnerships including independent forest monitoring, and private sector initiatives such as forest certification and legality verification, and rigorous retailer/buyer and government procurement policies.
In the late 1970’s, the Rainforest Alliance’s senior vice president of programs, Mohammad Rafiq, a forester by training, was a young forest officer in rural Pakistan — his first job after school — when he was offered lucrative bribes to look the other way when trucks carrying illegally harvested wood passed his checkpoint. When he refused those bribes, the traffickers did everything in their power to get him out of the way. But the traffickers couldn’t deter him from a lifelong commitment to conservation.
Other Rainforest Alliance staff members have similar stories to tell from their experiences in Indonesia, Costa Rica, and elsewhere around the world. For us, illegal logging is not just a policy discourse; it is a living, breathing reality that has threatened many of our colleagues, the independent auditors who evaluate forest operations, the communities where we work and the wildlife and ecosystems we are working to save. Lacey is one of the most important and effective bulwarks against illegal logging, and the forestry community should seek to support and strengthen it.
Today, we continue our series of issue-based Rainforest Alliance Week blogs with a post on forestry.
Can you do us a quick favor? Wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, stop for a minute. Look around you and count the number of items made from wood or a wood by-product. How many things did you find? What were they? A quick glance around our desk calls up mounds of paper, books, framed photos, wooden heels, a pencil, a camera in its cardboard packaging, a bookmark, a desk and a chair. If we took this game further – tried to figure out all the items around us that came from forests, like medicine and food – that list would double, triple or quadruple in length.
You get the point though: we need forests, and with a worldwide population of 6.7 billion and growing, we can’t preserve them indefinitely. We can’t stop people from using wood and paper, or deriving their livelihood from the land. That’s why the Rainforest Alliance takes a different approach. We believe in conservation through responsible land management. We work with everyone from large corporations to forest-based communities to ensure that logging is conducted responsibly and ecosystems are protected.
How do we do it? Well, we started by helping to establish the Forest Stewardship Council — an entity that sets the gold-standard for socially, environmentally and economically responsible forestry. When a forestry business we have audited meets the FSC’s certification standards, they earn the right to display the Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal on products and packaging. This ensures that you, the consumer, know that the product you’re buying comes from a business that has met rigorous standards for protecting forestlands, communities and wildlife.
Unfortunately, certification alone will not automatically help companies compete in global markets –that’s particularly true for the growing number of community-owned forestry operations in the tropics. But we can (and do) help them compete. We work with small forestry businesses to improve their management skills, increase their efficiency and help them access new markets.
There are other benefits of certification, too. Certified forests protect wildlife habitat by curbing deforestation, protecting riverbanks from erosion, prohibiting hunting or trading of wildlife, and ensuring that critical ecosystems and habitats, such as wetlands and riparian zones, are protected. They also employ soil conservation practices — such as planting, building trails and harvesting along contours — to reduce erosion. Other conservation practices include composting and recycling waste which reduces the amount of waste generated in critical ecosystems.
Certification also ensures that the rights of workers and indigenous people are recognized and respected. Workers in certified forests are treated equitably and given access to healthcare and housing, and schooling for their children. They are trained in safety procedures and provided with appropriate protective gear.
By choosing Forest Stewardship Council/Rainforest Alliance Certified wood and paper products, you can support communities, wildlife and the environment. Next time you take a look around, we hope you find a few little green frogs.
Lara Koritzke — former associate director of development for the Rainforest Alliance and current director of development and communications at ISEAL Alliance — writes about the Rainforest Alliance’s work with a group of indigenous communities in Nicaragua. Devastated by a 2007 hurricane, they are recovering from damage to their homes, crops and natural forests with perseverance, hard work and collaboration.
On September 4, 2007, Hurricane Felix struck Nicaragua’s North Atlantic Autonomous Region (RAAN, for its name in Spanish) and left major ecological and socioeconomic damage in its wake. More than 25,000 impoverished families – mostly from the Moskito and Mayagna indigenous communities – were affected. Estimated damages to homes, crops and natural forests surpassed USD $1.3 billion and more than 3.7 million acres of biodiverse tropical forests were impacted.
Since 2005, the Rainforest Alliance has been helping communities in the region to manage their forests sustainably. In the wake of the hurricane, we also began working to build local businesses and encourage economic recovery. Four years later, 30 communities comprised of more than 2,000 people have benefitted from this work. In addition, seven new forestry cooperatives have been established with smart management plans and alliances with domestic wood product companies. A few highlights of this work…
Salvaging Post-Hurricane Wood and Fostering Natural Forest Re-Growth
A key aspect of working in the post-hurricane area: salvaging fallen or damaged timber while promoting the natural regeneration of the forest. Salvage operations are producing saleable commercial wood that provides immediate income for indigenous families while also forestalling the risk of permanent forest loss from fire, pests and conversion to other land uses. These risks will persist unless communities have an alternative revenue stream over the long-term and a real incentive to maintain forests in the face of growing pressures to convert them for livestock and agricultural operations.
The Awas Tingni Community: Conservation and Poverty Alleviation in Action
The Rainforest Alliance has been working closely with the Awas Tingni indigenous community to improve the livelihoods of its nearly 300 affected families (about 1,800 people) through the creation of a forest management plan for low-impact salvage harvesting operations. Such salvage operations reduce greenhouse gas emissions by ensuring that downed wood does not rot or burn. The Rainforest Alliance has also trained the community in value-added processing, and helped to facilitate the acquisition of small-scale carpentry equipment and a portable sawmill. Now, community members are employed in their own villages, producing pre-sawn boards made of mahogany and other high-demand hardwood species that command higher prices than raw logs alone.
Market Linkages with Wood Buyers Focused on Sustainability
With the Rainforest Alliance’s support, Awas Tingni has also developed alliances with buyers and brokers of wood products, including Nashville-based Gibson Musical Instruments and Maderas Preciosas Indígenas e Industriales de Nicaragua S.A. (MAPIINICSA), a Nicaraguan wood buyer focused on domestic furniture markets. Both companies are committed to purchasing sustainably harvested timber for their products.
The Rainforest Alliance has also helped the Awas Tingni community to create a new enterprise for their wood harvesting operations: the community-owned Yamaba forestry cooperative, now governed by a board made up of elected community members.
Job Creation and Other Benefits for Women and Children
The Yamaba cooperative and its salvage operations are also creating new jobs in the community. In 2010, the cooperative employed just 60 people; by 2011, that number had reached nearly 200, including 36 female employees. Sales of timber from the cooperative reached US $98,000 in 2010, and are projected to top US $400,000 by the close of the year. In addition to helping to develop the cooperative and increase incomes, the Rainforest Alliance is working with the group to ensure the effective and responsible allocation of newly generated funds.
Presently, the cooperative’s board of directors and its (newly created) Women’s Association are carefully considering the potential uses of the increased income. They include: re-investing in timber operations to increase sustainability; creating a fenced boundary to protect traditional lands from illegal loggers and poachers; providing additional support for the community school and its teachers; providing materials for the Women’s Association to create small artisan products for sale in local markets; and purchasing a community vehicle that can bring sick or pregnant community members to Puerto Cabezas — Awas Tingni is a 3-hour walk to the nearest bus stop, and Puerto Cabezas, the nearest town, is only accessible by bus.
Last week, Janice O’Brien — the Rainforest Alliance’s verification services and chain-of-custody associate in Canada — headed to Vancouver to announce the launch of the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project. Here, Janice talks about the new project, and explains the importance of projects like Darkwoods…
Forest carbon projects are designed to store additional carbon and conserve forestlands — in doing so, they help to combat climate change. To date, most forest carbon projects have taken place in the tropics; the Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project is an example of a successful project where the sale of carbon credits is helping to mitigate global climate change and conserve northern forests.
So what was my role with the project? I was a member of the independent team that audited the project to ensure its conformance with the Verified Carbon Standards’ strict criteria for project design and credible carbon accounting. At the launch, I shared a few key details about the projects significance…
- Covering over 55,000 hectares (136,000 acres) of land and sequestering/avoiding 849,016 tons of C02 emissions from 2008 to 2010, the project is truly large in scale. In fact, it’s the biggest project to have achieved verified emissions reductions in North America.
- The project’s focus on Improved Forest Management helps show other responsibly managed forestry operations that they can benefit from carbon finance, too. In Canada, millions of hectares of forestlands are certified to the Forest Stewardship Council’s standards for responsible forestry. We’re hopeful that some will follow in the Nature Conservancy of Canada’s footsteps and launch forest carbon projects, too.
- As I discovered onsite, the project protects an area of great ecological significance. It serves as habitat for an endangered herd of mountain caribou, features the highest diversity of coniferous tree species in British Columbia, and is a key biodiversity corridor that connects three other protected areas.
The Rainforest Alliance both validated (evaluated and approved) the project, and assessed the new methodology (developed by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, 3 GreenTree Ecosystem Services and ERA Ecosystem Restoration Associates) that the project uses to measure and monitor the carbon it has sequestered.
As one of the first and largest forest carbon projects in North America, the Darkwoods Forest Carbon Project can serve as an important example for forest owners throughout temperate and boreal forest regions. I sincerely hope that other forest owners will follow the project’s example and begin to explore the climate change mitigation potential of their forests.
Let’s say you’re in the market for a wood product – maybe you’re looking for printer paper, disposable napkins or even a set of outdoor furniture. Naturally, as a conscientious consumer, you want to ensure that the wood used in the item’s production came from a sustainable source. You already know that Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification is the gold standard for responsible forest management and that FSC-certified forestry businesses must comply with rigorous environmental and social criteria in order to use the FSC trademarks. But when you go to check the labels on the products you’re considering, you discover that there is more than one type of FSC trademark. Although all three FSC labels indicate a commitment to responsible forestry on the part of the manufacturer, each mark means something slightly different. Here’s how they break down:
- The FSC 100% (Pure) labels may only be used on products made exclusively from virgin fiber originating in FSC-certified forests.
- The FSC Recycled label is applied to goods made only from reclaimed materials, which can be a combination of post-consumer and pre-consumer waste. (Pre-consumer waste refers to materials such as wood chips and other mill waste left over after processing.) In order for the FSC Recycled label to appear on a product, it must contain at least 85 percent post-consumer waste.
- The FSC MIX label represents products that contain a combination of wood from FSC-certified forests, recycled content and/or material from other controlled sources. In order to carry the FSC MIX label, the proportion of FSC-certified and recycled material must be at least 70 percent. If a MIX product contains recycled material, the mobius loop within the FSC MIX label denotes the percentage of recycled content.
FSC certification helps support responsible forest management around the world by recognizing companies that are manufacturing certified products and encouraging others that are still working toward this goal. By providing detailed information on the source of a product’s wood components, the various FSC marks allow consumers to make informed choices. The very existence of these marks is another example of the transparency that is a vital part of FSC certification.
The Rainforest Alliance was one of the founders of the FSC and is the world’s leading FSC-accredited certifier of forest management operations.