Workshop – Chetumal, Mexico, 5-7 November 2003
(November 04, 2003): The future of the world’s mahogany will receive some significant re-assurance this week when the findings of the world’s most comprehensive research into the sustainable mahogany management are released this week at a major workshop in Chetumal, Mexico.
Convenor Convener of the workshop, Laura Snook, a forester with the Center for International Forestry Research, says the findings come at just right time, as mahogany will be placed under protection under the protection of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species later this month.
"Mahogany is one of the world’s most prized timbers. It is highly valued for its deep read and attractive gain and is used for arrange of furniture making and building purposes. The production of mahogany also provides employment and livelihoods for thousands of the world’s rural poor in many developing countries, such as Brazil, Peru, Mexico and Belize," Snook said.
"Sadly, the future of mahogany as a species and as a source of livelihood is threatened in many parts of the world by unsustainable and often criminal practices."
Considerable media coverage in recent times has focused on the problems faced in countries like Brazil and Peru where forced labour and illegal logging remain a feature of the mahogany industry despite the efforts of national governments to suspend mahogany logging. Last year alone the Brazilian government freed more than 1,400 slave labourers working in the mahogany sector.
"Unless sustainable mahogany forestry practices are implemented needed now the species will risks become becoming extinct. This would mean the end of the highly-valued timber for consumers in the developed world. More importantly, it would also mean the end of an important source of income for many poor rural communities," Snook said.
"The controversy and conflict surrounding so much of the world’s mahogany production need not be the norm. Methods for ensuring the mahogany industry has a sustainable future do exist and actions to address current problems are already underway. The US and European countries reject Brazilian mahogany exported under fraudulent permits. In places like Belize and Mexico there are many good examples of communities and NGOs using environmentally and economically sustainable techniques for managing mahogany that are providing livelihoods to thousands of rural people while conserving hundreds of thousands of hectares of tropical forests."
Sponsored by the Center for International Forestry Research, the workshop will bring together forest scientists, government authorities, forest owners and timber producers to discuss the research findings and develop practical guidelines for regenerating and sustaining mahogany in production forests.
The Chemutal workshop will provide mahogany producers with technologies and strategies to ensure the survival of mahogany, their tropical forest homelands and the rural livelihoods they provide.
For further information and interview opportunities:
Laura Snook, Forester, Center for International Forestry Research
Telp. 52-983-83-42336 Bacalar, Mexico
Opinion article on mahogany by Laura Snook.
Available for reprint if author is acknowledged.
Laura K. Snook at firstname.lastname@example.org
Forester – Center for International Forestry Research
SAVING MAHOGANY, SAVING FORESTS, SAVING LIVES
The dark-red and highly prized timber from the world’s rapidly diminishing supply of mahogany trees epitomizes the ongoing conflict and controversies regarding tropical forests. Most media coverage has focused on the underbelly of the mahogany trade, reporting accusations of slavery, threats to indigenous South American tribes and unchecked illegal logging.
There is truth to this media coverage. Unlike mahogany itself, loggers guilty of using treachery and violence to get at this prized timber are not a rare species. Only last year the Brazilian government freed more than 1,400 slave laborers working in the mahogany sector.
Often in their quest to meet the world’s demand for mahogany, loggers penetrate deep into remote tribal lands, bringing with them diseases to which local people have little resistance. But it would be wrong to assume conflict and controversy occur everywhere mahogany is logged.
Mahogany need not be associated with violence, crime or unsustainable logging. Indeed, methods for ensuring the mahogany industry has a sustainable future do exist and actions to address current problems are already underway. Illegal logging, which threatens the species in Peru and Brazil, has seen the US and European countries reject Brazilian mahogany exported under fraudulent permits. The problem is also being addressed at the source, with the Brazilian government suspending mahogany logging.
Successful efforts to guarantee the survival of the magnificent mahogany and the economic benefits it offers poor rural communities can be found elsewhere in Latin America. In parts of Central America, environmentally and economically sustainable techniques for managing mahogany are providing livelihoods to thousands of rural people while conserving hundreds of thousands of hectares of tropical forests.
A few hours south of Cancun, Mexico, more than 40 communities, many of them indigenous Maya Indians, own up to 50,000 hectares of forest land. Each year communities harvest mahogany trees from four percent of their forest area, and plant mahogany seedlings in the resulting canopy openings. A few communities have sawmills where members earn wages converting their logs to the boards they sell to buyers. Some run carpentry shops and produce furniture. These diverse forests also yield other saleable products and sources of livelihood. Latex sold for chewing gum is harvested by machete-wielding men climbing trees. Railroad ties are made from other hardwood species and communities sell palm leaves for thatching the roofs of local dwellings or beachside restaurants catering to tourists.
Across the border in Belize, an NGO owns and manages 100,000 hectares – some six percent of the country’s total land area. The “Programme for Belize” harvests timber, including mahogany, from 18 percent of their forest land, to help pay the costs of protecting these forest ecosystems. The continued existence of these habitats is crucial for the survival of jaguars, tapirs, pumas, monkeys, toucans and many migrating birds from the US and Canada.
To ensure these habitats and their mahogany survive, the NGO harvests mahogany timber from only 2.5 percent of its timber management area each year. It leaves 20 mahogany seed trees on each 100 hectare felling compartment to generate new mahogany trees. The mahogany produced by the “Programme for Belize” and a number of Mexican communities is certified according to the Forest Stewardship Council’s internationally agreed guidelines.
Both Mexico and Belize are showing the world not only how mahogany can be sustainably harvested but also how logging can continue to provide livelihoods for rural workers and their families. Strategies for achieving these outcomes will be further developed at an international workshop on sustaining mahogany, sponsored by the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), in Chetumal, Mexico in November, 2003.
These advances are coming just in time. The same month mahogany will be placed under the protection of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). CITES will require producing countries to define sustainable levels of mahogany production and limit their export permits accordingly.
Let’s hope mahogany producers in Brazil, Peru and elsewhere pay attention to both CITES and the outcomes of the Chetumal workshop. These will not only benefit mahogany, but will provide technologies and strategies for conserving their tropical forest homelands and ensuring sustainable livelihoods.