Fair Trade Furniture, Guitars, etc., For Sale
By George Anderson
You might not think the best way to preserve valuable old growth forest space would be to cut down trees but that’s exactly what is happening in places such as the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala.
In the past, locals would chop down trees and sell the lumber illegally. If they were caught, the lumber would be confiscated and they would be put in jail.
Today, the Guatemala National Council of Protected Areas (CONAP) working with non-governmental agencies such as the Rainforest Alliance have designated “multipurpose areas” within the reserve allowing local communities to harvest lumber and sell it legally.
According to a report in The Christian Science Monitor, harvested wood “is monitored and then certified by the Rainforest Alliance’s independent auditing agency called SmartWood.”
The results of the program in Guatemala have been eye opening.
The locals have benefited because they earn more money (roughly twice as much) for the lumber than going the illegal route.
Secondly, the forest and environment have also benefited. In places where the program has been instituted, only one percent of forested land has been lost compared to 40 percent in other areas.
Today, SmartWood certified lumber or fair trade wood as it is sometimes called is a growing business, albeit a small fraction of the total worldwide trade. Still, companies such as Home Depot and Gibson Guitars are adding to the purchasing levels, and environmentalists and human rights advocates are looking to continue building awareness on the topic.
David Dudenhoefer, communications director for Rainforest Alliance, said, “Our goal is to make this grow every year, which is happening.”
Jason Benford, director of Earthsource Forest Products, which sells 300,000 board-feet a year of certified wood, said, “There is huge, and growing demand. I would parallel this with fair-trade coffee.”
Moderator’s Comment: What is the role (responsibility?) of retailers in educating consumers about so-called fair trade issues and selling these types
of products? Can retailers establish a market for these products where one previously didn’t exist by actively promoting them to customers? –
George Anderson – Moderator