Rainforest Alliance Helps Honduran Forestry Cooperatives Find Local Sustainable Wood Buyer

April 22, 2008

The Rainforest Alliance has brokered a purchasing agreement between Honduran hardwood furniture company Caoba de Honduras and a group of forestry cooperatives -- members of the Agro-forestry Cooperatives Union of the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve (La Unión de Cooperativas Agroforestales de la Biosfera del Río Plátano or UNICAF-BRP in Spanish) -- who manage 255,000 acres of rainforest in Rio Platano's buffer zone that are slated for sustainable forestry certification this year under the standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).

Through a previous agreement also brokered by the Rainforest Alliance, the cooperatives have been selling sustainably harvested, high-grade mahogany to the United States guitar manufacturer Gibson Musical Instruments -- dramatically increasing their profits while conserving the forest around Rio Plátano, one of Central America's great forest reserves and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Under the new agreement, they will be able to sell any mahogany not purchased by Gibson to Caoba de Honduras. The company will also train the cooperatives in crafting fine furniture for export to the United States.

Caoba de Honduras has also signed a separate agreement with the Rainforest Alliance to certify its chain of custody and guarantee to its international buyers that its wood is legal.

The Rainforest Alliance team in Honduras, led by Medardo Caballoro, has worked with the cooperatives since 2005, training them in forest management, conservation and forestry business skills.

Nicaragua Signing Ceremony

"The broad goal is to establish sustainable businesses that are more profitable for the cooperatives, giving them incentives to conserve their forests using responsible forest management," said Caballero. "This will promote legal as opposed to illegal logging, taking better advantage of the trees cut to increase the value of the broadleaf forest."

Caballero also noted that when the Rainforest Alliance first began working with the cooperatives, they were selling wood to middlemen who paid 10 - 15 lempiras (50 - 80 cents) per board foot. Now, Caobas de Honduras will purchase the wood that Gibson does not buy for L45 ($2.40) per board foot.

"Before, big businesses bought from illegal loggers, but now Caobas de Honduras is leading the change, working with those of us who log legally," said Esmeraldo Acosta, president of the Miraveza cooperative -- one of 12 in UNICAF-BRP -- and spokesman for the cooperatives. Acosta added that the agreement is already having an impact among other loggers: "People are seeing that the product is selling well, so they're all trying to take care of the forest. With this deal, I think the forest will be better cared for."

The agreement "gives the cooperatives a stable buyer for their product and helps the company guarantee to its foreign buyers that the product comes from legal, sustainable sources," said Ramón Álvarez Lazaroni, general manager of the Corporación Hondureña de Desarrollo Forestal (COHDEFOR), the state forestry department. "It also helps the government protect the nation's forests, acting as a disincentive to illegal logging and business."

The Rainforest Alliance has been promoting sustainable forest management since 1989. In more than 60 countries, we have certified more than 106 million acres (42 million hectares) of forestland to standards established by FSC, the international organization that sets standards for responsible forest management worldwide. The Rainforest Alliance first certified forests in Honduras in 1997, and now guarantees the sustainable management of 131,000 acres (53,000 hectares) in that country.

 

This collaborative effort is funded by Gibson, the US-based aluminum producer Alcoa, the Honduran Export Development and Investment Foundation (FIDE) and the Argidius Foundation. The Rainforest Alliance also coordinates with the "Protection and Management of the Rio Platano Biosphere Reserve Project," funded by the German development agency GTZ, which trains communities in forest management practices.