Colombia commits to stop illegal timber trade

Posted on 28 August 2009

The Colombian Government signed a Pact For Legal timber in Colombia.

Colombia commits to stop illegal timber trade

The Colombian Government together with 24 public and private sector organizations, civil society representatives and consumers, signed a Pact For Legal timber in Colombia.

Santiago de Cali, August 25, 2009 – The recent signing of A Pact for Legal Timber in Colombia will enhance forest management and conservation in Colombia, home to 6% of the world's forests.

In a joint effort led by the Colombian Ministry of Environment, the Regional Environmental Authority of the Province of Risaralda (CARDER), the National Timber Industry Federation (Fedemaderas) and WWF Colombia, twenty-four organizations made an unprecedented commitment to put an end to illegal timber trade, implement a national policy to promote legal timber and improve forest governance in Colombia.

Colombia maintains a significant portion of its original forest cover; approximately 50% (55 million hectares) of the national territory (114 million hectares) maintains natural forest, fifty percent of which is found within ethnic territories primarily in the Chocó-Darién Ecoregion and the Amazon basin.  Illegal timber exploitation and trade generates negative environmental and socio-economic impacts, affecting both the performance of the sector and its contribution to national GDP, as well as security, well-being and livelihoods of local communities.

Globally, illegal logging represents between 20-40% of timber production and trade; similar numbers apply in Colombia.  Precise measures are difficult to estimate given the tough conditions in forest regions of armed conflict and illicit crops, corruption and organized crime.

In addition, different actors along the chain of custody are not well articulated, with producers lacking linkages with buyers, and numerous intermediaries.  This complexity calls for a collective effort to tackle the irregularities in the forest sector. 

For these reasons, the Pact convenes all actors along the production process involved in timber extraction to commercialization (including buyers, transporters, transformation and consumers) will guarantee the legal origin of timber in Colombia. This initiative responds to the loss of at least 48 thousand hectares of forest/year and the overexploitation of 21 tree species.

For WWF, the implementation of this Pact will transform the sector and make sustainable forest management and trade a common practice in local, national and global forest product markets. The Colombian Ministry of Environment’s commitment to exclusively use wood or bamboo from legal sources for public housing projects is a step forward towards achieving this goal.

The Agreement  for Legal Timber in Colombia is even more relevant given its relation with the global forest governance project of the European Union FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade), which seeks to reduce purchase of illegal tropical timber by EU members States.

“Effective governance of forest resources must be a priority for the sector and the country," said Mary Lou Higgins, Director of WWF Colombia. "This Pact demonstrates a pledge and shared responsibility to search for effective mechanisms of control, transparency, and responsible purchasing with the aim of eliminating illegality throughout the chain of custody and recognize the true value to forests, improving forest based livelihoods and strengthening sustainable development processes", said Higgins.

Notes for the Editor

-    The EU7FLEGT project, led by the Regional Environmental Authority of the Province of Risaralda (CARDER), promotes forest governance and law improvement contributing to legal timber production increase and trade in two regions in Colombia: the Coffee Growing zone and North Eastern Andes.

-    Natural forests in Colombia supply about 80% of the wood used in the country, providing also other products such as medicine plants and raw materials for handicrafts. However, these continue to be devastated and degraded.

-    A global study published by the World Bank in 2006 estimates that illegal logging in Colombia reaches 42% of total timber production. As this is an extractive activity that requires low investment, illegal logging is carried out both on a large scale to meet basic needs and provide fuel for domestic activities. Some analysts argue illegal forestry in Colombia mounts as high as 75%, whilst in the world this practice represents between 20 and 40% of global wood production.

-    According to the World Bank, between 10 and 15 billion dollars are lost each year due to illegal timber trade, reducing significantly the funds aimed for educational, health, social and/or environmental programmes.

-    About 13 million hectares of natural forest are lost annually worldwide by illegal timber trafficking. In the Brazilian Amazon 80% of the logging is illegal, same in Bolivia, whereas in Colombia it goes down to 40%. In Cameroon this activity represents 50% and 73% in Indonesia. These are some of the most affected countries.

-    WWF estimates that between 26.5 and 31 million cubic meters of timber (16 to 19%) imported by the European Union has an illegal origin. The most-prized species due to its strength, aesthetic appearance and durability are Hymenaea courbaril, Tabebuia serratifolia, Bowdichia nitida, Manilkara bidentata, Swietenia macrophylla and Tectona grandis.

-    WWF has been working in the Chocó Darién Ecoregion in sustainable forest management with the purpose of strengthening and benefiting the ethnic communities’ forest management processes, where timber prices and trade are constrained by irregular practices.

-    Global Forest Trade Network (GFTN): The Global Forest and Trade Network is a WWF global initiative that promotes responsible trade in forest products and encourage demand for wood that comes from certified forests or in the process of being certified, looking forward to sustainability and profitability. GFTN statistics:
  • 17 trading networks in 30 countries
  • 359 organizations amongst forest owners, manufacturers, construction sector, brokers and investors
  • 21,214,804 hectares of managed forest
  • 8,214,804 hectares of certified forests
  • More than 45 million m3 in wood purchase
  • About US $19 billion in timber trade.

-    Voluntary Forestry Certification (VFC) under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) scheme is a forest management accreditation system that verifies rules and procedures compliance of forest management, based on environmental, economic and social issues. In Colombia, the initiative is being implemented through the VFC Working Group that is part of the FSC national project. So far, it has achieved the certification of about 60 thousand hectares of woodland (305 of bamboo and 58 thousand of wood plantations).

-    The joint cooperation of the European Union and WWF Colombia is focused both on forest governance and responsible consumption projects, as well as conservation and sustainable development programs.  The latter focuses on specific landscapes key to preserve the biodiversity of the country and the region, such as the Andean-Amazon Piedmont, the Putumayo River and the Chocó-Darién Ecoregion. The projects funded by the European Community where WWF participates either as a partner or recipient are:
  • Living Landscape: Conservation, Regional Integration and Local Development in the Eastern Mountain Range, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru
  • Landscape of Conservation and Sustainable Development: Strengthening a Regional System of Protected Areas and Indigenous Territories in the Tri-national Basin of the Putumayo River.
  • Forests and ethnic territories in the Chocó-Darién Ecoregion: Land Protection, Management and Responsible Forest Products´ Trade.

For further information
Karla Miliani
Media Consultant – WWF Colombia
Mob + 57 (312) 367 91 51
Transport of wood on the colombian roads.