Mapping Ecuador’s timber markets

Elena Mejia, a researcher for the Centre for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), watches from a safe distance as each tree falls to the forest floor and the circle of sky above expands. She has trekked several kilometres into the jungle with the family to learn exactly how the process works.

“We wanted to know what the supply is, how the demand works, who buys, what are volumes of timber extracted, and how regulations and forest governance influences the relationships between different actors – whether formal or informal,” she said.

Using this information, as well as the government’s official statistics on legal flows of timber, they’ve produced an extensive report on the state of Ecuador’s domestic timber market, the strategies used by communities to manage their forests and make a living, and how the benefits obtained are distributed.

The information is important in the context of new regulations imposed by the European Union under the umbrella of the FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) Action Plan, which aims to exclude illegal timber from its markets and promote demand for timber that complies with national regulations for sustainable forest management.

Under the plan, countries are encouraged to sign Voluntary Partnership Agreements (VPAs) with the EU, which require not only that all export timber is of legal origin: domestic timber markets, too, must be legalised. In some cases this is no small feat in countries with widespread informal markets and a lack of legal frameworks.

Ecuador, though, is a special case, says CIFOR Senior Scientist Pablo Pacheco, who leads the Pro-Formal project in Ecuador.

Firstly, he says, the demand for native timber from the country’s Amazon forests is mainly domestic, rather than export based.  Secondly, the government has made a lot of efforts to improve forest governance and implement environmental laws in recent years.

Ecuador has in fact decided not to continue conversation with the EU with regard to the implementation of a FLEGT-VPA in the country. Despite this, Pacheco says, the country’s experience provides useful lessons for other nations to improve their forests governance and monitor illegal logging.

“Ecuador has been making important attempts to put all the different pieces of forest governance together; in terms of adjusting the forestry regulations, putting in place a system of timber monitoring, and also providing some incentives for smallholders doing forest management,” he said.

“So we are trying to understand how these efforts have been working, what hasn’t worked so well, and what lessons we can bring from Ecuador to other countries as well.”

Source: Kate Evans | CIFOR