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By Rodrigo Arce Rojas
This ideal situation does not always exist, which is why forest communities seek or are sought to establish commercial agreements with conventional forestry companies. The extent to which real control remains in the hands of one of the actors defines whether we are dealing with a community forest management scheme (where control lies in the community) or an associative forest management scheme (where real control is in the hands of the community). the company or is shared with the community).
The importance of distinguishing community forest management from associative forest management lies in the fact that community forest management is often called cases where companies work with communities with little power of real control over the destination of the forests. For reasons of inclusion, an attempt has been made to simplify the demands of forest management for the communities and when the distinction is not clear, these aids end up favoring companies rather than communities.
Commercial forest management requires investments, technology, talents and relationships to safeguard its sustainability. Not all communities have the necessary means to develop investments of this type, without ignoring the valuable knowledge they have on ecological aspects of forests, characterization of uses and properties of species, as well as soils and waters. Forest management is regulated by the authorities and requires permits that are based on forest management plans. Many times all this paperwork is complicated for the communities. This supports the need to work in partnership with third parties. These decisions are the product of the right of self-determination of the communities regardless of the position that each one may have in this regard.
Community forest management may or may not be commercial in nature. Associative forest management is inscribed in a necessarily commercial logic since the actors in the transaction are seeking to obtain legitimate profits. The extent to which one of the actors seeks a greater benefit in the transaction influences the degree of control that remains in each of the actors.
Dismissing relationships that occur illegally, not because they are not important but because they correspond to another discussion, communities have different ways in which they establish relationships with forest companies. In the Peruvian case, the most frequent modality is for the communities to offer their forests and the company provides the capital, machinery and a large part of the personnel for forest use. As a result of this agreement, there is a proportionality in the distribution of income, the majority of which corresponds to the company. In other countries there are other types of articulations that occur between communities / communal companies and forestry companies, such as selling logs, sawn or processed wood, and not a few cases of non-wood forest products. In other cases, it has been seen that forestry companies finance voluntary forest certification of community operations in order to guarantee an exclusive supply to the companies.
There are various types of relationships that exist between communities and forest companies. In some cases it is reduced to a transactional relationship of an economic nature, in others a relationship of good neighbors is sought, and in other cases companies are committed to community development. These relationships are not without differences, controversies and conflicts. Thus, for example, cases have been identified in which the parties allude to non-compliance with the terms of the contract, sometimes the communities are reprimanded and sanctioned by the forest authorities for non-compliance with the commitments of the forest management plan or by the tax administrations, all of this due to lack of clarity of the responsibilities of the actors in the transaction. To reduce these problems, the new Forestry and Wildlife Law of Peru (Law No. 29763) contemplates the shared responsibility between the community and the associated forestry company. The Community Forestry Oversight in Ucayali, Peru, is a valuable experience of communal vigilance aimed at promoting that the relations between forest companies and communities take place on equitable terms.
Forest companies that are certified are required to meet criteria and indicators that show their social and environmental responsibility. Regarding the social part, there are indigenous rights to be respected, among which are mentioned: territorial rights; customary rights; free, prior, and informed consent; rights, customs and cultures of indigenous peoples; respect for areas of special cultural, ecological, economic, religious or spiritual importance; and respect for traditional knowledge and intellectual property. Among the aspects contemplated in community relations are: employment opportunities, training, community development, mitigation of negative social impacts, and mechanisms to resolve complaints and grant fair compensation. Thus, for example, some of the contributions of certified industrial forestry companies to local communities refer to local employment, forestry training and environmental education, road maintenance, loan / rental of machinery to open neighborhood roads and even financial contributions to municipalities. .
However, the benefits the challenge of developing equitable relationships between companies and communities is still great. Carla Morsello (2009) from the University of Sao Paulo when examining the benefits of linking forest communities with cosmetic companies concludes that alliances between companies and communities in the Amazon are not a panacea. They can provide more benefits than traditional forms of trade in non-timber forest products in the Amazon, as well as improving access to markets. However, their ability to substantially transform the living conditions of the communities has not yet been demonstrated.
To advance towards a more balanced associative forest management, it is required that through dialogic processes solid relationships of trust are built, that shared objectives are jointly built and that the rights and duties of the partners are clearly defined on the basis of equity and transparency. The issue of equitable distribution of benefits is key. For companies, it is required that they not only stick to a strict business vision but also act as promoters of community development together with other actors. For the communities, it is necessary not to remain in a passive relationship of beneficiary of external support, but rather to strengthen their capacities to improve their degree of participation and control. Furthermore, it is necessary for forestry companies to take into account the cultural matrix so that an intercultural dialogue can take place.
Elson, D. (2012), Guide to Investing in Locally Controlled Forests, Growing Forest Partnerships in association with FAO, IIED, IUCN, The Forests Dialogue and the World Bank. IIED, London, UK. 140 p.
Morsello, Carla. (2009), Alliances between companies and communities in the Amazon: a cosmetic approach? In: Arborvitae. IUCN Forest Conservation Program Newsletter No. 39 pp: 4, 17