Building a forest governance framework in Latin America
Bolivia’s experience in developing a new forest certification mechanism based on national regulations, laws and policies, was a starting point to motivate a forest governance-learning group.
“It is important we work with relevant stakeholders to influence drivers of deforestation and degradation as we strive to combat illegal logging and timber trade,” said Jordi Surkin, Conservation Director, WWF Bolivia.
Jose Luis Osinaga, Conservation Director of the Bolivian Forests and Lands Authority (ABT), stated that, “though the adoption of the Bolivian Forest Certification and Incentives System (SBCBi) is mandatory for all forest users, to ensure compliance we needed to shift from a controlling agent, and become a promoter and facilitator of best practices in forest management. We trust that by creating enabling conditions, the beneficial outcomes of complying with certification standards will motivate the adoption of more sustainable management criteria in the sector.”
Visitors from Panamá and Peru had the opportunity to meet with the National Forest Chamber of Bolivia to discuss how the current situation of the private timber sector articulates with national forestry schemes and mechanisms.
“This paradigm must be promoted amongst our countries; our governments need to integrate the private sector as part of the conservation strategy to achieve transformational change and eliminate deforestation. Collaboration and partnerships among governments, businesses, civil society and forest users is important. The Government of Bolivia has a lot to share in the region; we must promote cooperation agreements amongst our countries.” Carlos Espinosa, Forestry Specialist, WWF Panamá.
Additionally, an experiential-learning visit to the Santa Monica community allowed participants to partake in a practical demonstration of the evaluation process implemented jointly by the ABT and the National Indigenous Forest Association (AFIN).
Rafael Venegas, from WWF Peru observed that, “a distinctive feature of the Bolivian system is that the ABT takes into consideration the results of field implementation and adapts regulations accordingly, and not vice versa. This is key because it helps to avoid heavily bureaucratic procedures that limit effective and efficient governance practices. Sharing local experiences in the field has also been vital to portray lessons in accountability from forest users.”
Visitors were presented with in-depth details of the certification system’s components, which include performance evaluation criteria, incentives for compliance by forest users, and an innovative tracking system that uses inexpensive and accessible smartphone technology to track the timber supply chain.
A field trip to a pilot plot where the tracking system has been implemented, demonstrated how the tags identifiers and the digital tracking system worked together with the use of smartphones, relaying and feeding data into an online platform which facilitates access to effective, timely and transparent information regarding the status of forest management in Bolivia. The use of electronic and digital devices has proved to be an efficient mechanism to verify the legality of the timber tracking process. This has made obtaining certification easier and faster, as it minimizes risks.
Following the field trip, participants had the chance to meet with the company that developed this tracking tool to explore the possibilities of applying this technology in other countries in the region.
As a result of the learning tour, representatives from Panama’s government, civil society and private sector now are working on a proposal to create a certification scheme in Panama similar to the one in Bolivia, including provisions for traceability and incentives. Peru’s National Forest and Wildlife Service (SERFOR) has expressed interest in exploring the possibility of another learning tour to introduce additional Peruvian government authorities to the SBCBi.
At the closure of the event, participants concluded that in order to develop effective guidance in forest governance, it was important to understand policy dynamics in a multi-stakeholder and multi-level scenario, while balancing social, environmental, and economic goals.