Forests and Human Health Jan-16-2013

Giving productive value to the forest

Evelyn Vargas Carmona,
communication specialist, FINNFOR, forests and forest management in central America, CATIE, Costa Rica (Translated by Justine Kent)

Generally, when the forests make the news in Central America, it is because a cargo of illegal wood has been discovered, because there is a forest fire, or because someone got lost in the woods, that is to say when there is something scandalous to report. In addition, the forests are understood, particularly by the urban population, as places of preservation, which should not be touched. The press makes it evident that in Central America; the forests are not conceived as engines of economic, social and environmental development.

Within this context, CATIE (Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center), sponsored by Finnish cooperation conceived the Finnfor project, Forests and Forest Management in Central America. This is a regional and interdisciplinary initiative, which, since 2009, seeks to strengthen and multiply the use and adequate ecological, economically competitive, and socially equitable management of forest ecosystems in seven countries.

With the objective of contributing to the elimination of selected barriers to production and sustainable management of forest goods and services, Finnfor undertook its work in a region with a forest richness made up of more than 26 million hectares, between forests and under forested lands, according to data from the Global Forest Resource Assessment 2010 (FRA) by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.

Under the leadership of Doctor Tania Ammour, a team of 45 professionals spread across Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Belize and the region of Trifinio, the border area among Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, focused its efforts on the generation, management, and dissemination of knowledge, on strengthening capacities of locals, as well as influencing forest policies and norms. All of this supported by its main strategy: working with and through partner organizations, which reached the number of one hundred.

Harvest time

After three years of effort, the harvest has been abundant. With respect to material for management, and dissemination of knowledge, these are some of the fruits collected.

The website of the project has a total of 63 technical and extension free downloadable materials available. The incidence on the mass communication media has earned spaces in the regional agenda to incorporate a positive approach to forestry reaching in the first half of 2012, media management of more than $166,000 dollars.

The series of documentaries on community forest management “The Community for the Forest” portrays experiences of rural and indigenous communities from Panama, Nicaragua, Honduras, Guatemala and Costa Rica; this audiovisual production is available on YouTube, on the project Forest Management Channel.

With respect to influencing policy, some indications of the impact achieved by Finnfor during the implementation of its first phase (2009-2012) include: In August of 2011, there was a consensus between the Ministry of Natural Resources (MARN) and the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock (MAG) of El Salvador to adjust their forestry policy. Also, the project was able to provide technical input on the elaboration of the National Forestry Development Plan (PNDF) 2011-2020 in Costa Rica. In Copán, Honduras, Finnfor provided support to the Forestry Conservation Institute (ICF) in the generation of a favorable legal framework for forestry development, with the formulation of simplified norms for forest management plans in areas less than 100 hectares. In addition, in Trifinio, the project participated in the formulation of the border public policy "Bosques para Siempre" (Forests Forever), driven by the Trinational Mancommunity of Río Lempa, an initiative which will implement an incentive fund to promote forest sector development.

With respect to strengthening local capacities, hundreds of training activities, formal courses, workshops, exchanges, field trips, dissemination events, conferences, congresses as well as graduate and undergraduate courses trained more than 5700 people.

The forestry fair in the Peninsula of Nicoya 2011, made a party of wood in Costa Rica.   Forestry competitions animated the National Forestry Expo Fair Siguatepeque 2012, in Honduras.

In 2011, national forestry fairs were organized in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Honduras with the participation of more than 10,000 people, allowing for the generation of more than $350,000 in small business income. The Honduras Forestry Fair, adopted by the National Forest Science School (ESNACIFOR), was able to generate a total of $184,000 in 2012.

All of these activities have combined to provide value to the forest, but much still remains to be done. Finnfor has recently begun its second phase, from October 2012 through March of 2015. The focus will be on adding value to the wood supply chains and work will be focused on Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala.

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