Fairtrade and Forest Stewardship Council Aim to Reinvigorate Economy in Depressed Region of Chile

The once degraded forests in the Curacautin Valley in Chile have now recovered sufficiently, after hard work over the last decades, to be able to help provide a sustainable living to the people in the area, based on fair trade and responsible forest management principles.

In the early 20th century a saw mill was constructed in Curacautin, Chile. It made plywood from the trees in the forest around the area, creating much wealth in the region. Up to a thousand employees and their families were dependent upon the operation. In the early 1980s the saw mill closed when all of the large trees of the valley had been used up. This mismanagement of the forest led to large-scale unemployment, landscape alterations, changes in water flow, destruction of wildlife habitats and negative affects on the livelihoods of the indigenous Mapuche people.

Now the Curacautin Valley is becoming one of the first in Chile to re-establish its native forest, providing its inhabitants with income through both responsible forestry technique and eco-tourism. Chile has put into place responsible forestry regulations and rights for the indigenous people. On the initiative of SSC Forestry Group of Sweden a new sawmill has been built in Curacautin, the local community has been provided with forest education and a group of small forest farmers has been organized to manage the forest resources in a sustainable way. Having both FSC and Fairtrade certification will provide incentives - such as market access, fair pricing and the Fairtrade Premium - additional funds to invest in social, economic and development projects. This will benefit the local farmers, the workers in the forest and in the saw mill as well as the local communities. The project was undertaken to demonstrate that the land has more value as a working forest rather than other non-sustainable alternatives.

Wooden floor maker Kahrs of Swedenis the first company to place an order for the FSC and Fairtrade dual-labelled timber from Chile and it will begin later in 2011 to produce flooring products, initially in limited volumes. “We are proud to be able to contribute to this development. Our hope is that we can help alleviate poverty and restore biodiversity, through offering the first flooring made of FSC-Fairtrade certified wood in the world,” said Per Skarner, CEO of Kahrs.“We want to encourage companies that share our common values of respect for nature and people to partner up with us in this important corporate social responsibility project,” he said.

The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2011 as the International Year of Forests to raise awareness on sustainable management, conservation and development of all types of forests.

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