WWF decides that biggest tropical logging certificate was not such a good thing after all

Back in January, FSC-Watch reported that the largest FSC certified tropical logging operation (Barama, in Guyana) had had its certificate suspended. One of the interesting aspects of this was that WWF had been working closely with the company for some time, providing technical advice and helping the company to get its certificate. This was clearly an embarrassment for WWF, who had only 9 months earlier breathlessly exclaimed that the certificate was a record-setting accomplishment for tropical forest conservation in South America. In February, WWF US’s senior forest programme officer Bruce Cabarle joined representatives of Barama in an urgent meeting with FSC’s Executive Director in an effort to have the certificate reinstated (which the FSC Secretariat rightly resisted).

In a new twist to the story, following a field inspection in March, WWF has now ‘discovered’ that Barama’s logging operation does indeed suffer a number of inadequacies that render it uncertifiable. In the short report of its inspection (available below), WWF found that there are ‘questions’ about the silvicultural aspects of Barama’s operations, workers’ living conditions, health and sanitation “remain wanting”, that environmental impacts assessments “have not been fully implemented”, and that there is actually not even a management plan for one of the formerly certified logging compartments.

Far from Barama’s certificate being the historic milestone of a only a year ago, WWF have now warned that “Continued WWF support to [Barama] towards the reinstatement of its FSC certificate will be considered in light of [Barama’s] response to the above challenges. WWF has reiterated its call to both Barama and its parent company, Samling, to make a high-level commitment to responsible forestry according to the rigorous standards of FSC.”

This inevitably raises the question as to how, in its long relationship with Barama, WWF failed to spot these problems, and why it was working with Barama in February to get the certificate reinstated, when it had evidently not checked properly whether such reinstatement was justified.

It further casts doubt on WWF’s relationships with other large logging companies that aim to get certified, such as German company Danzer, which owns one of the Congo’s largest logging companies, SIFORCO. As well as being one of the region’s leading suppliers of endangered and CITES-listed Afrormosia timber, SIFORCO has also recently tried to use the courts to suppress protests against it by local people, who feel mistreated by the company. Danzer, and others, might wonder whether their ‘help’ from WWF in getting FSC certfied will end up in a fiasco similar to that now experienced by Barama.

WWF’s full statement on its field inspection of Barama is available here:WWFStatementBCLvisitFebMar07Final300407.pdf


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