FSC Friday #2: Suspension of FSC certificate of Endesa-Botrosa in Ecuador

The following article has been submitted by Klaus Schenck of Salva la Selva.

Suspension of FSC certificate of Endesa-Botrosa in Ecuador

By Klaus Schenck, September 2009

When Ecuadorian Timber Group Durini obtained the longtime announced FSC certificate for 8,380 hectares of its industrial timber plantations in April 2006, this was loudly celebrated by the timber lobby as a milestone for Ecuadorian wood industry and “forest” management. In contrast the suspension of the certificate two and a half years later, happened quietly and without any notice by the public.

On 27th of November 2008 German certifier GFA suspended the FSC seal of Rio Pitzará Forest Management Unit (GFA-FM/COC-1267), the industrial timber plantations of the infamous Timber Group Durini in Ecuador. The reason has been the use of a banned pesticide. According to the evaluation report the pesticide Fluramide (active component sulfluramid), prohibited by FSC, was found on the plantation. The pesticide is being used to control defoliating ant (Atta sp.).

Since then, the group did not contact GFA or tried to regain the certificate, explained GFA by phone. Maybe Durini does not need the certificate anymore, or the prohibition of the use of the pesticide is a requirement which cannot be fulfilled by the company. Anyway, in Ecuador the Durini Group and its plywood companies Endesa (Quito) and Botrosa (Quinindé) and timber extraction company Setrafor are synonymous for the destruction of the Northwestern tropical rainforests and its habitants: indigenous Chachi, Embera, Awá and Afroecuadorian communities, as well as countless numbers of animal and plant species. For more than thirty years the Durini Group has plundered the lowlands forests on the Pacific coast as a resource of cheap timber. The so called “selective” logging has shrunk the former continuous forests to some forests remnants in the remote parts of some indigenous territories.

Social conflicts have also been daily bread, like the case of a property covering 3,123 hectares known as El Pambilar, allocated to Botrosa in 1998 by the National Agrarian Development Institute (INDA). After over two years of violent confrontations between peasants and company staff, complaints and official investigations, in 2000 the Ministry of the Environment confirmed that 90% of the land (2,830 hectares) was located within the State Forestry Heritage (PFE) and had been illegally allocated. The Ministry decided that Endesa-Botrosa must return the land to the State and the Constitutional Tribunal resolved that the peasants should be compensated by the company for the prejudice caused to them. Until today, the peasants still wait for any recompensation, and some of them like campesino leader Floresmilo Villalta, have been thrown to prison.

As an important player in the forestry sector, Endesa-Botrosa has been supported for years by a number of public and international organizations, like the federally owned German Technical Cooperation Agency (GTZ) and USAID, and industry financed NGOs like Fundación Natura and its partners WWF, IUCN and The Nature Conservancy (TNC). An important part of the plywood is sold under the brand Sandeply to ten countries abroad, among them the US, Mexico, and the Caribean. Oregon based Colombia Forest Products, imports Sandeply to the US, which is sold at important retailer chains like Lowes and Home Depot.

Photograph: Cessation of illegal logging of Durini group by the Ecuadorian Environment Minister Ana Alban and Director of the National Forest near the Awa territory in 2006.

The case of Endesa-Botrosa is symptomatic of the key problems of FSC. The company did not lose the certificate because of its ongoing destructive logging in primary community forests of Esmeraldas and Pichincha provinces, neither the devastating environmental and social impacts of large scale industrial timber plantations. The reason was because of a technical “detail”, the use of a forbidden pesticide. That’s how the “logic” of FSC works. FSC certifier GFA handled the plantation company as a legally independent company, which cannot be blamed for the crimes committed by the other companies of the same Durini group, namely Endesa, Botrosa and Setrafor. In the meantime, the struggle against the Durini Group in Ecuador goes on.

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