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Mar 26, 2012

Loggers meet in the South to discuss Rosewood

Since she took office only about two weeks ago, Lisel Alamilla had hit the ground running. Government confirmed this morning, that the portfolio responsibility of Indigenous People has been dropped from Minister Lisel Alamilla. When the responsibility was first announced on March thirteenth, the Maya Leaders Alliance (MLA) came out saying that there are eminently qualified persons within the Maya community who well understood the interests of the indigenous people. The MLA questioned whether the government would have created a Ministry of Creole People or Mestizo People without consultation with those communities, and if they would have appointed a non-Creole or non-Mestizo to “handle” the relationship with those communities. Well, the Prime Minister has step backed and Alamilla’s Ministry is now the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development.  Alamilla still has her hands full with the Rosewood situation. Since declaring the moratorium, she has been applauded by environmentalists and upset loggers who earn substantial amounts from the trade. Over the weekend, loggers held a meeting to discuss the moratorium. News Five Isani Cayetano reports.

 

An immediate stay on the extraction of rosewood has presented a stumbling block for quite a number of loggers whose primary means of income is the commercial exploitation of valuable timber.  In mid-2011 the issue of harvesting in the south made headlines when it was brought to light that the wholesale despoliation of rosewood was out of control.  Since the re-election of the Barrow Administration earlier this month swift measure has been taken to suspend the activity without delay.  While that decision appeases the conservation community it has been met with harsh criticism by industry stakeholders.

 

Here in Mafredi, a village several miles northwest of Punta Gorda Town, Eduardo Villafranco is bearing the adverse effect of the moratorium.  As a newcomer to the trade he has invested substantially in acquiring roughly sixty thousand board feet of rosewood, a pile of lumber he needs to sell in order to make a profit.

 

Eduardo Villafranco

Eduardo Villafranco, Rosewood Dealer

“It’s like a livelihood for us here in Toledo since we have problems getting paid for rice.  So everybody decided to do something else noh.”

 

Villafranco, like others in the business, finds himself in a pickle.  He is of the opinion that the resolution to bring rosewood harvesting to a screeching halt, without any notice given prior to that abrupt decision, was a knee-jerk reaction.

 

Eduardo Villafranco

“We hope that the government will take a quick step on it noh and let’s get moving because the longer it stays here the more people lose because it’s out in the sun and it gets all cracked up and stuff like that and then the prices are going to drop because of that, you know.”

 

Villafranco is one of a handful of dealers who attests that those affected most by the freeze are the many tree cutters who depend heavily on income derived from logging.

 

Isani Cayetano

A firsthand experience of what the operation entails means joining a group of lumberjacks by boat up the Moho River to an area known as Boom Creek.  Along the banks of this tributary are loads of harvested rosewood; the process however, takes place in the dense wilderness.  To get there we traverse an often treacherous dirt road by tractor.

 

Isani Cayetano

“Deep inside the Boom Creek forest, some two miles off the banks of the Moho River in the Toledo District, a gang of eleven men has gathered here where they are harvesting rosewood.  This is their lifeline, the only means by which they are able to feed their families and educate their children.”

 

Israel Sanchez

Israel Sanchez, a resident of this community, has been cutting rosewood for almost four years.

 

Israel Sanchez, Logger

“As you can see around here we have a lot [of trees].  We don’t cut the small, small ones them.  We cut only the good sized ones them and we leave the seedling trees also fu mek we could got some more rosewood.”

 

The question of sustainability is central to the issue of rosewood harvesting.  While Sanchez and his workmen are responsible in their practice there are others who aren’t as conscientious about the environment.  That carelessness, which ultimately led to the moratorium, will cost veteran dealer Sylvester Choc dearly.

 

Sylvester Choc, Rosewood Dealer

Sylvester Choc

“If you buy wah hundred thousand feet you make about thirty percent profit.  It’s profitable but since the competition has started then ih no practical because sometime people change the price and we sell about four [dollars and] fifty [cents].  We have to pay about four [dollars] twenty-five [cents] to the buyers them.  We have to pay royalty to the government [so] it’s critical when there is competition.  Like the other shop when there is too much competition ih get the same way that’s why I wahn quit it.”

 

But for Choc to withdraw his stake in the business he needs to find market for forty thousand board feet of rosewood.  Purely financial, it is the equivalent of a hundred and sixty thousand dollars he has invested in purchasing the precious lumber.

 

Sylvester Choc

“Sometimes yo got profit and loss.  Yo cyan’t think that you wah profit all the time.”

 

Isani Cayetano

“Yo haffi prepare for the rainy days.”

 

Sylvester Choc

“Yes.  But right now I deh eena di hole.”

 

Santos Sanchez

After expenses, a hundred thousand dollars of which he owes to the bank, Choc will pocket the balance. For Santos Sanchez, a local feller, rosewood is what keeps Boom Creek thriving.

 

Santos Sanchez, Rosewood Cutter

“Everybody is being affected because we cannot bring food to the table if we don’t sell this rosewood because this is our only hope, there is nothing more.  You know, in the village we have a lot of them [residents] affected too.  Some of them, the people are not sending their children to school because they don’t have no income, you know, and it’s really, really hard for us.”

 

Despite an inability to sell their product the team lumbers on.  Each load of rosewood is transported to the riverside by tractor.  There the contents are discharged and stockpiled for shipment downstream.  It’s a livelihood that has been deemed illegal, work they wouldn’t mind giving up had they been forewarned of its impending prohibition. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.

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2 Responses for “Loggers meet in the South to discuss Rosewood”

  1. juan says:

    These people continue having people cutting rosewood even with a monotorium in place. Under the cover of darkness in Toledo recently they continue to cut and extract rosewood, and are stocking it at their business location. There is total disregard to the laws of our country.

  2. juan says:

    Forestry need to monitor another business just one mile from the southern highway leading to San Felipe, where a getleman is stocking up on freshly cutted rosewood, where are the Forestry officer doing the monitoring. These people are telling villigers to cut during the night and they would pick it up.

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