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Symposium and Workshop “Forest Certification in Developing and Transitioning Societies: Social, Economic and Ecological Effects” June 10-14, 2004; Yale University, New Haven, CT. Forest Certification in Guatemala: Progress, Achievements, and Challenges. Fernando Carrera, Dietmar Stoian,

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Forest certification in guatemala progress achievements and challenges l.jpg

Symposium and Workshop “Forest Certification in Developing

and Transitioning Societies: Social, Economic and Ecological Effects”June 10-14, 2004; Yale University, New Haven, CT

Forest Certification in Guatemala: Progress, Achievements, and Challenges

Fernando Carrera, Dietmar Stoian,

José Joaquín Campos, Julio Morales

& Gustavo Pinelo

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Guauhtemallan = "Land of Trees"

Particularities of the Guatemalan case:

  • Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR): 95% of the area certified  forest concessions (usufruct rights)

  • Mandatory forest certification (FSC) for concessions in multiple use zone of MBR

  • 99% of total area certified: tropical broadleaved forest mahogany

  • 74% of total area certified: community forests

  • Timber certification (no NTFP)

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Maya Biosphere Reserve






Core area



Multiple use



Buffer zone






Guatemalan System of Protected Areas

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The Forest Concession Process

  • 1960-1988: Largely uncontrolled timber exploitation in Petén

  • 1989: Creation of the National Council for Protected Areas (CONAP)

  • 1990: Creation of Maya Biosphere Reserve (MBR)

  • 1994: First concession awarded (San Miguel)

  • 1996: Forest certification workshop (SmartWood)

  • 1998: three more concessions awarded

  • 1999: Mandatory forest certification

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Initial Situation in the MBR, 1990-1995

Low degree of governance

Illicit exploitation of natural resources

Deforestation (advance of the agricul-tural frontier) and forest degradation (indiscriminate timber exploitation)

Looting of archeological monuments

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Current situation

  •  500,000 ha tropical broadleaved forest certified

  • MBR: 11 concessions certified: 9 community and 2 industrial concessions in multiple use zone

  • Outside MBR: 4 cooperatives / municipal ejidos

  • More than 7,000 direct beneficiaries

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Power Game

The State

Initially indifference of CONAP, now support

Industrial concessions

Initially skepticism, now commitment

Community concessions

Initially obligation, now obligation or commitment

Certified cooperatives / municipal ejidos

Indifference  certification induced by NGOs


ENGOs: first skepticism, now support

Certification bodies

SmartWood Monopoly

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Control of forest fires

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Certified Wood Production (1)

Source: Unpublished data provided by Chemonics

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Certified Wood Production (2)

Source: Unpublished data provided by Chemonics

Note: n.a. = not available

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Positive impacts of certification

  • Prestige and security in the process of concession granting

  • Improved organization and administration of forest resources by community groups and private owners

  • Improved safety of forest workers

  • Better conservation of forest resources

  • Better understanding of sound forest management

  • Access to certified product markets for some enterprises

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Negative impacts of certification

  • Increased indirect costs of certification  at times excessively demanding standards

  • High costs but low (monetary) benefits

  • Disappointment among some community groups frustrated expectation of price premiums

  • Sense of abandonment by community groups once NGOs suspend certification subsidies

  • Lacking sense of ownership among community members

  • "Injustice" due to variation in the application of assessment criteria between different teams

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Conclusions (1)

  • Certification inserted in already existing process towards sustainable forest management (SFM)

  • Mandatory forest certification further boosts SFM in multiple use zone of MBR

  • Community operations: subsidized certification

  • High certification costs pose a challenge to community operations

  • Mahogany "subsidizes" forest certification

  • Little expansion of certification anticipated  small-scale forest management units and absence of mahogany outside Petén; few plantations

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Conclusions (2)

  • Governance impact of certification: CONAP strengthened (concessions), third party control

  • Management impact: relatively little  control of forest fires largely due to concession process

  • Social impact: increased self-esteem among some communities, stimulus for organization, lacking sense of ownership

  • Economic impact: Achilles' heel of certification  commercialization largely via traditional distribution channels, no price premiums (but higher prices!)

Need for integrated supply chain management

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Research needs (1)

  • Processes of community-based forest enterprise development

  • Thorough cost-benefit analyses of certification

  • Tendencies in national and international markets for certified forest products

  • Role of certified forest management in livelihood strategies

  • Mechanisms for adapting certification to small-scale producers

  • Analysis of alternative certification schemes for NTFPs

  • Supply chain analyses community-enterprise links, transaction costs, value adding, distribution of benefits

Need for establishing learning alliances

between key actors of the certification process