Remarks Presented by Hon. Raphael G.C. Trotman, MP, Minister of Natural Resources at the Launching Ceremony of the Guyana Forestry Commission/FAO-EU FLEGT Programme Project:
“Improving FLEGT Readiness of 69 Community Forestry Organizations (CFO) through increased awareness of related regulations.”
May 28, 2018
The EU FAO FLEGT Programme is a part of a global effort that is supported by the EU to implement the FLEGT Action Plan, adopted in 2003 by EU Member States in response to the global environmental, economic and social consequences of the illegal timber trade.
The Action Plan outlines a series of supply- and demand-side measures to improve forest governance and legality in the forest sector and ultimately enable Sustainable Forest Management (SFM).
Grants of up to €100 000 are channelled through the EU FAO FLEGT Programme to government institutions, private sector organizations and “grassroots” civil society in timber-producing developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America to support locally driven processes that put the FLEGT Action Plan into practice. By only supporting actions that are requested directly by stakeholders, the programme enables local ownership of the FLEGT process.
In these few simple sentences, we find an objective that is succinctly laid out – one in which through individual, community, national and global efforts, the sustainable development goals are achieved one, by one, from country to country; thus ensuring that the future of planet and its peoples is safeguarded and thus guaranteed.
The importance of the sustainable utilization of our forest resources cannot be underscored enough. We see forests the world over, having increasing significance, especially natural tropical forests. Guyana’s forests therefore have enormous national, regional and international significance in terms of economic benefits and employment generated, foreign exchange earnings at the national level, and perhaps most importantly, contribution to the mitigation of adverse climate change effects at the global level.
We remain grounded though, in the recognition that this vast resource must be used for the equitable sustainable development of our people, the stewards and users of the forest – importantly at community level. This therefore requires forest resources especially at the level of communities, to be utilized in keeping with environmentally sound practices, for the provision of food, employment and income generation that would be necessary to support community livelihoods.
In Guyana, 133 forest concessions totaling over 1.2 million acres or 500,000 hectares of forest lands have been allocated to 69 community forestry groups; these small and medium scale community operators contribute over 60% of the total production in the forest sector. I am informed that this afternoon the GFC Board will approve some more concessions, which will benefit some communities directly.
Additionally, these community stakeholders employ over 2,000 persons and are exporting forest produce to many markets. Many of our value-added manufacturers and exporters rely largely on community level production to sustain their operations. As an enabling and responsible Government, we believe that benefits need to flow directly and quickly to forest users and communities, and access must not be restricted to just large operators.
Two 2018 initiatives supporting this policy position are the establishment of a consolidated stock yard, which will over time give rise to a guaranteed market once certain criteria are met, and a National Forest Inventory which will help forest concessionaires in better planning of their harvesting, extraction and marketing activities. This budgetary support is in the sum of $50M and $125M respectively, for a total of $175M. This support for the forestry sector came after rounds of engagements with the GMSA that were initiated by the Ministry of Finance
We must continue to intensify our efforts for poverty reduction and improve livelihoods by ensuring that forest resources are put to the best possible use whilst not compromising environmental sustainability. We are therefore very pleased that this effort to build capacity at the community level on FLEGT-related compliance is being supported by our international partners at the EU and FAO.
Our work with the EU on FLEGT provides the necessary high quality accreditation the market is looking for and gives the assurance that sustainable forest management protocols and legality standards are being followed. The EU has been a long standing and reliable partner for Guyana.
Similarly, the FAO has been a solid forestry counterpart for decades. Our partnership with the FAO dates back to the very early work on the first national scale forest inventory, and participatory forestry. Currently, FAO is also contributing to other FLEGT initiatives.
Guyana expresses its gratitude to you both for your tangible support and we look forward to other international partners also becoming very engaged in similar initiatives.
This project will see a joint effort of the GFC, working with local partners, the GRA, NIS and the Department of Labour to expand training and awareness on mandatory requirements for forest operators that go beyond those typically included in forest training exercises such as log tracking and reduced impact logging, to areas of compliance with tax laws, insurance requirements, and labour laws.
It is expected that this partnership will see a stronger, more integrated and synergistic implementation of agreed legality standards. The beneficiaries of this outcome will be community operators and residents in forest based areas.
The GFC has a national mandate to promote Sustainable Forestry Management (SFM) in Guyana in keeping with national laws and international standards and agreements and has been successful in this regard, evident by Guyana’s rate of deforestation still being one of the lowest globally. In the year 2016, this rate was verified by international auditors at a mere 0.05 %.
As such, Guyana has long been recognized internationally as a country that practices SFM at the concession management unit level. We are also considered to be a global leader in the fight against climate change and our Monitoring, Reporting and Verification System (MRVS) is second to none, another achievement that was born through partnership – this time with the Kingdom of Norway.
Despite these advances, we remain committed to reviewing and revising our legislative and policy framework when necessary, to ensure that the sector operates in the best governance framework. Accordingly, in April 2018, after a thorough stakeholder engagement process Cabinet approved the revised visionary National Forest Plan and Policy Statement laying the platform for the next phase of forest development activities.
To further advance this already robust Ssustainable Forest Management environment in Guyana, new forestry regulations and the Code of Practice for Forest Operations were tabled on May 11, 2018 in the National Assembly. The achievements in the governance of the Forestry sector have been qualitative.
EU FLEGT is another critical aspect of this governance framework. It is anticipated that by August 2018 we will be able to initial the FLEGT VPA agreement after some six (6) years of national and international stakeholder engagement.
This will start the formal implementation of the preparedness stage following which FLEGT licenses will be issued. The project that we are launching today, valued at USD $54,500, is an instrumental part of this preparedness process and we are effectively making an early start in meeting these commitments. Today we are signaling to the EU, FAO and other partners that we are committed and eager to see the first license being issued under FLEGT.
The direct beneficiaries of this project are encouraged to make the best possible use of this opportunity to gain new knowledge over the next 18 months, thereby improving the quality of community operations to the benefit of all.
I wish the project’s implementing partners and participants every success and once again celebrate the valuable partnerships that continue to be strengthened in the forestry sector.
Thank you and God Bless.