…focuses on lesser known species
The Guyana Forestry Commission will be focusing on promoting the harvesting of lesser used species of timber during this year, even as the Forestry Bill engages the attention of a select committee in the National Assembly.
Yesterday, Minister of Agriculture, Robert Persaud, said that he is optimistic that the draft Forestry Bill will be approved by Parliament very early this year. The Minister was at the time addressing a gathering at the Guyana Forestry Commission during the presentation of Timber Graders’ Certificates to 18 persons from Essequibo, Berbice and Demerara.
During his address, Minister Persaud said that the Forest Bill is a ‘very modern piece’ of legislation, adding that it is one that has benefited from over ten years of stakeholder inputs.
He pointed out that the Bill also takes into consideration all of the most recent advances that have taken place in the forestry sector and related field at the national and international levels.
When the law comes into effect, it will require the updating of several guiding documents for the sector such as the National Forest Policy, National Forest Plan, and GFC Guidelines for Sustainable Forest Management.
The GFC will also be required to work with all stakeholders to finalise a Strategic Plan for the Forestry Sector.
This year the GFC focus will continue to be on ensuring that sustainable forest management practices are adhered to by all concessionaires, Persaud added.
Addressing the focus that will be placed on promoting the lesser used species, Persaud said that there was a project last year, supported by International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO) aimed at promoting the lesser used species that entails physical and mechanical tests being done by internationally credible laboratories on fifteen strategically chosen species.
The results showed that at least eight of the 15 lesser used species tested have properties which are comparable to, or even better than greenheart.
“I have charged the GFC to work on a continuous basis with the sector in 2009 to promote the use of these species locally and internationally, and to explore the potential of other batches of lesser used species,” the Minister said.
He told the new timber grading certifiers that they must recognise that the grading of forest products is an important marketing tool.
In this global competitive environment, Minister Persaud added, consumers are demanding greater assurances of quality and as such grading of the product and verification of that grade by the GFC is the first step in providing the level of comfort to buyers and consumers in and out of Guyana.
The forestry legislation, he said, requires all timber products for both export and local sales to be graded.
The GFC has advised that during the period 2006-2008, a total of 120 persons successfully completed Timber Grading courses, which were held in Berbice, Demerara and Essequibo.
He added that he expects the sector to take advantage of these timber grading services that are now abundantly available in all three counties.
In cautioning the new certifiers, the Minister added that the GFC has been tasked to take the necessary corrective action if it is verified that individuals are not displaying the expected professionalism.
Tackling the positive aspect of the sector, Persaud said that log exports for last year declined considerably when compared to the 2007 figures.
Log exports for last year were 92,400 cubic metres representing 33.6 percent of total log production (275,320 cubic metres) as compared to 2007 where log exports (157,097 cubic metres) represented 48 percent of total log production (330,374 cubic metres).
Conversely, he added, exports of lumber increased over the 2007 values.
The export of sawn lumber in 2008 was 47,602 cubic metres representing 71 percent of total production (66,958 cubic metres) when compared to export of sawn lumber in 2007 which was 43,824 cubic metres or 58.9 percent of total production (74,363 cubic metres).
“This is very commendable. Stakeholders adapted to the policy even prior to the date of effective implementation,” he added.
There is however, another initiative that Guyana is seeking to benefit from namely Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation or the REDD mechanism, which according to Persaud falls short of the country’s expectations.
Research, he said, has shown that deforestation and forest degradation contribute to more that 20 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, thus contributing to climate change.
“Climate change is taking its toll on Guyana, not only leading to flood, but also to disruption of forestry activities as we saw in 2008.”
Traditionally, Guyana has a very low rate of deforestation.
International organizations, such as the Food Agriculture Organization, have recorded Guyana’s rate of deforestation as less than one percent.
Guyana therefore is not expected to benefit much, he stated.
The country can however make informed assumptions as to what its projected rate of deforestation could be in the future based on development considerations.
For Guyana such considerations would be associated with the opening of the Takutu Bridge and the increased trade between Guyana and Brazil.
“We can then identify potential alternative employment opportunities, which would allow the foregoing of those activities that would have led to increased emissions. The FCPF would be willing to support these alternative employment opportunities, provided that certain conditions are adhered to.”
The Minister pointed out to the gathering yesterday that the forestry sector must also remember its obligation to foster the creation of maximum employment opportunities for Guyanese and assist the policy of social improvement and poverty alleviation especially in the hinterland communities.
“This can only come about through value adding at every opportunity with Kiln Drying being an absolute requirement for this to occur. GFC will also have to contribute to the national effort on seeking compensation for avoided deforestation and REDD activities.
“This will entail detailed studies on carbon stock assessment and the development of better monitoring tools which utilize state of the art technology,” Persaud added.
Over 85 percent of Guyana’s land mass is forested with the sector providing direct employment for some 25,000 persons.
The sector contributes 4.5 percent to the Guyana’s Gross Domestic Product.
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