Congo pygmies use GPS to map eco-certified timber concession
May 29, 2008
The 750,000-hectare tract of forest, located in the Republic of Congo, is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), a system intended to ensure environmentally-responsible logging.
The concession is operated by Congolaise Industrielle des Bois (CIB), a subsidiary of DLH Group, a timber products firm based in Denmark.
"Timber production does not have to be synonymous with the destruction of tropical forests," said Scott Poynton, executive director of the Tropical Forest Trust (TFT), an NGO that works with industry to reduce its impact on forests. "What we hope to demonstrate with our work in the Congo and elsewhere is that there are rewards for companies that do things the right way. Now it is up to consumer markets to respond to this increase in availability of FSC products and chose sustainably produced wood product over those from dubious origins."
As part of the effort, TFT has trained forest-dwelling Pygmies in GPS mapping.
"Using icon-based, Global Positioning System (GPS) units designed for non-literate people, the semi-nomadic Pygmies living within the forest concession walk through their forest and locate resources or areas of significance," stated a statement issued by the partnership. "For instance, at a large Sapelli tree prized for its edible caterpillars, or an important collecting area for medicinal plants, they simply select the appropriate icon and the GPS records the location. This data forms the basis for resource maps, which bridge the communication gap between the people in the forest and the forest company and enable a fair negotiation."
CIB says that in addition to Pygmies and a community of over 15,000 people, the forest concession supports a diversity of threatened large mammal species including elephant, chimpanzees and gorillas.
While CIB states that "application of the FSC's principles ensures that the forest will continue to sustain the biodiversity the people and animals depend on", some environmentalists have recently criticized the FSC for failing to consistently hold companies to its stated certification standards. Last year the FSC was forced to pull certification for Asia Pulp & Paper after an investigation by the Wall Street Journal revealed damaging logging practices by the timber giant.