Costa Rican officials also battling cocobolo logging

An official points out heartwood of an illegally felled cocobolo tree. Photo courtesy of the Diario Extra.

An official points out heartwood of an illegally felled cocobolo tree. Photo courtesy of the Diario Extra.

In Panama, cocobolo fever (el fiebre de cocobolo) is rising, as the dry season moves into its second month. But it's not limited to Panama. In Costa Rica, officials are battling illegal harvesting of the precious wood, facing a "mafia" that is becoming ever more sophisticated in how they smuggle the wood to market. Here's the full story (Spanish).

According to the latest International Tropical Timber Organization report, a cubic meter of cocobolo (dalbergia retusa), in one port at least, is selling for nearly $8,500. As a point of reference, a cubic meter of teak is going for around $1280.

Cocobolo doesn't tend to develop heartwood until it's more mature, so ours should be safe for now. But come year 20, we might need a small army to fend off opportunistic loggers.

Read more about the cocobolo frenzy in our previous blogs here, here, here, and here.

Photos from January 2015 trip

Last month we took a group of visitors down to Panama to visit our forestry projects, meet local partner communities, and explore the incredible biodiversity in the Darien. Here are some photos from the trip.

ANAM Steps Up to the Deforestation Challenge

Logging of an espave tree in the Darien province

Logging of an espave tree in the Darien province

We were heartened to recently read that under the new leader of the Ministry of Environment (ANAM), there will be an intensive new effort to control illegal logging in the Darien this dry season. The plan was announced last week.

During the last years of the Martinelli (previous) administration, there were a significant number of conflicts, and some deaths, in the Darien/East Panama region related to logging. ANAM as an institution saw its minimal resources cut further, which made it virtually impossible for them to regulate the logging in the region.

With the new plan, the ANAM regional team is being reinforced with 30 staffers from other regions. They will be stationed at the various checkpoints in the eastern side of Panama, helping to verify that wood leaving the region is legal and certified to be transported. The checkpoints will run 24-hours.

According to ANAM, they did significant public outreach to the logging community to consult with them about the new plan, while also educating them about the actual regulations. While the status quo was probably preferable to many of the loggers, this new enforcement will hopefully crimp the illegal cutting and extraction of timber in Darien, a province considered a biodiversity hotspot by Conservation International.

We spoke with the director of ANAM for the region and he mentioned that probably more than 50% of the timber harvested in years past was done illegally. That was not only bad for the forests in Darien, but bad for ANAM itself because of the lost revenues. Their goal now is to reduce the amount of illegal logging to 25% of the timber harvested. We wish them luck.

Raleo in Arimae

Over the past few weeks we have been working with the community of Arimae to do a raleo, or thinning, of their community-owned native timber. The community has about 15 hectares of native species trees, including mahogany, spanish cedar, and spanish oak that hadn't been thinned or properly maintained. Through an offtake agreement with a local indigenous-operated sawmill, we're helping the community sell some of the commercially viable trees. As you can see, this is a very manual process--no fancy machinery, just hard work.

Update on Kiva Loans

Partner David standing in front of some of his existing plantain trees

Partner David standing in front of some of his existing plantain trees

Late in July we closed a plantain loan on Kiva, a microlending platform that supports entrepreneurs and projects in the developing world. The $6,000 loan will cover the costs of a plantain project with our partner David, including seed stock, fertilizer, fencing materials, and technical assistance.

This latest one closes out our round of seven plantain loans, all with our smallholder and Indigenous partners in Panama. We are already starting to harvest plantains from project funded with our 2013 loans, and look forward to hopefully renewing an agreement with Kiva to continue doing these high-impact projects.

With our remaining credit line, we plan to fundraise on Kiva for longer term timber projects, that will deliver more revenue and opportunity for our Panamanian partners.

We took this set of videos to demonstrate the process of seeding the plantains in the nursery prior to planting.