Latin American experiences in natural forest management concessions.
FAO is leading an initiative to improve policies and practices related to concessions on natural production forests in order to sustain forests, build rural economies and improve opportunities for livelihoods. The objectives of this initiative are to: (i) positively influence political dialogue at international and regional levels on the role of forest concessions for achieving the aforementioned goals; and (ii) provide practical guidance on the design, implementation and evaluation of forest concession systems that better respond to their economic, social, institutional and environmental goals. This report contributes to the above initiative by presenting the results of an extensive, structured analysis of forest concession programs in the six Latin American countries selected for the study: Bolivia, Brazil, Guatemala, Guyana, Peru and Suriname. Forest concessions are subject to criticism even though much of the controversy is due to a small number of high-profile cases that did not deliver the expected benefits. Latin America's experience has been mixed: successes in some countries compare with failures in others, Final verdicts are difficult to make as all countries have evolved, some for the better and some for the worse, but all with valuable lessons that FAO should take into consideration in its work. Consider the following: (i) Despite complex socioeconomic environments, Guatemala and Bolivia have served as leaders in the social and technical aspects of tropical forestry respectively, setting a high standard for other countries. (ii) Suriname and Guyana, with low population densities and high forest cover would seem ideal candidates for robust concession programs. Unfortunately, both countries were initially plagued with dissatisfying performance on social issues, and have only recently begun to improve forest access by locals. (iii) Brazil, despite being a global forestry power, has only recently (and at a slow pace) begun to grant concessions on federal and state lands via a technically complex system based on a balanced sharing of powers between governmental institutions, and a robust informational base. (iv) Despite strong support from international conservation groups to develop its concession system, Peru struggles to make its ambitious program operative and competitive against illegal logging, and relevant to indigenous communities clamoring for economic opportunities. (v) Venezuela, one of the region's first entrants into the world of forest concessions, has regressed dramatically and today, has few functioning operations that comply with the basic principles of sustainable forestry. This report highlights lessons learned from these types of experiences and provides inputs from both positive and negative results from Latin American experiences that FAO could use in the region, as well as in Asia and Africa.