Georgetown, Guyana - In a record-setting accomplishment for tropical forest conservation, Barama Company announced that 570,000 hectares (about 2,200 square miles) of Barama's forests in Guyana is being certified as meeting the rigorous environmental, social, and economic standards of the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). Made possible by support from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Barama's certified forest becomes the largest tropical natural forest certified by FSC in the world.
Upon its founding in 1991, the Barama Company envisioned new market opportunities linked to responsible forest practices. Addressing environmental and social issues, Barama looked into forest certification as a part of its commitment to corporate social responsibility.
"The FSC certification enables Barama not only to retain access to its current markets in the United States, but it opens the door to new buyers in Europe and North America that demand forest products from well managed forests. At the same time, it guarantees that Barama will continue fulfilling its social and economic responsibilities to the Guyanese nation," said Barama's General Manager, Mr. Girwar Lalaram.
With technical and financial support from WWF, Barama became certified on February 17, 2006 for forest management of 570,000 hectares of tropical natural forest. To celebrate this achievement, a ceremony took place today, at the Cara Lodge, Georgetown, Guyana, attended by high level officials from the Guyana Government, Barama, WWF, forest authorities, and others.
WWF's comprehensive support went from training in reduced impact logging practices, and factory operations that provide a healthy and safety work environment, to reviewing the company's performance against the rigorous standards of the FSC.
"With this milestone, Barama not only serves as a catalyst for improved forest management systems in the Guianas but also ensures that the fragile tropical ecosystem is effectively and efficiently utilized by the company so that the national patrimony is protected for the benefit of present and future generations," said Dr. Patrick Williams, WWF Guianas Programme Officer for Guyana.
In a country with high unemployment rates, Barama employs at least 1,500 persons, benefiting approximately 5,000 family members. Before certification, the company was in danger of down-sizing its operations and reducing its employment levels. Today, Barama's expansion plan forecasts increasing employment in the area.
"This is very important for Guyana and for the wider Guianas; it's a good example of how good social and environmental practices can improve business as a whole," said Guyana's Commissioner of Forests, Mr. James Singh. "We hope that Barama's certification serves as an impetus for other companies to follow and also for the development of the national standards embarked upon by the Guyana National Initiative for Forest Certification (GNIFC)."
This has been a win-win situation for the Barama Company and for the local people: while the forest company strengthened its relations with current buyers by seeking forest certification, employees benefit from a better work environment. For instance, people working on the concession are allowed to establish their own team of workers; Barama provides social services for communities around the concession such as health services, medicines, transportation in an out of remote areas and emergency assistance.
The Barama Company certified concession is located in the west-central portion of Guyana, in the northern outer limits of the Amazon forest in the Guiana Shield, occupying primarily the Cuyuni River Basin. The company has been in operation for over 15 years: its main product has been plywood for export markets in the U.S. and the Caribbean.