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#414287 - 08/20/11 09:42 AM The future of Rosewood in Belize
Marty Offline

Author: Ya’axché Conservation Trust, Toledo, Belize

Many citizens of Belize are concerned at the current levels of extraction of Rosewood (Dalbergia stevensonii) from the forests of Toledo. From a conservation point of view, the situation, as it stands, is a potential disaster.

The little we know about the biology and ecology of the species suggests Rosewood is slow-growing, occurs only in patches and – in common with other Dalbergia species - has high levels of seed abortion.

Therefore, the continued survival of Rosewood stocks highly depends on the availability of mature trees that produce ample seeds. However, many large seed-bearing trees have already been removed, and it seems likely that current levels of harvesting will give Rosewood populations little or no chance to regenerate.

There is a very real possibility that the species will completely disappear from community lands in the near future.

As a non-governmental organisation that has been working in Belize since 1997, the Ya’axché Conservation Trust is well aware of the hardships facing communities in Toledo. An important part Ya’axché’s work is to encourage and support local development in harmony with conservation and the sustainable use of natural resources.

The Rosewood situation presents a particularly complex set of problems and Ya’axché is working alongside the Belize Forest Department and the Maya Leaders Alliance to meet this challenge head-on.

For many years Rosewood has been a valuable resource for the country, but the current lack of information puts the future of the species in doubt.

Therefore, Ya’axché is developing a proposal to carry out extensive research on Rosewood in its entire range in Belize. The project will assess Rosewood stocks, examine threats to the species and its habitats and gather information on sustainable harvesting practices.

Information on biology and ecology of the species will be used to determine its potential as a plantation species, and for the development of reintroduction programmes.

This research will not happen overnight, but Ya’axché does believe that in the long term, the results will be of great value. By expanding knowledge on the status of Rosewood stocks, the people of Belize can then focus on how to manage them sustainably. Research alone is not the answer. The immediate problem of illegal logging must be addressed through clarification of current legislation with regard to permits, licenses and exports, the enforcement of which must be upheld by the Forest Department. Communities must be better informed and also made aware of what they stand to lose.

If Rosewood disappears from community lands, it will mean a loss of income for everyone involved – but needs still have to be met and money still has to be made. Sooner or later, it will be a different tree or animal under threat. Species by species, the forest slowly disappears. Without the forest, we lose valuable ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and watershed protection; we lose huge opportunities for nature tourism.

Without the forest, we lose a very special and valuable part of Belize. If you want more information about the work that Ya’axché is doing please contact Ya’axché Conservation Trust, #2 Alejandro Vernon St., Punta Gorda, Toledo District, Belize, Tel/Fax : (+501) 722-0108, Email: infor@yaaxche.org, Website: yaaxche.org.

Ya’axché Conservation Trust is a community-oriented organization which advances integrated landscape management for equitable development on southern Belize through sustainable land-use practices.


#415332 - 09/02/11 09:23 AM Re: The future of Rosewood in Belize [Re: Marty]
Marty Offline

Channel 5 goes inside illegal logging of rosewood operation

The illegal extraction of rosewood in seven Maya communities in the Toledo District has become too rampant to ignore. The Maya Leaders Alliance is taking on the fight to stop the extraction because the precious wood is under threat of extinction. The MLA alleges there is official facilitation to the illegality. News Five’s Isani Cayetano headed down south and files this report.

Isani Cayetano, Reporting

Supply and demand for the much sought after rosewood, an endangered tropical specie in Belize used in the manufacture of luxury furniture, is at an all time high. With that comes great controversy as the dark wood tree is being harvested illegally for sale on the foreign market. In Toledo members of the wider Mayan community are once again at an economic crossroad, one that finds them in a proverbial catch twenty-two.

While there is said to be a prohibition on the logging of rosewood, residents of seven Mayan communities in the district are purportedly being encouraged by high level government officials to extract the rare timber. Ligorio Coy, Chairman of the Maya Leaders Alliance, begins by sharing his concerns about illegal logging operations within these villages.

Ligorio Coy, Chairman, Maya Leaders Alliance

“The situation with this illegal rosewood [logging] has begun a number of times from now and I think that there was control of this logging issue within the Forestry Department. However, there are some organizations [that] have made complains over the radio which embarks on our land issue here in Toledo and from there then we have started to investigate the situation whereby we have found out that there is intensive logging in the Toledo District.”

Ligorio Coy

On one hand the harvesting of rosewood, albeit illegally, provides meager income for loggers and their families. On the other, there aren’t sufficient economic opportunities for residents to take advantage of. Either way it presents a problem which is amplified by allegations that a family member of the Minister of Natural Resources, Gaspar Vega, is said to be in the front and center of the sale of rosewood abroad.

Samuel Edwards, Rosewood Dealer

“If dehn no stop di cutting a rosewood then don’t ask fi no rosewood next year. There won’t be any. But because Vega wants all, he wants twenty-five containers a month if ih could get it, ih just cut free. Even when the Forestry Department says “no let us come and…” I don’t know if Vega wah hear you know, I don’t know but I am just saying how it is. What is good for Peter is good for Paul. I couldn’t buy no more until when that man started to buy day before yesterday. For the whole week it was stopped. I couldn’t buy.”


Samuel Edwards

“Who say you couldn’t buy?”

Samuel Edwards


Samuel Edwards is one of four rosewood dealers in the south. He is a former forestry officer now in the business of rosewood sales. Edwards is direct competition for other exporters but his business is being stifled, he says, because of ministerial influence.


“So you sell to a Chiney Man or to Vega?”

Samuel Edwards

“No, that’s why I can sell because I noh sell to Vega.”


“So if you noh sell to Vega you can’t sell to nobody?”

Samuel Edwards

“You noh di get no export license, maybe once a month you get one, maybe none at all. You sih dehn log back ya da from last year October.”

Liselle Alamilla

“…and you can sell them?”

Samuel Edwards



“…because yo have to sell to Vega?”

Samuel Edwards

“Mr. Vega he ready, ih say ih could bring ten containers right now and load this right now. He has no limit. Those things are wrong.”

While the practice supposedly outlawed Coy says that verbal consent was granted to a number of tree cutters from various communities including Crique Sarco, Midway, Sunday Wood, San Benito Poite, Corazon, Otoxa and Laguna to proceed with extraction.

Ligorio Coy

“The minister came and said that you can [harvest rosewood] and I clearly understood [because] I was at that present meeting when he did say that you should apply but none of this has come true and I think that is what rode all of these logging issues. And again we stand together as Mayan people in some of the villages knowing that we have that Maya land right judgment delivered to the Mayan people.”

To further understand the magnitude of the situation one has to consider the many intricacies involved. First there is an issue regarding the use of communal lands. On June 28th, 2010 the Supreme Court delivered a breakthrough decision affirming the ancestral rights of thirty-eight Mayan villages. While that ruling remains it allows the players free reign in taking advantage of it.

Ligorio Coy

“The government was ordered that we should put a mechanism in place [as to] how we should work along with the government, especially when it comes to harvesting these resources in the forest. And there is no time that we have sat with these people, with these government officials to try and see how we can put a mechanism in place, how we can manage our forest.”

The catch, MLA says, is that loggers are being encouraged to harvest rosewood from ancestral lands; and, in the absence of a waybill they claim forestry officials, in carrying out their duty, have broken the law by allowing the shipment of rosewood from these communities to dealers without first being stamped. Reporting for News Five, I am Isani Cayetano.


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