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November 2000

What is ecoforestry?

Ecoforestry involves villagers harvesting and milling trees and carrying the resulting "ecotimber" out of their forest with minimal damage to the surrounding forest. Community-based planning and control, and strict guidelines that are externally monitored, ensure the forest is restored quickly to its original state. In contrast, industrial logging involves cutting down all economically useful trees in a forest. This means the area can take decades or longer to recover and the landowners lose many other things of value from the forests such as food and medicines.

What impact has industrial logging had in Solomon Islands?

Since the 1980s, Australian and Asian logging companies have swept through Solomon Islands, leaving a trail of disintegrating communities, flattened and degraded forests and silted coral reefs. Over the last decade, the rate of logging has been more than three times the sustainable level, which means the productive forests are being cut three times faster than they are growing. Time is running out, with thousands of hectares destructively logged every year.

When did Greenpeace’s involvement with Solomon Islands ecoforestry begin?

Seven years ago, at the request of indigenous forest owners who were facing the threat of industrial logging, Greenpeace, along with a local community organization Solomon Islands Development Trust (SIDT) and other local and regional partners, established the Ecoforestry Programme. Our staff in Solomon Islands and the Pacific region have supported villagers to organize themselves, manage their own forests, and mill and market the ecotimber. These villagers have been exporting ecotimber to New Zealand since 1997, and in November 2000, sent the first shipment of Solomon Islands ecotimber to Australia.

Conserving Resources in Marovo Lagoon

Greenpeace recently chose to focus its efforts on Marovo Lagoon in Western Province, Solomon Islands. One of the earth’s natural wonders and a proposed World Heritage area, it was under threat of logging, mining and forest clearance for a palm oil plantation. Landowner requests for support to carry out small-scale saw milling under ecoforestry management principles led Greenpeace and partner organizations to begin work there. Marovo people have cared for their resources for generations and are looking for a way to generate income that conserves their forests and marine resources.

How does the project benefit landowners?

Greenpeace funded a study by a resource economist, comparing the economic costs and benefits of industrial logging and small-scale developments. The report found that the cash value to local communities of small-scale options, such as ecoforestry, fishing, tourism, carving and other crafts, food and building materials, was at least three times greater than the industrial options. Small-scale options also give landowners more direct control of their resources, distribute benefits more fairly and do not expose them to the high risk of fluctuations in international commodity markets.

The report recommended no logging or palm oil plantations should be permitted in the Marovo area.

Who are Greenpeace’s partners in this project?

Our partners are Solomon Islands Development Trust, Foundation of the Peoples of the South Pacific International, New Zealand Imported Tropical Timber Group and Isabel Sustainable Forestry Management Trust. The program is also supported by generous donations from many individual Australians, several New Zealand and Australian foundations and trusts, and direct funding from the European Union to our partner organizations.

How does ecotimber compare to other types of certification?

Ecotimber is a community forestry category of certified timber. The Ecoforestry Programme expects to receive the "FSC" certification eco-label next year. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) is the most successful and credible wood product certification and labeling scheme. It oversees the independent and voluntary assessments of forest management to high environmental, social and economic standards. Currently, there are over 18 million hectares of certified forests in 33 countries. Global demand for FSC products is estimated to be in excess of A$50 billion. FSC certification is the only international certification scheme that has the widespread support of non-government organizations, including Greenpeace.

What effect has the ethnic violence in Solomon Islands had on the ecotimber project?

Solomon Islands is being torn apart by a tribal conflict that has seen nearly 100 people dead and the economy in tatters. The foreign-owned destructive logging and log export trade is part of the current political destabilization, in which a culture of corruption and individual greed pervades. Despite the upheaval, the program has been able to continue training and supporting people in ecoforestry and assist in marketing their timber. Now more than ever, if Solomon Islands are to get back on its feet, it needs the ecotimber industry, which directly benefits its people, if the country is to regain social and economic stability.

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