GFC and Natural Resources Ministry are encouraging small loggers to fell unsustainably

Dear Editor,

In Guyana and other countries where sugar cane is grown, after the first main crop is harvested, the buds on the lower parts of the remaining stem sprout to form a second crop known as a ratoon.  Careful harvesting of at least some varieties of sugar cane will give productive ratoon crops for up to 30 years although it is more usual to re-plant every three years.  Similarly, multiple harvests of cassava are possible if the main stick is cut carefully.  However, neither a cane grower nor a cassava grower would be taking subsequent crops only a few weeks after the first harvest because the second crop would not have grown enough to give a productive harvest.

But this too-early second harvest is just what the Guyana Forestry Com-mission and the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) are ordering for the former forest compartments 1-3 of the Timber Sales Agreement 04/1991 held by the Barama Company Limited from 1991-2016.  These three compartments in the Northwest District near Port Kaituma were harvested by Barama during its first decade 1991-2002 before the company moved its base to Buckhall.  During this time, Barama harvested an average of 2-3 trees per hectare, creaming off the big trees with an average volume of 3 m3 per tree, and extracted 8.2 m3/ha.  Initially Barama opted to harvest trees above 35 cm diameter (dbh) in its concession on a 25-year cycle, that is, returning to the same area after 25 years to take another crop of trees, like a ratoon crop of sugar.

Commissioned research by the Edinburgh Centre for Tropical Forestry found that this cycle was not appropriate for sustainable yields, and Barama switched to a 40-year cycle and to fell trees only larger than 50 cm diameter.  Barama took 35 species of tree out of a stocking of 127 inventoried species.  On a 40-year cycle, the compartments near Port Kaituma would be ready for second (ratoon-type) harvest beginning at the earliest in the year 2031.

As reported by GINA (‘Small loggers can apply for concessions previously held by Barama’,  December 30, 2016), the GFC and the MNR are now encouraging small-scale loggers to fell unsustainably (by definition) in 2-year State Forest Permissions to be allocated over the same ex-Barama compartments although at most only 2/3 of the regrowing time has passed. This decision is absolutely contrary to national forest policy approved by the National Assembly, contradicts the many claims of the GFC to be administering sustainable forest management, and is surely incompatible with the APNU+AFC coalition intention of a Green Economy.  In terms of the economy and sustainability of Guyana, this decision is equivalent to ‘SKI-ing’ – spending the kids’ inheritance.  Is President Granger aware of what is being done in his name, given that the President is legally the Minister of Forestry?

Both the GFC and MNR may have forgotten that 30,000 ha of these same compartments were taken from Barama and given to the Port Kaituma Loggers’ Association in 2005 (‘Barama releases concession to Port Kaituma loggers’, SN, September 22, 2005).

The long-term concessions that were handed out from 1991 were badly administered and the holders allowed to disregard national policies on downstream processing and skilled job creation. Our Parliamentary-approved National Forest Policy is aimed at safeguarding the long-term regeneration of Guyana’s forests through concession policy and forest management, and stimulating and providing resources for value-added processing of forest products in Guyana. Carving out more and more short-term State Forest Permissions (SFPs) from hitherto sustainable TSAs brings only short-term gains for the SFP holders but long-term damage to the forests and the prospects for long-term prosperity. In short, a continuation of the boom-and-bust cycles that consign Guyana to a low position on the UN’s Human Development Index.

Yours faithfully,

Janette Bulkan

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