From fallow to market Supporting smallholder timber trade in Peru

Within a mosaic of fields, fallows, pastures and forest, rural residents in the Peruvian Amazon manage and harvest timber that grows naturally on their landholdings. Fast-growing species, such as bolaina (Guazuma crinita), which provides low-cost building material, serve as a reliable source of extra income for farmers.

However, these rural landholders face problems with forestry regulations and in market negotiations. Cutting and selling the wood legally is expensive and complicated. Therefore, most farmers who produce timber in their fallows operate under the radar, selling it through informal channels. This results in poor positioning in the market and risk of fines and confiscation of their wood by forest authorities.

CIFOR scientists set out to support smallholder timber producers in making the most of the bolaina trade in a legal and sustainable manner. Their research has documented the value chain, from the management of natural regeneration to the sale of sawn boards, or tablillas, identifying the opportunities and constraints smallholders face. The research has resulted in evidence-based policy changes in the Peruvian forestry sector.

Initiative for Conservation in the Andean Amazon (ICAA)

SERFOR; Dirección Ejecutiva Forestal y de Fauna Silvestre, Ucayali; Municipality of Contamana, Loreto Province

Funding partner:

Investing in capital, growing wealth

The sale of 200 standing trees in a hectare of fallow can yield approximately USD 461 in profit to the landholder. With the use of a chainsaw to fell the trees and cut them into log sections, the same 200 trees could yield around USD 610 in profit to the landholder. If the farmer was able to contract a saw mill to transform the logs into tablillas, their profit could soar to USD 2030. CIFOR’s team recommends that rural assistance programs support smallholders in local organizing and acquiring operational capital to grow the value of the bolaina trade for farmers.

Policy for rural timber producers
CIFOR’s team has been working with Peru’s forest authorities to revise regulations affecting the smallholder timber trade. CIFOR project data provided evidence and justification for the recognition of the smallholder forestry systems in a new legal decree that should allow landowners to register their fallow production systems as plantations, which would free them from the most onerous forestry regulations.

If the decisions in public policy do not have sufficient argument, foundation – not enough information from research to ground them – then we can go wrong.

Fabiola Muñoz-Dodero
Executive Director of the Peruvian National Forest and Wildlife Service

In the eyes and minds of Peru
Peru’s Ministry of Environment (MINAM) made a video on the smallholder bolaina trade, featuring CIFOR’s team and their work. The video was:

  • Watched by 120,000 people in the city of Lima alone.
  • Chosen as one of the best videos on MINAM TV in 2014.
  • Re-aired on the first day of the 2014 COP on the national channel covering all COP news.

Action for learning
While bolaina grows easily on its own, farmers manage the fallow stands to improve production. They weed early in the fallow development and thin the stand at later stages to promote better tree growth. CIFOR has been promoting farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange to spread such stand management techniques.

All the research that CIFOR presented today offers valuable inputs. We need to keep supporting research that informs public policy for the sake of the land owners in the Amazon and for the sake of the state.

Connie Campbell
Coordinator, Initiative for the Conservation of the Andean Amazon (IICA-USAID)

Related publication

This document provides background and explanations for suggestions to modify the draft of the Regulations of the Forest and Wildlife Law (Law No. 29763). The new regulations offer possibilities to reduce the regulatory burden placed on smallholder farmers who produce and sell fast-growing timber in their farming systems.