FAO-EU FLEGT Programme

Colombia: Country unites to build a legal timber culture


Colombia is the first country in Latin America to introduce an Intersectoral Pact for Legal Timber (PIML, by its initials in Spanish), which has become a model for the region. The PIML was launched in 2009 with 24 organizations and, eight years later, comprises 70 public and private sector organizations. The PIML has stimulated discussion on legal timber so that wood that is extracted, traded and used comes from legal sources. This project has been led by the Colombian Ministry for the Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS, by its initials in Spanish) together with civil society, local communities and the private sector, and with the support of the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Programme. The PIML contributes to the Sustainable Development Goals, promoting the sustainable use of natural resources to eradicate poverty and eliminate hunger.

Colombia is one of the few countries that still preserves 50% of its forests and is home to rich biodiversity. In addition, the country holds the potential to plant 24 million hectares of forest, while today there are barely 511,000 hectares planted. There is therefore opportunity for growth in this area. However, logging and the illegal trafficking of wood is threatening flora and fauna in the forests, including timber species of high commercial value.

What does this Intersectoral Pact for Legal Timber mean for the different actors in the forest chain in Colombia?

According to Alejandra Ospitia, Director of the Colombian National Federation of Wood Industries (FEDEMADERAS, by its acronym in Spanish), the pact has helped introduce the concept of legal timber into the Colombian vocabulary. “This was the start of bringing about change in society, because before there were companies that felt that doing things legally was a threat and business owners were afraid of regulations,” Ospitia says.

She also recalls that before the pact there was very little dialogue between the different players along the forest chain. Now, however, some FEDEMADERAS meetings are held at police headquarters, for example.

Rubén Guerrero, Forestry Coordinator for MADS, believes that the PIML is a mechanism for taking account of the expectations and requirements of all those involved in the timber business, and of the communities that are impacted by deforestation.

The country has succeeded in including the PIML in the interdepartmental agendas of the Ministries for Agriculture and Rural Development; Housing, City and Territory; Trade, Industry and Tourism; Mines and Energy; National Defence; and Transport.

Technical advice on forest control and governance

The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme has provided technical and financial support to the PIML to improve forest control, transparency and monitoring mechanisms during the negotiation processes related to forest products.

To this end, the programme collaborated on refining two downloadable free online applications: Cubimadera and Especies Maderables. The first allows users to determine the volume of wood being used, transported and traded, while the second application expanded the number of identifiable timber species from 75 to 100.

Additionally, the programme helped with the review and revision of the Guidelines for Responsible Timber Purchasing in Colombia, within the framework of the Colombia Efficient Purchasing policy, which sets out the goals for purchases made by the state.

The FAO-EU FLEGT programme has also supported the development of the advisory scheme for strengthening control and forest monitoring capabilities. This scheme succeeded in training more than 50 percent of the country’s environmental authorities in measuring timber volume; protocols for reviewing, evaluating, monitoring and controlling management plans; transporting and trading forest products and industries; guidelines for the responsible purchase and use of timber; recognition schemes for legal origin; promotion of sustainable forest management; and the manual of good environmental practices for forest industries.

In addition, the programme supported 30 forestry companies in incorporating a verification of legality principle and gender equality approach into their business policies. These companies participated in exchange meetings and business roundtables.

Beyond just a signature

Today, the organizations and associations that participate in the PIML have included the pact’s agreements in their work plans. In Guerrero’s opinion, this aspect is vital because it goes beyond a simple declaration, instead incorporating codes of conduct relating to responsible acquisition and purchase of timber into daily practices.

At a glance
WORKED FOR local communities, Afro-descendant and indigenous people, small and medium-sized businesses, and government officials.
WORKED TO support the Government of Colombia with tools and procedural guidelines to ensure that timber that is extracted, transported, traded and used comes exclusively from legal sources.
WORKED WITH Ministry for the Environment and Sustainable Development (MADS), Risaralda Regional Autonomous Corporation, National Federation of Wood Industries and World Wide Fund for Nature.
WORKED THANKS TO European Union, Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, Department for International Development of the United Kingdom.

Related links

Intersectoral Pact for Legal Timber
Colombia Efficient Purchasing Policy