FAO-EU FLEGT Programme

Luthiers for the conservation of national forests: producing guitars with legally sourced timber


Over 100 000 guitars are produced every year in Santander, Colombia, representing over 70 percent of the country’s total annual guitar production. The production of musical instruments contributes to both the national economy and the preservation of cultural heritage through music and the art of lutherie. Local luthiers, however, face obstacles in legal operation due to scarce legal timber supplies, limited awareness of regulations in place, and a lack of skills to comply with them. 

To address this issue, the FAO-EU Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Programme partnered with the Network of Musical Instrument Makers of Santander (Red de Fabricantes de Instrumentos Musicales de Santander, Red Faisán), an association representing a significant share of Santander’s guitar producers, to work towards guaranteeing the supply of legal timber for its members by promoting compliance with legal standards, generating new market linkages, and exploring innovative new legal timber sources. 

Promoting luthier legal compliance

Working with member businesses, Red Faisán sought to boost understanding of the value and importance of using legal timber when making musical instruments. Through awareness-raising and capacity-building workshops, luthiers were trained to register their individual Libro de Operaciones Forestales (LOF), obtain legality certificates, purchase legally sourced timber, and advertise the added environmental value of legally produced instruments to prospective buyers. 

Red Faisán also explained the legal, economic and advocacy benefits of joining an association and encouraged participants to become members. Membership in associations such as Red Faisán offers continual support, networking, and business development opportunities.  During the workshops, Red Faisán also guided participants through registering their LOFs, allowing greater access to legal timber markets.

Inclusivity is central to Red Faisán’s expanding network; as such, they offered training explicitly targeting women, youth, and vulnerable immigrant groups on producing string instruments and identifying legal timber sources.  Based on the various virtual meetings held with the network members, a stakeholder map was drawn up highlighting the relationships they have with other actors through their daily operation to boost outreach to other potential members. 

Creating new market linkages 

Over the course of the project, Red Faisán was able to generate and strengthen institutional bonds with key stakeholders in the forest sector. An important partnership was established with an apex-level federation, Federacion Nacional de Industriales de la Madera (FEDEMADERAS). Through this partnership, members of Red Faisán gained access to Elija Madera Legal, managed by FEDEMADERAS. This e-commerce platform facilitates market linkages between forest sector MSMEs and public and private buyers.

In addition, Red Faisán created market linkages between timber buyers and the Consejo Comunitario del Rio Yurumanguí, a local community forest in the basin of the Yurumanguí river, broadening the source of legal timber for luthiers. Other partnerships established with local chambers of commerce and the Ministry of the Environment also can greatly improve the trade of legal timber products in Santander.  

Identifying alternative timber sources 

String instruments require very specific types of timber, which can often lead to high pressure on a limited number of timber species. In Santander, for example, there were only seven native species in use before the project. Red Faisán and local partners identified an additional ten native timber species through field research and testing prototypes that luthiers can use. The new species have proven to create more attractive and functional products. 

The identification and subsequent use of these new species will not only relieve the pressure exerted on other timber species, but it will also mean that luthiers have access to more legal timber and expand economic opportunities for local forest communities where these species are grown. Coupled with improved knowledge of legality and improved market linkages, luthiers in Santander are increasingly well equipped to operate legally, offering enhanced economic benefits and livelihood opportunities while protecting the region’s rich cultural and environmental heritage.


Read more about the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme’s experiences, best practices, and lessons learned drawn from working with micro, small and medium enterprises and other areas of support here.

The FAO-EU FLEGT Programme is a global demand-driven initiative that provides technical support and resources for activities that further the goals of the EU’s FLEGT Action Plan. The Programme is funded by the European Union, the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office of the United Kingdom.

Since 2016 the FAO-EU FLEGT Programme has supported 20 projects in Colombia, amounting to approximately USD 956 000, primarily focusing on developing and strengthening national timber legality assurance systems, transparency and knowledge sharing and private sector legal compliance, market access, and livelihoods.