Forest Certification in Bolivia: A Status Report and Analysis of Stakeholder Perspectives
Forest certification systems are voluntary, market-based initiatives to promote the sustainable use of forests. The assumption is that consumers prefer sustainably sourced wood products. One of the major drivers for the creation of forest certification was to prevent deforestation in tropical forests. However, after 20 years of certification, only 10 percent of the global forest area is certified, mostly in temperate regions. Only 2 percent of tropical forests have been certified, and deforestation proceeds at alarming rates in those same areas. Africa and Latin America are the only regions with a net loss of forest area in the 2000 to 2010 decade. In this article, the status of forest certification is analyzed, and challenges and opportunities are evaluated using the case of Bolivia. After an initial period of successful implementation of certification, the area of Bolivian forest under certification has fallen sharply, and deforestation has actually increased in the 2000 to 2010 period, compared with the previous decade. This research uses qualitative research methods to uncover the reasons for the rapid initial growth of certification in Bolivia, its subsequent decline, and prospects for the future of certification in this South American country from the perspectives of people living and working in Bolivia's forestry sector. Participants concurred that a strong regulatory framework and international support were key factors to the initial success of certification in Bolivia. Benefits from certification commonly cited were improvement in the standard of living of timber-reliant communities, better markets for certified products, and an improvement in the image of the forest products industry.