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Tomorrow's profits depend upon today's policies

Article - January 26, 2012
SBB, a leading player in Suriname's forestry sector, realizes that sustainability is the key to future profitability
Despite boasting a flamboyant and stable economy in face of the negative financial global situation, Suriname continues to proudly preserve its rainforests.

Suriname is extremely diverse ethnically, linguistically and in its natural resources. Geographically, the country is divided into two core regions. The northern part, which is where most of the population lives, is mostly cultivated coastal lowland. The southern part of the country consists mainly of tropical rainforests and sparsely inhabited savannahs. Approximately 90% of Suriname’s total land area is classified as forestland (14.8 million ha).

Ensuring its present and future sustainability is responsibility of Stichting Voor Bosbeheer en Bostoezicht (SBB), the Foundation for Forest Management and Production Control. Established by the Ministry of Natural Resources in 1998 and integrated into the Ministry of Planning, Land and Forestry in 2005, SBB acts as a link between the private and public sectors and local communities. Its main mission is to promote sustainable and rational utilization of the forests in Suriname.

Analyzing the country’s recent and ongoing activities, P.S. Jules, CEO of SBB, comments: “There are a lot of investors currently interested in Suriname, and not just in the forestry sector. I believe that if this continues we will double our productivity in the next year and a half.” Mr. Jules’ predictions forecast an important increase in log production carried out in a sustainable manner.

“This is also the direction of the government. They want an increase in production, they want people to have jobs but they want everything done in an honest and sustainable way,” he adds.

“The government wants an increase in production, they want people to have jobs, but they want everything done in an honest and sustainable way.”

P.S. Jules, CEO of Stichting Voor Bosbeheer en Bostoezicht (SBB)

The forestry sector in Suriname was not always this guarded. Recent developments in this direction respond to a cry for help following complications in the sector during the early nineties. “We got some assistance from The Netherlands, from FAO, from the United States Forestry Service, and from the Environment Fund,” explains Rene Somopawiro, Director of SBB. “Then our Foundation was established.”

SBB was appointed control of the entire forestry sector. Its task: promote green forest management and ensure all logging activities in the country respect national laws and abide by the Sustainable Forest Management Act.

Following its inception, the sector grew very skeptical of the Foundation’s intentions and believed it would become a barrier to hinder their achievements and established objectives in an increasingly competitive marketplace.

However, the scenario proved positive for both parties involved and among the developments implemented is a log-tracking system which ensures that every exported log is legally harvested. “With this system, we can tell everybody when a log was cut and by whom it was transported, because every log carries a tag with a label and a number,” explains Mr. Somopawiro.

Furthermore, SBB was one of the first institutions in Suriname to set up a GIS unit that produces digital maps to maximize control over actions within the sector. One type of map allows the Foundation to see who has which concession, and when it was granted.

Beyond monitoring forests and forest activities, SBB is also responsible for introducing technology and training the workforce to use it, as well as other successful process improvement initiatives which deliver sustainable business results.

However, the inevitable cannot be overlooked. “Since we are at the start of our development, we will have to deforest,” says Mr. Somopawiro with regards to growth and expansion of roads, mines and hydro-dams for energy, necessary for the economic prosperity of the country. “But we will do it in a planned way,” he adds.

Surinamese law allows two types of concessions to be granted within one area, something which can occasionally result in a conflict of interests between mining and logging companies for example. In these cases, SBB acts as a type of guide or counsellor between the parties. “We bring these two companies together, negotiate with them, and make sure that everything goes well,” explains Mr. Somopawiro.   

The Foundation acts similarly with the local populations that inhabit the forests. “Our purpose is the wellbeing of the communities that live in the forest. Their first priority is not commercial; it is to benefit from these activities so that these communities can have an easy way of living,” says Mr. Jules.

This last initiative is a result of the National Forest Policy (NFP), created by the SBB in 2003, which lays down the government's commitment to increase the contribution of forests to the national economy and the wellbeing of present and future generations.
The NFP also recognizes the need to obtain foreign financial support and the country’s need to create the enabling conditions to attract this support.

SBB is not directly involved in the granting of concessions, though it does have an active role in preparing and advising the Minister on these matters and subsequently accompanies the investor in the development of a business plan. “SBB is an organization that does more than promote sustainable forestry; we give guidance to national and international processes,” explains Mr. Jules.

For his part, Ginmardo Kromosoeto, Suriname’s Minister of Labor, Technological Development and Environment appeals for international collaboration: “We are inviting investors in order to establish partnerships for a sustainable development of the country. We want to preserve nature and biodiversity.”