Chile: forests of truth

The forest industry in Chile is based on extensive plantations of exotic tree species. Chile is now so well known for its pine and eucalyptus exports that it has even been represented visually by a pine seed at the 2010 Shanghai World Expo, and the Expo’s Chilean Pavilion is advertised as being built with "renewable pine wood from Chilean tree plantations, in the various forms in which it is sold: plywood, laminated boards and singular wood elements."

Chile: forests of truth The fact that Chile’s intensively managed plantations are a threat to natural forests, agricultural land and clean, healthy water supplies does not get a mention. Neither does the fact that these impacts are felt most keenly by forest-dependent indigenous peoples, such as the Mapuche, and other local communities. Many Chileans are simply unaware of these facts: the timber companies have been actively promoting plantations as a benefit to society, through the Chilean timber industry organization, Corporación Chilena de la Madera (CORMA). 


It is important that people in all Chile’s forest regions understand and are able to confront the pro-plantation campaigns that threaten their environment, food supplies and health.


what happened

Friends of the Earth Chile / CODEFF’s Bosques de Verdad (Forests of Truth) campaign focuses on informing the Chilean public and working with affected communities, so that they are better informed about and able to resist the expansion of plantations. 


In 2009 activities included direct contact with affected groups, and the publication of a range of informative declarations, reports, press materials, news bulletins and audio-visual materials. This included a public information booklet on the social and environmental impacts of forest monoculture plantations, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and the value of native forests as an alternative for real local development.


Beautifully designed campaign materials were widely distributed via many channels, including at the World Forestry Congress in Buenos Aires, in October 2009. The group also participated in many regional fairs and community events in Chile, reaching out to many people of all ages and genders.


In 2009 Friends of the Earth Chile also conducted a detailed survey assessing the state of the forest industry in Chile, and the impacts of monoculture plantations of exotic species on affected communities. This included field trips to identify and visually record the testimonies of people affected by climate change (some of which can be seen here).


Friends of the Earth Chile also strengthened its links with indigenous Mapuche communities in Molco and Lonkoche in the Araucanía Region, including through an event, Kume Kimun tani, tani llidan Lemun (Learning from our lives, we protect our forests) in December. Environmental education activities were also held in the Rulo Tranamil New Imperial School, and in other regions. Mapuche representatives attended the Meeting of Peoples Living in the Forests held in Buenos Aires just before the World Forestry Congress, together with Friends of the Earth Chile.


what changed

Forest-dependent indigenous peoples and communities in many different regions across Chile are better informed and more able to challenge plantation companies. The debate on forests and the social and environmental impact of plantations in Chile has been enriched with new research, and by creating new spaces for information exchange and planning. There is a broader understanding of people's local realities in relation to plantations and reforestation programs. 


Friends of the Earth Chile also benefited, with staff gaining in knowledge and experience, increased media coverage, and more people interested in partnering with or volunteering for the group. 


what was learned

FoE Chile learned that it is essential to strengthen ties with organizations working closely with affected groups, including farmers and indigenous peoples. These include the National Association of Rural and Indigenous Women (ANAMURI-Via Campesina Chile), RECOMA, and local indigenous networks. It is also important to devote sufficient time to gathering testimonies.


what next?

FoE Chile will continue to publish and disseminate important information, and to foster debate about government decisions and policies relating to the forest sector in general, and the expansion on monocultures of pine and eucalyptus in particular. 


Strengthening networks and alliances to collaborate on plantations and alternative solutions based on native forests will be a priority. 2010 has been declared an International Year of Biodiversity by the UN, which will provide a renewed focus for the campaign.


with thanks to our funders: the dutch ministry of foreign affairs (dgis)

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