Script 26.4

Notes to broadcasters

This script is based on information provided by the Is Five Foundation, Toronto, Canada.

Content: The villagers of Arenales in Ecuador are participating in a new forestry management project. They carefully select and cut only a few trees each year. This is profitable and keeps the rain forest productive.


Today we introduce you to the people of Arenales, a small village of about 20 families in northwestern Ecuador. They are trying to save the tropical rain forest that is their home.

Arenales is surrounded by one of the last remaining tropical rain forests in western Ecuador. Most of the rain forests in this region have been cut using clear-cut logging – the inefficient practice of cutting down an entire forest to harvest just a few trees. Once the forest is cut, farming is often difficult. This is because tropical soils are thin and erode quickly once the trees have been removed. Water supplies also decline. All too often clear-cutting leads to wastelands and, for the people of the forest, cultural and economic disaster.

Some time ago the villagers of Arenales asked themselves the question: “Can we find an alternative to clear-cut logging and save our forest?”

They now think the answer is yes. They are participating in a new forest management project. The project is based on the idea that you can make more money by cutting just a few trees at a time, without destroying the entire forest.

The method works like this. The villagers do a study in part of the forest. They record the species, height, and diameter of each tree that has a diameter greater than 25 centimetres. They use this information to decide how many trees of each species they can take without damaging the forest. This is all done with the help of a forester and advice from a local organization working on the project.

Then they choose an area of the forest, called a cutting block, where they cut trees. Arenales owns 360 hectares of forested land. Their cutting block is 60 hectares. They do not touch the remaining 300 hectares. The cutting block is divided into 40 strips, each 50 metres wide. Each year they cut about 20-25 trees on one strip only. They do the milling right in the forest with a portable sawmill. Since the slowest growing trees mature in about 40 years, it should be possible after 40 years to return to the first strip and begin cutting again. By that time the trees they cut will have been replaced by new ones. The villagers also do some replanting.

This alternative method makes economic sense to the people of Arenales. They make more money this way. In fact, they earn twice as much in one year as they would from a one-time sale of logging rights to a commercial clear-cutter. They lose far fewer trees. They save the forest and keep it productive. And they can make a profit each year for many years if they continue to follow the forest management plan.

Also, the village keeps the logging rights and manages its own forest in a way that will help them to survive in the long term.

Keeping the forest alive is not just important to Arenales and other forest communities. We all need the rain forests. They are home to more than half of all known species of plants and animals. They supply a huge variety of medicines and food. They absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the atmosphere. At least 140 million people live in tropical rain forests and depend on them for survival. The world’s

rainforests cannot be replaced; they are the product of up to 180 million years of evolution.

The story of the village of Arenales shows how a community can work together and save a natural resource that is important for their livelihood and for all other life.


This article is based on information provided by the Is Five Foundation. Researchers from Is Five visited Arenales in January and February, 1992. They observed forest management practices and interviewed community members and staff from El Centro de Investigacion de los Bosques Tropicales (CIBT).  The Is Five Foundation produces educational publications and is currently investigating alternative economic development projects in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Their address is:

Is Five Foundation
400 Mount Pleasant Road
Toronto, Ontario M4S 2L6

Villagers in this project work closely with El Centro de Investigacion de los Bosques Tropicales (CIBT), a Quito-based non-governmental organization that provides technical assistance and hires a forester and a sociologist that live and work in the area. The Ecological Trading Company (ETC) is a British organization that buys timber from Arenales and other sustainably managed forest projects around the world. El Unidad Tecnica Ecuatoriana del Plan Awa (UTEPA) is the government agency that oversees the project.

Information Sources

For more information contact:

  • Centro de Investigacion de los Bosques Tropicales (CIBT)
    Casilla Postal 344-A
    Sucursal No. 3
    Ulloa y Ramirez Davalos
    Quito, Ecuador
  • Ecological Trading Company Ltd.
    1 Lesbury Road
    Newcastle Upon Tyne NE6 5LB
    United Kingdom