Chainsaw training set to boost community felling capacity and benefits from responsible forest management

Previously, insufficient market demand rather than supply was the critical constraint to communities selling timber under MCDI's Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) group certificate scheme. We have turned this around by investing heavily in marketing on behalf of the communities we support, and have now turned to training local logging teams to operate chainsaws safely and efficiently so that they can keep up with growing demand.

In 2014 we employed a Timber Marketing Officer with a dedicated responsibility to ramp up sales of timber from Village Land Forest Reserves. Already this has turned out to be an excellent move: nine new buyers purchased timber from community forests in 2014, and we generated an additional 23 new sales leads. In fact, our Timber Marketing Officer did such a good job last year that we were forced to temporarily turn down an order of 100 cubic metres of mpingo per month; although the stocks were there, local logging teams were relying only on hand saws to fell trees at the time, and could not operate fast enough to deliver what was needed.

MCDI have tackled this challenge head on: in January 2015 we purchased three chainsaws for use in certified village forest reserves. We then hired the Forest Industries Training Institute to come and train five community members from five villages as chainsaw operators. This training was completed in early March, and certified communities are now set to begin using chainsaws by the start of the dry season.

Prospective timber buyers will rent the chainsaws from MCDI for use by the trained community chainsaw operators, who should also be paid for the work. This is the only scenario under which we allow chainsaws to be used in certified forests. We have also fit our chainsaws with GPS tracking devises as an additional security measure to deter malpractice. This will also help MCDI to monitor the spatial distribution of timber harvesting in the forests, and to compare this with data collected during community led biodiversity monitoring, to ensure that forestry activities are not having negative impacts on the forest.

Using chainsaws will drastically reduce the time and effort needed to harvest timber in community forests. “Now that we can use chainsaws, a tree that would have taken a team of 5 or more people all day to fell, can now be felled and cross-cut in just 15 minutes”, revelled Mosha, an MCDI volunteer who participated in the training. We foresee chainsaws to increase VLFR harvesting capacity 10-fold compared to before, thus also increasing timber sales and benefits to communities.

This new mode of operating will also provide an extra source of income for the newly trained chainsaw operators and their families, as they can be hired-out to harvest timber in neighbouring communities with certified VLFRs. Chainsaws are also safer and less strenuous than using hand saws. Under our FSC rules, timber buyers are obliged to advertise and employ any capable members of the wider community as labourers during harvesting, and forestry work is likely to be more appealing now to local people who want to earn some extra money by helping to extract and load logs (after they’ve been safely felled by the qualified chainsaw operators of course).