Love Me: How Communities Halt Illegal Logging
Love me: saving a mahogany tree from illegal logging
4:00 am Equipped with ropes, machetes and two chainsaws, three men struggle to cover ground through the dense rainforest. They arrived by river, the only clear route in and out of this Amazon valley. Word of mouth led them here but their hunt will soon be cut short.
5:30 am As the canopy closes in overhead and eclipses the morning sun, the men see clear tracks on the ground. These are boundaries, carefully marked by the people who live in the forest and have done for hundreds of years.
Unnerved but not deterred, the men follow the paths, then suddenly rising up from the ground like a temple, is the beast they’ve spent the night hunting. 60 metres high and 2 metres across, she’s been marked with bright yellow paint. It’ll be a tough job to wrestle her to the ground.
5:35 am The chainsaw is fired into action. The men have no papers and no permission to breach these indigenous lands. The bright painted markings are a warning like the acid colours of the tiny but deadly poison dart frog but still the men proceed.
5.35 am: The mahogany tree took 100 years to grow but will take just 37 minutes to bring down. This masterpiece of nature contains 30 tonnes of carbon dioxide, everyday taking in more.
5.35am: Life in the Asháninka village slowly eases into action. Cooking pots are put on fires, gourds are filled with liquid manioc and people emerge from their palm leaf dwellings. The cacao pods grown under the shade of the canopy, dry on racks ready to be sold at market. Their coffee beans will be harvested later today. These people and their ancestors have lived in the forest for hundreds of years. Working together they’re able to protect it, not just for themselves but for all of us.
5.35 am The whine of the chainsaw is like a call to arms. Village upon village knows just what to do. They race through the forest without delay, as a community they gather in their hundreds.
5:47 am The loggers break from their work to be confronted by face upon face, first 10, then 20, they keep on coming, too many to ignore. They drop their machinery and agree to leave peacefully. The tree is damaged but it will survive, continuing to give oxygen, balance our climate, provide a habitat and a resource to people around the world. Left standing its greatest value is met. The men will never return.
By working in partnership with Cool Earth the communities in the Asháninka region of the Peruvian Amazon have no need to sell their trees to loggers in order to survive. Instead we have developed with them alternative sustainable incomes which means families now work together to protect their trees and safeguard the rainforest.
Read Lose Me and discover what can happen when communities don’t have support.