CONTAMANA, Peru — Although bolaina (Guazuma crinita) is not considered a valuable timber species, the steady demand for it as an inexpensive building material creates jobs for hundreds of people in the Peruvian Amazon.
In Contamana, the capital of Ucayali Province in Peru’s northeastern Amazon region, where researchers with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) are studying how small farmers manage and market bolaina from their fallow fields, various people play roles in getting the trees from woodlot to market.
The farmer or smallholder allows bolaina trees to grow in a fallow field. After five or six years, the trees are large enough to cut and sell, but the farmer often lacks the means to harvest them.
Unless the smallholder owns a chainsaw and other equipment, the trees are sold to a woodcutter — known as a bolainero — who will cut them and take them to a sawmill. Most bolaineros set up portable sawmills in the smallholder’s woodlot to cut the trunks into boards.
A bolainero usually works with a team of eight or nine people setting up camp in the woodlot until the job is done, then delivering the timber or rough-cut boards to a sawmill in town.
Bolaineros need cash up front to hire laborers, rent equipment if they do not have their own, and purchase food and other supplies for the camp. They turn to an habilitador — Spanish for “enabler” — who lends them the money in exchange for a certain amount of timber from the woodlot. If the lot yields more than that amount, the bolainero can sell the surplus and keep the proceeds.
The habilitador may also arrange for the necessary permits, saving the smallholder and the bolainero time and trouble.
In some cases, the habilitador is a businessperson who “has a boat and connections and is known as a provider of lumber,” said CIFOR’s Robin Sears, is part of a team studying the management and marketing of bolaina in the Peruvian Amazon.
In other cases, the habilitador may be a sawmill owner who will mill the timber or rough-cut boards delivered by the bolainero. Some sawmill operators employ their own bolainero groups. One sawmill operator in Contamana has two groups and acts as habilitador for others, creating jobs for more than 100 people, Sears said.
From the sawmill, the lumber is shipped by river from Contamana to Pucallpa, a city on the Ucayali River in eastern Peru, where it is sanded and shaped at a larger sawmill and sold locally or trucked over the Andes a larger city on Peru’s Pacific coast.
For more information on the topics discussed in this article, please contact Peter Cronkleton at email@example.com
This work forms part of the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and is supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).