Reforestamos, closing the technological gap in the forestry sector

Written by Arianna Campos and Daniel Sánchez

Private Sector Engagement Team, Reforestamos México


Despite the great progress that technology has had in the last few years with the 4th Industrial Revolution, its impact on the production processes has not been the same. A research study done by the  Overseas Development Institute discovered that, even though technological development has achieved an 11% rise in the productivity of developed nations, its impact in developing countries only reaches 3%.


What's the role of the Mexican Forestry Industry within this context?


To achieve growth that ensures the fulfillment of the Sustainable Development Goals, governments, companies and organizations in low- and middle-income countries must ensure policies and partnerships that maximize the benefits of the 4th Industrial Revolution, making them accessible to all levels of society. The creation of good action plans to foster digitalization can counteract socio-economic inequality and promote sustainable industrial productivity.


However, the absence of strategies for incorporating technology could increase the inequality gap and economic lag.


In order to encourage an inter-institutional dialogue that promotes this sustainable technological development within the forestry industry, Reforestamos México, along with institutional Mexican allies such as the National Forestry Commission (CONAFOR), the National Chamber of the Timber Industry - State of Mexico local chapter - and three community based forestry companies from Durango (Sezaric Group), Oaxaca (Pueblos Mancomunados) and Quintana Roo (Alianza Selva Maya), developed a series of exhibitions and conversations within the framework of the "Magna Expo Mueblera (MEM) Industrial", which took place on January 22, 23 and 24, 2020, in Mexico City, to share progress, challenges and perspectives with attendees of the leading trade show for the processing, wood transformation and manufacture of furniture.

Photo by: Reforestamos México

Regarding the adoption of new technologies in the production processes of the Mexican forestry sector, Engineer Mario Mosqueda, General Coordinator of Production and Productivity of CONAFOR, explained that there are different public funding mechanisms to facilitate the Mexican Forestry Industry to be competitive worldwide. He noted that in Mexico, there are more than 220 Community Based Forestry Companies with optimal business development, with high percentages of forest harvesting and with good organizational governance conditions. In the Government officer's opinion, to facilitate and speed up the incorporation of technology, it must be adapted to the needs of the Mexican context in terms of forest management, distribution and transformation of production and the market.


Israel Santiago Garcia, General Director of the Forestry Industry of Pueblos Mancomunados from Oaxaca, commented that some sectors within the same industry see the Community Based Forestry Companies as an uncompetitive actor due to their geographical locations, types of social organization or the time required to move. However, the company he represents has adopted technology to improve its efficiency and competitiveness, which has been positive according to comparisons made against its figures. The incorporation of technology, specifically new sawmill machinery, has helped them to reduce costs, to link up with new markets and to integrate correctly into their clients' standardized and strict logistical processes.


Photo by: Reforestamos México

In the case of the Selva Maya Alliance, a company that groups together five forestry ejidos in the state of Quintana Roo, the clearest sign for acquiring better technology is the great market potential of its products: tropical wood furniture. Throughout their history, they have learned that the physical characteristics of tropical woods demand more adequate technology for their work and transformation, and that, in the same way, reaching training agreements with machinery suppliers is important to ensure accompaniment and post-sales training. Abraham González, president of the Noh-Bec Ejidal Commissariat, one of the five ejidos that are part of the Alliance, considers that training in the use of technology is a strategic element to facilitate the incorporation of young people and women in furniture production and that this translates into sources of employment for forest communities.


For Grupo Sezaric, a Community Forestry Company in the state of Durango, the incorporation of new technologies has been a constant challenge. However, their experiences have been positive. Their business philosophy is to take advantage of 100% of the logs that arrive at their production plant, which has led them to explore technologies for biofuel and renewable energy processing. Reymundo Valdivia, Production Manager, believes that priority should be given to developing workforce capabilities, promoting knowledge exchanges and sharing good practices in the use of technology in the sector. Complementarily, he believes that unity among the actors in the chain, specifically with the private sector, is of utmost importance to learn more quickly about their needs, their service culture and their work discipline.


Photo by: Reforestamos México

Finally, Marco Antonio Ruiz, president of CANAINMA in the State of Mexico, added that it is necessary to promote greater involvement and knowledge among the different links in the productive forest chain. To this end, strategic alliances and better knowledge of the market and customers is imperative to ensure competitiveness and keep up with the technological advances of the industry in all processes of the value chain. Similarly, he pointed out that the integration of young people into the sector is essential to incorporate new visions and keep up with technological trends.


Reforestamos México promotes this type of articulation between actors in the forestry sector and with others outside the field, to share perspectives, cases and experiences that help to improve understanding of the reality to reduce gaps in financing, training and forest business development, to increase competitiveness and forest productivity indexes with a focus on sustainability.


References


Pantuliano, S. (2020) Four ways governments can leverage 4IR to achieve the SDGs. World Economic Forum. Recuperado de: https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/01/governments-leverage-4ir-achieve-sdgs/

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