Extractivism in the forestry sector: conceptual clarifications needed

Extractivism in the forestry sector: conceptual clarifications needed

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According to Gudynas (2015), extractivism refers to extracted (material) and exported natural resources. The author tells us that for it to be considered extractivism, three basic conditions must be met: i) a high volume and / or intensity of extraction, ii) be raw resources or with little processing, and iii) where 50% are exported or more of these resources (Page 22). Under this conception, the term extractivism is applied to the extraction of minerals, hydrocarbons and monocultures for export. Although it is mentioned that the felling of native forest to obtain local firewood is a form of extractivism at a medium level (Page 19), it is not clear if other forms of extractivism are verified in the forest sector. The purpose of this article is to help elucidate this aspect.

For Colectivo Casa (sf), extractivism is the term used to refer to a way of organizing the economy of a country, based on a high dependence on the intensive extraction (in large volumes) of natural resources with very low processing ( added value) and intended for sale abroad (export). They include in this category “renewable” forest resources

The Forest Management Regulation of the Forest and Wildlife Law (Law No. 29763) expressly speaks of sustainable use and refers to the:

Utilization of the goods and services of forest ecosystems and other wild vegetation ecosystems, through management instruments, in a way and at a pace that does not cause their long-term decline, thereby maintaining the possibilities of meeting needs and aspirations of present and future generations.

In the Guidelines for the preparation of the General Forest Management Plan and Operational Plan for Forest Concessions for Timber Purposes (Executive Directorate Resolution No. 046-2016-SERFOR-DE) it is not strictly defined what a harvest is, but it speaks of a management system . In this regard, it is noted that:

The management system is mainly based on a polycyclic method. Through the management system a part of the usable volume is harvested (below the allowable annual cut) and per cutting cycle. The objective of this system is to produce periodic harvests from the diameter classes smaller than the Minimum Cutting Diameter, in the next cutting cycle and thereby maintain the forest canopy without drastic changes.

Therefore, it is understood that when talking about (forestry) use, allusion is being made to the contents of the definition of sustainable forestry use. An activity where extraction is done but maintaining the productive and reproductive characteristics of the forests. This is that it has the capacity for resilience, adaptive and evolutionary capacity. This is, as long as silvicultural principles are followed to maintain the complexity of forests as complex adaptive systems.

In a broad sense, extractivism corresponds to a unilateral resource extraction activity in which there are no resource replacement activities. This means that extractivism in general applies both to what has been called renewable natural resources (including flora, fauna) and non-renewable natural resources (mining, oil). If this is so, then the variables that affect extractivism in the forestry sector are:

· The intensity of the extraction. One of the factors pointed out by Gudynas (2015).

· The frequency of extraction.

Considerations for maintaining the self-regenerative capacity of the forest

· Silvicultural considerations to enable forests to maintain their structure and functions.

It means that to specify what extractivism we are talking about, we have to incorporate the variable impact on forest ecosystems. Thus we will speak of high impacts (which strongly affects the regenerative capacity), of medium impacts (which affects the regenerative capacity but possible to recover) or low impacts (in which the forest ecosystem maintains its own recovery capacity). Note that so far we have only seen things from a forest ecosystems perspective, things change when we incorporate the perspective of forests as socio-ecosystems.

Some of the ways of extracting resources from forests are:

· Hunting and gathering (Stefano Varese prefers to speak of foragers rather than gatherers).

· Fishing (considering lakes and rivers as part of forests).

· Extraction of parts of the plants that do not affect the plants and maintain their recovery capacity.

Extraction of plant parts that affect their recovery capacity

· Drastic extraction of a large part of the plant (or it affects vital structures) that end up nullifying the recovery capacity (such as when intensive illegal logging converges with impacts on flora, fauna, water and soils).

· Forest exploitation without effective compliance with silvicultural conditions that ensure its sustainability.

· Sustainable forestry in which scientifically-based silvicultural considerations and the contribution of traditional knowledge are rigorously applied.

Now, from a socioecosystemic perspective, it is not enough to talk about the extraction of flora, fauna, elements, structures or products produced by nature. There are other additional dimensions to consider.

· Legal or customary rights for access to resources.

· Self-regulation of the extractor (or the community or group to which it belongs) to maintain the recovery capacity of the forest or if the regulation is external (regulators and inspectors of compliance with the Forest and Wildlife Law).

· Labor dimension or situation in which the extractor (regardless of the intensity of extraction) owns or has control over the means of production

· Cultural dimension that refers to worldviews and knowledge.

· Psychological dimension associated with belonging to the forest ecosystem

Therefore, we must also differentiate whether it is extraction for the extractor or extraction for the external one. Extraction for itself is supposed to have the least impact (because it is supposed to be only for subsistence). It is frequently found that if extraction for commercial purposes is not regulated either by themselves or by authorities then the impact on the resilience of the forest is increasing. Of course, this is a function of the intensity (volumes) and degree of articulation to the markets, as Gudynas (2015) rightly mentions, only that he calls extractivism when more than 50% of production is exported.

When extraction is induced by the market then there is not only extraction of tangible natural resources but also extraction of other non-tangible resources for the market such as water and nutrients. It is also possible that human energy is extracted through systems of labor exploitation (covert or permitted), cultural extraction (traditional knowledge for example) or psychological extraction (when the loss of ecosystems and culture produce exhausting emotional states.

From all the above, taking into account the degree of sustainability, we could be typifying 3 types of extractivism in the forestry sector:

· Sustainable extractivism: when extraction does not affect the resilience of the forest ecosystem and safeguards the welfare conditions of the extractors (or workers). This is where the hunting, fishing and gathering practices of the inhabitants who live in the forests or forests and who strictly comply with the conditions of sustainable forest management fit. Even better if they are commercial forestry operations under voluntary forest certification. In the forestry vocabulary, the expression sustainable extractivism is not used and sustainable forestry is used as indicated above. The case of the Extractivist Reserves of Brazil is recorded (Gudynas, 2015).

· Intermediate extractivism: when there are degrees of damage to the forest ecosystem and the conditions of rights of the extractors (or workers). Here, management conditions can be verified under traditional knowledge or under forest management typical of plans approved by the forestry authorities but which are not fully complied with and therefore the character of sustainability is relativized and may even pass to the category of unsustainable.

· Unsustainable extractivism: when the intensity, frequency and mode of extraction severely affects the forest ecosystem and violates the rights of the extractors (or workers). From a perspective, a forest plantation articulated to the export of forest products that is carried out at the cost of transforming native forest would be falling into this perspective (Grupo Antidesarrollollista del Bíobío, 2015; Mapuexpress, 2000). Forestry operations that are linked to corruption also fall into this category (Gudynas, 2016).

This means that when there are commercial forestry operations that do not implement forest management measures, they do so with great intensity and cause great environmental and social impacts, they are actually acting under forest exploitation schemes (unsustainable extraction) and cannot be considered exploitation. forestry (sustainable). It is when they treat as non-renewable resources that originally fall into the category of renewable natural resources (as long as good management is done).

From what has been analyzed, it is concluded that in the case of the forestry sector, the concept of Gudynas is relativized on the issue of exports to markets, since not necessarily everything exported comes from unsustainable extractivism schemes (that is, they come from well-managed forestry operations ). But it is also true that the situation of illegal logging that is legalized along the way is known (concept of allegiances; Arce, 2018) or implementation of forest management plans of doubtful reliability and scientific consistency. Hence the importance of effectively making all the necessary efforts so that forest management is genuinely sustainable, that the necessary efforts are made to address the issue of illegal logging and that management conditions (and coexistence with forests) are generated for the well-being and livelihood of the local populations without affecting the forest socio-ecosystems.

Bibliographic references:

Arce, Rodrigo. [August 6, 2018]. Legality in the forestry sector. [Post on a blog]. SERVINDI. Lime. Retrieved from:

Colectivo Casa (s.f.) Extractivism, dependency and development. Collective for the Coordination of Socio-environmental Actions. Retrieved from:
Bíobío Anti-development Group. (2015). (2015, June 8). Forest miseries. Criticisms of forest extractivism in Chile and proposals for its overcoming. [Post on blog]. Recovered from:

Gudynas, Eduardo. (2016). Corruption and extractivism: mutually associated. Latin American Center for Social Ecology. Recovered from:

Gudynas, Eduardo. Extractivisms. Ecology, economics and politics in a way of understanding development and nature. Lima: Peruvian Network for a Globalization with Equity - RedGE, Latin American Center for Social Ecology - CLAES, Democracy and Global Transformation Program - PDTG.

Mapuexpress. (March 24, 2000). International Conference: Forest Extractivism, Water Crisis and Transgenic Trees

By: Rodrigo Arce Rojas. Doctor in Complex Thinking from the Edgar Morin Real World Multiversity of Mexico

Video: Woodland Management Tour and Talk - Hull Forest Products, Inc. (May 2022).


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