More than 1.6 billion people rely on the world’s forests for their livelihood. Meet one of these individuals in the third installment of our monthly blog series, One in 1.6 Billion.
Hector Elias Chavarría Guzmán typically begins his day as a forester for Reforestadora El Guásimo—a pine forest farm certified by the Rainforest Alliance to the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standards in Yarumal, Colombia—at 7 a.m. and heads home to his family by 3 p.m.
He is passionate about his job, and he feels immense gratitude for the measures that Reforestadora El Guásimo has taken to protect its workers and biodiversity, and to benefit the local community. “We feel at home here,” he says. “Everyone is very pleased with the company.”
Reforestadora El Guásimo manages 26,700 acres (10,899 hectares) of forest in the Yaramul. Of this, about 7,400 acres (3,000 hectares) are native forests or conservation areas that remain untouched, a requirement for certification. The rest is “working forest,” of which only 1,100 acres (450 hectares) are harvested per year, representing one-tenth of the total land area. After an area is harvested, it is immediately replanted with pine saplings.
While Chavarría is pleased with the company’s commitment to environmental protection, he feels most grateful for the benefits it offers its workforce and their families: “If you have an accident and you’re incapacitated, they still pay you. Where there were no parks, they’ve created little parks. There were many areas where they don’t have books, so then the company brought in books. They’ve looked at what people need and they’ve brought in what is needed.”
The company also provides clean, decent housing for workers—another requirement for Rainforest Alliance certification—along with medical care. The job is highly coveted; employees often refer their family members when positions open up.
“A sustainable business can sustain us as well,” Chavarría says. “If a business is profitable, all of us profit as well.”
Working forests may not be as photogenic as lush, virgin rainforests, but they are critical to maintaining the health of a landscape in timber-producing regions. And dedicated workers like Hector Elias Chavarria Guzmán are a vital part of this sustainability equation.