World Rainforest Movement

Nicaragua: The Indio Maiz Biological Reserve threatened by gmelina plantations

The Indio Maiz Biological Reserve is located in the southeast region of Nicaragua, covering an area of 3,180 km². It is called after two rivers, the Indio and the Maiz. It is one of the most important biosphere reserves in the country and contains a tropical rainforest, wetlands and lagoons hosting diverse fauna: jaguars, harpy eagles, green macaws, manatees, sawfish and crocodiles. In the forest you will find cedar, mahogany, almond, medlar, manu and maria trees, among others.

However the forest and the rich biodiversity that inhabits it are threatened by an activity that appears to be quite contradictory to the concept of “reserve.” According to complaints by Nicaraguan young peoples’ organizations (Jovenes en Acción and Comunidad Ambientalista), in the secondary forest (over 20 years old) of the reserve’s buffer zone, the Costa Rican company Maderas Cultivadas de Costa Rica S.A., has established monoculture teak and gmelina plantations. So far they have installed 3 thousand hectares of gmelina but the company has purchased 5 thousand hectares and the project considers extending it to 8 thousand hectares.

This activity in turn leads to logging, generally of valuable woods, while the area is cleared for plantation. According to the complaints filed with the Environmental Procurator’s Office in Managua, the company – as part of forest management – illegally set fire to stubble and non-valuable woods that had been left on the ground. The fire advanced dangerously towards nearby houses. This was detected by a field visit carried out by members of Comunidad Ambientalista in November 2005.

The following month the young people followed up on the case in Managua, but found the unpleasant surprise that it had been filed and no one had any knowledge of it. Again, with the effort of the young people, they raised funds by holding concerts and selling T-shirts to enable the Commission to visit the location, document the damage and take photographs. There they observed that 5,000 hectares have been purchased, a numeric tagging has been made of the trees and the plantation is progressing. Apparently the company wants to extend the plantations to 8,000 hectares.

During the three days the young people spent in the area, supported by the community that gave them shelter and food, they observed that many springs and small streams have dried up and that the water comes out with a whitish colouring. Furthermore, they verified irregularities in the company’s actions. According to their complaint, the company bypassed municipal law and presented itself directly to the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAG-FOR), which has granted them permits to log (both for secondary forest and for the primary forest where they operate) when in fact it should have been the INAFOR (National Forestry Institute) municipal authority that granted them.

The young people reported that the company tried to meet with them, but they did not accept as they had been informed that the company had attempted to buy some of the leaders of the local voluntary juvenile group with five thousand dollars.

The position of the young people’s organizations is: We Do Not Want Gmelina Companies in the Municipality!

Article based on personal information sent by Engels Obregón, Comunidad Ambientalista, e-mail: eobregongautama@yahoo.com

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