Image by Tatters:) via FlickrSound & Fair has launched a partnership with Just Forests, an Irish non-governmental organisation, to raise awareness of the availability of Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified African blackwood, which is widely used in traditional Irish musical instruments.
African blackwood is the most commonly used wood in the manufacturing of instruments such as traditional Irish flutes, as well as other woodwind instruments such as clarinets, oboes and bagpipes.
Due primarily to demand for the manufacture of woodwind instruments, the species has already disappeared from large parts of it’s East African range and is now confined to small areas of southern Tanzania and northern Mozambique.
Sound & Fair aims to establish a sustainable trade in African blackwood through a chain of custody linking all handlers of FSC-certified African blackwood, starting with forest harvesters in Tanzania and ending with instrument manufacturers and retailers in the West.
The chain of custody provides consumers with independent verification that the wood used to produce their instruments originates from a sustainable source, enabling them to make purchasing decisions based on ethical as well as quality considerations.
Tom Roche, Director of Just Forests says: “For Just Forests this is a dream come true. We are delighted to partner with Sound & Fair in this very practical project through our Just Music initiative. This partnership will engage Irish musicians and Irish musical instrument makers with our fight against poverty and un-fair forest exploitation.”
The world’s first harvest of FSC-certified African blackwood was carried out in December 2009 in a Village Land Forest Reserve managed by Kikole village, southern Tanzania, under the guidance of the Mpingo Conservation Project.
Kikole received a payment of around £1,200 in return for 15m3 of African blackwood, a sum 400 times greater more than they would have received before FSC-certification.
The wood is currently being processed at an FSC-certified sawmill in Tanzania and will shortly be exported to the UK.
Neil Bridgland, Sound & Fair Campaign Manager, says: “Sound & Fair looks forward to working with Just Forests in reaching out to Irish woodworkers and establishing FSC-certified African blackwood as the standard source of supply for flute makers. Through FSC, flute manufacturers have an opportunity to facilitate a ‘win-win’ situation of environmental sustainability for the forests of Southern Tanzania and poverty alleviation for some of the world’s poorest people.”