TFT establishes presence in India
Since January 2019, TFT has become Earthworm Foundation.
In India, a continually growing and truly diverse part of the world, TFT set their mission to explore the current state and potential to expand, in the delivery of responsible forest products to the world’s increasingly interested markets.
Upon preliminary site visits earlier this year on behalf of responsible European and American forest product retailers, TFT is excited to report the future looks bright. Not only is India a world leader in producing high quality hand-made forest products from a variety of well sought after natural and planted timbers, their system of forest management appears professional and sound.
Despite a growing urban population, more than 70% of India’s 1.2 billion people still live in rural areas. This places immense pressure on forests to meet the growing need for alternative land-uses, fuel, fodder, grazing, wood, NTFPs (non timber forest products), industrial development and infrastructure needs.
While it’s important to remember this pressure continues to result in deforestation and degradation of natural ecosystems. It is also important to know that the extent of overall forest cover (including plantation) has been the subject of debate recently.
The majority of India’s commercial wood is currently produced from the agro-forestry sector, where trees are grown alongside and within crop and livestock production in order to maximize land use and multiple benefits. In northern India, the TFT team has been working with the supply chain of several locally grown species to determine current or potential risks, and identify ways to help improve management practices.
On behalf of TFT member Maisons Du Monde, a responsible European furniture and decorative retailer, TFT is working with factories in Rajasthan. This unique and colourful State produces some of the world’s finest hand made products, including indoor and outdoor wooden furniture and any number of household ornaments. In Southern India, TFT is working primarily in the State of Kerala, home to a population with the highest literacy rate in the country at 91%, around 30% forest cover, and a number of the world’s most highly desired tree species.
One such tree is the (East) Indian rosewood, occurring naturally in Kerala, the species is also grown in small and mixed plantations, and for shade on tea and coffee plantations. The wood has a beautiful rich dark red, brown and sometimes purple colour, a predominately straight grain, and exhibits excellent tonal qualities, making it ideal for high quality musical instruments. On request of several of the largest guitar manufactures in the world, TFT is learning about and working with rosewood production lines.
Our primary aim is to implement systems to ensure the legality of sources. TFT’s work here is a prime example of how the United States Lacey Act – a piece of legislation requiring all wood brought into the U.S. to be from legal sources – is starting to have real on the ground realities.
The Indian wood industry carries a number of challenges. The supply chains are complex, typically involving a large number of small and disperse wood producers and processors. This can pose a challenge to minimize perceived risks and in working with forest owners towards certification of substantial quantities of wood. Additionally, in many places the continued and increasing demand for wood impacts upon the age class and quality of current wood stocks.
These challenges are manageable however, the Indian government has clear systems of regulation in place based on the principles of responsible forest management and TFT is working to implement secure traceability systems.
The challenges are known, as are the opportunities. There are many positive signs that India will build upon the existing systems to strengthen their capacity to deliver responsible products.
TFT are excited to be expanding activities in India and is looking forward to the many emerging opportunities.