Deforesation Issue; Indonesia, Africa, and the Djembe

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Re: Deforesation Issue; Indonesia, Africa, and the Djembe

Postby michi » Wed Dec 07, 2011 9:42 pm

A Google search quickly gets you a bunch of sites. I can't vouch for their accuracy, and I would take any information presented by conservation groups with a grain of salt, just as I would for information presented by logging companies; each group will have its on bias to add.

But the overall picture doen't look pretty, just as everywhere else in the world.

http://rainforests.mongabay.com/20afrotropical.htm

http://www.reuters.com/article/2008/06/10/us-africa-environment-idUSL1064180420080610

http://afrol.com/features/10278

Michi.
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Re: Deforesation Issue; Indonesia, Africa, and the Djembe

Postby Tom » Sat Dec 10, 2011 2:46 pm

In response to Michael Pluznick's last response, I'd say that his response gave me some clarification on his side of the story, and especially on where the line is drawn between him and the original subject of the topic (X8 drums). Although we do not agree on some of the issues, there are also some that we agree on.

"...drum carvers (at least in Mali) are paid almost nothing. If this fact is wrong please show us the details! They have to feed their families and do not have resources or abilities to change their conditions or where their wood comes from."

This is a fact, and it is widespread. I do not believe we can pin this on westerners though; at least not 100%. From what I have witnessed it is in most part the African drum shop owners/exporters who seriously exploit African drum workers. In Guinea the maker/exporter (I'll call him Mr. B) who has for many years produced and sold the largest quantities of drums in Guinea, is also the worst exploiter of drum workers. His mistreatment of drum workers would truly shock the people who buy from him and his dealers in the US and throughout the world. Talk to the workers in Conakry and you will hear the many stories. Interestingly enough though is that quite a few of the djembefola members own one of his djembes, which are professionally mounted by one of his US dealers and sold at premium prices. Mr. B and I have a long history, because at every turn he has attempted to sabotage my efforts in Guinea, reasoning that "I am ruining the djembe business in Guinea by paying higher wages". Paying above standard wages really goes against the grain here, because exploitation is the name of the game. I would say that westerners are to blame when they buy from sources from which they have not confirmed pay fair wages, or from dealers who buy from sources who do not pay fair wages (as in the case of Mr. B and his dealer that I mention), although I realize that this is sometimes difficult to do. Another reason is that people expect anything from Africa to be had at a cheap price, and there is a reluctance to pay a fair price, which in turn makes it difficult to pay a fair wage. But I have doubts that it is any different in Indonesia, as the prices seem to be very low. There doesn't seem to be room in the price/cost structure for fair wages to be paid. But that is just my suspicion.

"As I mentioned there is no spokesperson or union"

A union could be to a great advantage to drum workers in Africa. Over the past couple of months I have been discussing this exact topic with one of the local carvers; a carver who has a lot of influence over the other carvers. The challenge is that most of the carvers are illiterate, which makes it very difficult for them to organize. The person I am speaking with happens to be educated, literate, and somewhat computer savvy, and so he has potential to to lead the others. The second challenge though is that in Guinea the spirit of cooperation is rare. This is due to Guineans growing up in great scarcity, with everyone competing for the same meager dollars. Still, with a good leader there could be a movement towards fair wages. But now Indonesian drum makers are now a major factor in the global drum market, and they would need to cooperate with the setting of fair wages if a movement like this is to have success. As it is, Indonesian drums are moving the market in the opposite direction. Anyway, your suggestion opens up an interesting subject.

I think Michael made some good points which I hope to discuss in further detail, although I am out of time for the moment.
Tom Kondas
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Re: Deforesation Issue; Indonesia, Africa, and the Djembe

Postby bkidd » Sat Dec 10, 2011 5:55 pm

Hi Tom,

I like that you are bringing all these issues to the forum. It's important to know where our instruments are coming from, how workers are being treated, and how the resources are being renewed (or not).

As a western consumer it's sometimes difficult to get information on the afore mentioned items so I really appreciate hearing from people who have direct experience with this. While the reality might be that Westerners can exploit cheaper wages for people in other countries to keep the cost of goods sold in the US or other markets, I am always willing to pay more for quality products. With so many steps between me and the tree, it's difficult to trace the money trail and more challenging for me as an individual to influence pricing. Everyone along the way is trying to make money and competition in this global business creates opportunities for all types of exploitation (good and bad).

Best,
-Brian
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Re: Deforesation Issue; Indonesia, Africa, and the Djembe

Postby Sandy » Mon Feb 20, 2012 1:37 pm

How is the Lacey Act impacting importation of djembe drums out of West Africa? The Lacey Act apparently requires the wood be sourced and harvested from a legal environmentally sustainable source. This has to be proven all the way through the supply chain, and the end importer carries the final responsibility, which can result in huge penalties and fines if found to be non-compliant. When so many people in Guinea and Mali live in such extreme poverty and just trying to scrape by to feed their families day by day, and don't have access to reliable electricity, or computers for that matter, how do craftsman from these countries even know the Lacey Act exists, let alone how to comply?
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Re: Deforesation Issue; Indonesia, Africa, and the Djembe

Postby michi » Mon Feb 20, 2012 9:13 pm

Hi Sandy,

welcome to the forum! :)

Sandy wrote:How is the Lacey Act impacting importation of djembe drums out of West Africa?

As far as I can see, not at all. It simply doesn't apply.

The Lacey Act apparently requires the wood be sourced and harvested from a legal environmentally sustainable source. This has to be proven all the way through the supply chain, and the end importer carries the final responsibility, which can result in huge penalties and fines if found to be non-compliant.

That's not my understanding. As far as I can see, it prohibits importation of trees that are taken in violation of foreign law that protects them. It also requires a timber import declaration that states the origin of the timber, species, and quantity. As far as I can see, the implementation of the 2009 amendment to the act currently only requires the declaration of raw timber (logs and lumber), but not manufactured products. Currently, only hardwood from areas in sub-tropical Asia east of 60 degrees east longitude cannot be imported. (That covers Iran, Iraq, and the Middle East, Turkey, much of Russia, and so on.) But even from these areas, manufactured timber, such as kiln-dried timber, can be imported.

None of the traditional djembe woods (and none of the commonly used substitute woods) are on the CITES listing of species. In other words, there are no import restrictions on djembes or even the raw timber out which djembes are made.

When so many people in Guinea and Mali live in such extreme poverty and just trying to scrape by to feed their families day by day, and don't have access to reliable electricity, or computers for that matter, how do craftsman from these countries even know the Lacey Act exists, let alone how to comply?

They don't need to know that it exists and they and don't need to comply. The act is a US law which has no force in Africa.

Cheers,

Michi.
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