TREE PLANTING PROJECTS
MAYA 2020 – BELIZE
Salvaged Timber Guitars
Last year I travelled to Belize in Central America. I have travelled throughout the Caribbean and Central America before but never to this small country on the Yucatan Peninsula. I was immediately struck at how much native forest cover remained compared to neighbouring countries, however I was equally saddened to see that illegal logging was well underway in the Chiqubul National Park of Belize close to the border with Guatemala. The Chiquibul is an integral part of the wider forest called the Selva Maya which is an important habitat for an extraordinary diversity of endemic and endangered species including the Jaguar and Scarlet Macaw.
However, the entire Selva Maya has come under increasing pressure as human populations have, over the last 40 years, grown. The subsequent decline in forest cover is due to fires, illegal logging, gold mining and the advancing agricultural frontiers of cattle ranching. The ecological and economic impact caused by this destruction is immense on a local and regional basis. The extraction methods used by the illegal loggers, for example, is very crude and extremely wasteful with approximately 30% of the commercial value of every tree felled left to rot on the forest floor.
In collaboration with the conservation project Maya 2020 and local NGO Friends for Conservation and Development, I am now teaching local Maya Indians from surrounding villages how to make guitars from the wasted tropical timber. We aim to sell these to fund and support a reforestation project within the parks boundaries and restore these bountiful majestic giants of the forest.
I have also been able to source some old growth mahogany and rosewood in Belize that had sunk to the bottom of a lagoon over 150 years ago, when Belize was known as British Honduras and exploited for its excellent trees. The original timber had sunk before being loaded on to ships destined for England to be distributed to Chippendales sawmills or other similar destination.
As the timber has been perfectly preserved in near anaerobic conditions, it now makes wonderful instruments with unbelievable tone and grain.