Empalme La Bú and MLR Forestal: the company’s relationship with its closest neighbors
The Empalme La Bú is a town located on the road that goes from Siuna to Waslala. In it there is a school, grocery stores, small evangelical temples, bars and also a well-known neighbor: the main campus of MLR Forestal.
Gerarda Cruz Picado is 55 years old and is a neighbor of the Empalme where she arrived forty years ago. Back then, what is now the community “was a virgin forest” and although over time families came to live here, before the establishment of MLR Forestal “there was no movement of people, everyone passed through to Siuna and the houses were few, maybe about fifty, but all this has changed, now there are more than three hundred houses, there are four churches, quite a few people, most of them work in the company.”
It was precisely in this area so close to MLR Forestal where an assembly open for the whole community was held. During April, these meetings were also held in Unión La Bu, San Miguel #1, Bethel #2 and one was held with inhabitants of private farms located in Mutiwas, Tadazna and Waylawas, who are also neighbors of the company.
During these meetings one of the main points is the ratification of community leaders. These are people who since 2019 are recognized by their neighbors as leaders or representatives for their volunteer work within the community. These men and women are the first interlocutors of the community with MLR Forestal.
Information, certifications, communication and consultations
Luis López, Sustainable Development Manager of MLR Forestal explains that the assemblies have four moments:
- “The first thing is the informative part. We inform about the management plan, about some particular situation such as that this year we started with the extraction of wood from the plantations during which heavy machinery is used and it is important to coordinate with each community the security”.
- “In the second stage we talk about certification schemes, that they know what principles evaluate us and all this so that they feel involved and the community is aware.”
- “The third point is the communication and complaints mechanisms and the last step is consultation: the leaders are ratified, we collect recommendations, observations, complaints if any, we take note and try to respond.”
“The assembly was very dynamic”
Isidro Alarcón, a resident of Empalme, was present at the assembly held on April 19 and described it as “very dynamic.” “The topics were good, mainly about employment opportunities. In general, the assembly was very dynamic,” Alarcón said.
During the meeting, the Social Management area disclosed the company’s social program that includes the community health and safety plan, the existing employment opportunities, requirements and benefits that MLR has for its workers and the response actions carried out against COVID 19 and the actions carried out after hurricanes Eta and Iota that hit the area in November 2020, actions that were extended throughout 2021.
Agenda items at the meeting with the Empalme La Bú community:
- Presentation of the company and status of MLR operations.
- Social management projects, include verification of the community health and safety plan.
- Main results of international certifications. The FSC certification granted by the Forest Stewardship Council since 2013 that certifies forest plantations through compliance with ten principles; that of the Rainforest Alliance that the company has had since 2017 and certifies good practices in cocoa production through evaluation modules that value the environmental, social, administrative area and traceability of the product and, the most recent certification, carbon capture under the VCS (Verified Carbon Standard). It certifies that the project adopts measures that contribute to the mitigation of the effects of climate change, support local communities and small farmers, and conserve biodiversity.
- The actions to promote biodiversity that the company carries out on its farms, the MLR study and catalogue of birds was also presented.
- The employment opportunities open to the community, requirements and benefits that people who work for MLR have.
- Ratification of community leaders with whom communities feel represented.