For cooperatives that do not have their own mill, logs are sold to sawmills to be
converted into lumber. All of the study cooperatives have this experience in common.
The cooperatives from Quebrada Honda, Chaguite Grande, and Protección had similar
problems. They all made commitments to sell to one mill. Protección was convinced to
sign a contract, and afterwards they could not sell to buyers offering better prices.
Chaguite Grande and Quebrada Honda used credit with the sawmill as a guarantee for
COHDEFOR, which obligated them to sell to that mill. Villa Santa and Guadalupe were
free to sell to the highest bidder.
The question of whether a sawmill is worth the risk for a cooperative is difficult.
Mistakes can be painful and expensive. The mill built in Chaguite Grande was imported
from Brazil and paid for by FAO. It was steam-powered and used wood scraps for fuel.
It functioned well, but the cooperative was not able to supply the mill with logs on a
consistent basis because of the sporadic nature of their harvesting contracts. Nor was
great importance placed on obtaining material to process at the mill. This may be
because the cooperative had not invested anything in it. One cooperative member said,
“We never used it unless COHDEFOR gave us a venta and told us to start working. They
usually did that when they were going to bring someone important to see our great
project working. They would say, ‘See how nice the campesinos are working.’ They
only gave us a venta if they were going to bring someone up. After that, nothing.” The
boiler of the sawmill eventually needed a major repair, but no one knew where to find
replacement parts. That was the end of the sawmill. All useful parts were stripped and
sold, and now the mill is just a roof with some rusty remnants under it.