From the 2016 USAID Report: Back in 2014, U.S. guitar maker and entrepreneur Tom Bedell had a problem. He needed to ensure that his raw material was from legal and sustainable sources
to comply with his company’s “from seed to song” philosophy and brand. How could he demonstrate that the mahogany he was sourcing from Guatemala’s Petén rainforest was legally harvested? Furthermore, how could he be sure that the wood arriving at his workshop in Oregon was actually the same wood cut in the Petén? Illegal logging — and fraud to cover it up — are not uncommon in remote places, and the paperwork accompanying timber shipments is often questionable.

Seeking a solution, Tom turned to a unique USAID public-private partnership, the Forest Legality Alliance (FLA). The FLA put Tom in contact with a California- based start-up with a mobile phone-based app called TreeTAG. The app provides a timber tracking system that seemed to be just what Tom needed to trace his products “from seed to song,” so Bedell Guitars agreed to serve as the first TreeTAG pilot-test company. This support allowed the TreeTag team to begin designing a system that provided supply chain accountability for timber products and the forest communities that produce them. The Guatemalan government, which had recently launched a national-level online timber tracking system, has since signed a memorandum of understanding with TreeTAG and U.K.-based remote sensing company Astrosat to cooperate in testing technology applications to strengthen traceability. USAID’s support for the FLA, entrepreneurs,
and civil society working together to tackle illegal logging in Guatemala has leveraged resources, cooperation, and action worth many times USAID’s investment. Read the full report.