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Eco-Friendly Djembes: What Is Illegally Harvested Wood?



The illegal harvesting and logging of wood for commerce is a problem in ecosystems around the globe. As most djembes and other hand drums are carved from wood, inevitably illegally harvested wood has made its way into the industry. Wikipedia defines illegal harvesting as follows:

“The harvest, transportation, purchase or sale of timber in violation of national laws. The harvesting procedure itself may be illegal, including using corrupt means to gain access to forests; extraction without permission or from a protected area; the cutting of protected species; or the extraction of timber in excess of agreed limits.”

In other words, illegal wood is wood harvested outside of government regulation, or in excess of regulations and permits, or from areas that are considered environmentally sensitive. At times it may simply mean wood from a tree that is endangered and close to going extinct. Many of the African hardwoods that djembes from that region are made from, for example, are endangered, though in these countries they simply do not even regulate wood harvests with permits at all.

So how do you, the hand drum player or buyer, avoid ending up with a drum from one of these sources? With so many suppliers and brands from regions around the world, it can be difficult for the djembe buyer to ensure that their hand drum comes from a reputable source. However, there are a few ways to tell.

First and foremost, you should feel more than comfortable asking the supplier or manufacturer to provide documentation that their wood comes from legal sources. The Lacey Act here in America requires an EXTREMELY strict chain of command to be followed with legally harvested wood. In April 2010 the Lacey Act laws will finally go into their full effect, and you will notice that many companies on the market will lose a significant amount of their variety and supply due to this.

Generally Legal Wood Verification comes in the form of a certificate from the country of origin stating that the wood used came from sanctioned areas such as plantations or forests. Simply put, if the retailer for any reason claims to be unable to provide this documentation, don’t buy from them, at least until they do. If they are not a direct importer, contact the company who imports the drum in question. If you cannot find that company, consider buying from a trusted source instead.

We can tell you first hand that 99% of the drums on ebay are made from Illegal wood. Of the drum sellers on ebay, EthosDrummer, our partner, is the only drum seller who is filing Lacey Act compliant paperwork upon importation of their product. These other Knock off products are not only inferior (in spite of copying our original carvings and the carvings of other companies) but also are made from illegal wood that is illegal to harvest and thus the product is illegal to sell in the United States. Many of these shady vendors have 100% positive feedback ratings in spite of this detail-however, this only reflects the quickness of shipping and subtly adequate nature of the drums—they simply do not compare in quality to our products, and thus they are sold extremely cheap, because their quality is also cheap. They are beneath the expectations of any serious drummer or anyone serious about buying from a trusted source.

Some companies even manage to obtain certificates through corrupt government officials and other black market venues. How, then, can you ensure your drum comes from a reputable source? There are a number of slight indicators, though no sure-fire way to tell. We suggest that you do a little research on the company in question. Check out their products in all the venues they sell in. Do they themselves sound like they are foreigners who have traveled to the US to sell their product? Do they have a good reputation among other experienced drummers? A combination of several aspects of a company that seem off generally makes them a high risk company for illegal wood importation. Most of these companies will be filtered out of the market through Lacey Act verification as 2010 plays out, but be sure in the meantime that you are covered, as some may still have purchased certificates from illegal sources.

Most of all, look to see if the company in question’s product simply appears to be far too cheap for what you are promised. Illegal wood is generally bought at a severely cheaper price (and harvested without the permission of the landowner or government), which then lowers significantly the production costs for each drum, meaning less overhead and thus overly-low pricing. If it seems too good to be true, or if they sell in one online venue (ESPECIALLY eBay) but do not have a strong company website presence, don’t buy from them. It is easier for these sellers to stay below the radar on websites like ebay, as they would more likely be uncovered if they tried to function as a full, reputable retail company with a website and history and extensive customer feedback. You truly get what you pay for in most instances,and though you may find their drum adequate, we can guarantee that it will not match up to the much higher standards our drums are built to.

Buy from a company you can research, know and trust. At Mother Rhythm Drums we guarantee that you will never buy a drum from us that comes from illegal sources. We have the certificate as well as the reputation within the industry to prove that. We check up on our suppliers every few months, and require a brand new harvest certificate with every single container of inventory we import.

You can always feel comfortable with your purchase, because not only is it eco-friendly, it also comes with a lifetime of support should you ever need it. We pride ourselves on working closely with our customer base to ensure that your buying and owning experience is everything you want it to be. It isn’t just that we work with the most ethically-minded suppliers to ensure quality—it’s also that we work as hard as we can each day to be the most ethically-minded company we can be.

Wherever you choose to buy your drum, we sincerely hope that it exceeds your expectations, and that you find all the wonderful things that are available through rhythm and hand drumming. Should you choose to consider us for your drumming needs, we promise to do everything in our power to make you feel like a part of our family. Be well in rhythm…

(Check out more information on the Lacey Act and it’s requirements here

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