Reforestation and PovertyAny process that alters the area covered by tree crown is considered deforestation. Forests and grasslands used to cover most of the earth. However, as civilization grew, forests diminished. This process has contributed to the extinction of thousands of plants and animals. It continues to be an increasingly serious problem as the population increases and valuable resources are depleted. The World Bank estimates that forests contribute to the livelihoods of 90 percent of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty. Reforestation efforts in countries all around the world have brought to light the ways forests can either increase or reduce local poverty. Here are some of the connections being realized about reforestation and poverty.

Reforestation and poverty

Forests provide people with more than just trees that purify the air. Tree cover supports the ecosystems and habitats of plants, animals and insects that are needed to keep the world in balance. Leaves shed from trees enrich the soil and support biodiversity. Forests carry about 90 percent of all the earth’s species, both plants and animals. This diversity is highly linked to medicinal research and pharmaceutical breakthroughs. Trees allow water to evaporate from their leaves after purifying it from deep within the earth, giving trees an important role in the water cycle. Products provided by forests range from nuts and berries to mushrooms and herbs and even gums, oils and rubber.

Reforestation projects can also reduce poverty directly by paying locals a fair wage for their tree planting efforts. Eden Projects in Madagascar focuses on providing stable jobs and reliable employers in areas where they are scarce. This income has helped people buy land, improve their health and send their children to school, allowing them to break the cycle of poverty they were born into.

Reforestation and Agriculture

Agriculture couldn’t survive without rain and it also depends on healthy soil. Trees produce nutrients for the soil while protecting crops from violent winds and preventing soil salinization. Furthermore, the right trees can actually increase crop production. The World Agroforestry Centre did a study in the Sahel on the impact of agroforestry on the production of grain. They found a crop increase of 15 to 30 percent with the addition of fertilizer trees.

In Niger, two economists calculated the economic return rate for farm managed natural regeneration and tree planting. The economic rate of return for FMNR was 37 percent based on a 20-year period with a 5 percent increase in crops. They also calculated return rates of 13 percent for tree planting. However, this is likely considered an overestimate because not all the trees planted would survive. In reality, the average of planted trees is around 20 percent or fewer. That would greatly reduce returns and require the planting of more trees to increase survival rates.

Countries Making an Effort

  1. France: One of France’s newest regional natural parks, the Baronnies Provençales, spreads across 700 square miles of the Drôme and Hautes-Alpes. Forests make up 79 percent of the park. As the world worries about deforestation, the number of forests in France is on the rise. France has increased its forest cover to 31 percent of the country, a 7 percent increase since 1990.
  2. Nepal: This country finds itself as an exception to the deforestation trend among developing countries across the globe. Forest cover has grown substantially since 1992. In fact, forest cover increased from 26 percent that year to 45 percent by 2016.
  3. Costa Rica: Costa Rica intends to wean itself from fossil fuels by 2050. In its efforts to accomplish this goal, the country “has doubled its forest cover in the last 30 years.” Half of its land surface is now covered with trees which is a huge improvement after decades of deforestation.
  4. China: Since 1970, China has planted 66 billion trees spanning across around 12,000 miles of Northern China. Its government’s reforestation efforts have required every citizen age 11  and up to plant three saplings every year. Thanks to this China accounts for 25 percent of the global increase in leaf area.
  5. Pakistan: In 2014, Pakistan committed to a Billion Tree Tsunami Campaign. They hope to restore 350,000 hectares of land with forest cover.
  6. Brazil: As part of their climate agreement with Paris, Brazil has the goal of “reforesting 12 million hectares by 2030.” So far the non-profit Conservation International is working in the Amazon Rainforest to restore 30,000 hectares of forest.

The Learning Curve

After WWII the Japanese government recruited villagers to plant millions of trees. Unfortunately, the government chose to only plant two tree species: the fast-growing evergreens hinoki and sugi. The result was a countryside devoid of biodiversity, an eerie silence from lack of fish and insects and dry, hard soil. This created a habitat unsuitable for thriving ecosystems.

Today, reforestation campaigns are taking place around the world to build resilience and mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. With the right information presented, they can understand the importance of biodiversity and make it a priority as they move forward with their plans. Reforestation and poverty can be tackled together, but biodiversity must be recognized and made a priority.

Want to plant a tree but unsure where to start? Tree-Nation has developed 224 tree planting projects in 33 countries. With help from citizens around the world, Tree-Nation has planted more than one million trees in Columbia, more than 42,000 trees in Burkina Faso and more than 300,000 trees in Kenya. These numbers are just a fraction of the work that has been done by this company. The website makes it easy for anyone wanting to contribute to find a project that works for them. Connecting reforestation and poverty can help improve the environment and lives.

Janice Athill
Photo: Pickpic

Scuba Diving Can Alleviate Poverty
Scuba diving is the practice of underwater diving with a SCUBA, an acronym for self-contained underwater breathing apparatus. The United States Special Force’s frogmen initially used this during the Second World War. Through this technology, divers can go underwater without connecting to a surface oxygen supply. The main aim for many scuba divers today is dive tourism, with marine conservation trailing closely behind. It is through these conservation efforts and tourism businesses in coastal areas that plenty of communities have found themselves being alleviated from poverty. Scuba diving can alleviate poverty due to the new employment opportunities that arise through environmental efforts, as well as the work scuba diving training businesses provide.

Although the Earth’s equatorial belt possesses 75 percent of the world’s most productive and beautiful coral reefs, this area is home to over 275 million individuals living under poverty. These are individuals who depend directly on coral reefs, fish and marine resources for their food, security and income.

According to Judi Lowe, Ph.D. in Dive Tourism, these incredible bio-diverse coral reefs have immense potential for dive tourism. However, conflicts are currently present between dive operators and local communities due to a limited supply of essential resources. If businesses in the diving industry turned to greener practices and focused on indigenous local communities, they could achieve marine conservation, along with poverty alleviation.

Integrated Framework Coastal Management and Poverty Alleviation

Without a doubt, efforts to preserve the marine environment must include local communities to preserve the marine environment. By including people whose livelihoods are dependent on fisheries and aquaculture into recreational scuba diving, there will be greater benefits for the community and the environment. One of the pre-existing frameworks that ensure this mutual symbiosis is the integrated framework of coastal management.

Integrated framework coastal management is a tool that ensures a successful and profitable outcome for all parties involved in the use and conservation of marine resources. Through this model, locals integrate into the administration and the use of natural resources in several water-based industries. Supplemental payments and employment within other businesses create employment opportunities, should fish bans or similar legislative actions displace primary jobs. This has occurred in Northern Mozambique and Kenya.

Scuba Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Mozambique

Mozambique is a country with a history of the slave trade, colonization and 15 years of civil war. Nevertheless, it is a nation in the equatorial belt that has significant tourism potential. After the civil war, tourism was its quickest growing industry. Forty-five percent of the country’s population participates in the tourism industry.

Poverty is lowest in the province of Ponta do Ouro, located in the southern-most area of Mozambique. Ponta do Ouro is home to the greatest levels of marine tourism, where tourists and locals collaborate to participate in water-based activities such as scuba diving. The area particularly favors scuba diving due to the presence of bull sharks, tiger sharks and hammerheads. It also has year-round warm water and is home to humpback whales from August through November. As it holds pristine marine biodiversity, the area is a marine protected area (MPA).

Scuba activities in Ponta do Ouro mainly happen within scuba diving management areas that follow the diver code of conduct. Most diving in the area is done to maintain the biophysical environment through the monitoring and assessment of ecosystem health and management of marine pollution by maintaining low levels of plastic pollution that accumulates in the bays along the coastline.

Not only can scuba diving alleviate poverty through dive tourism, but MPAs have also been influential. For example, MPAs have helped promote and facilitate the involvement of Mozambicans to monitor their fisheries, map different user groups that can overlay with physical and biological data and conduct research. All of these actions help locals find employment and elevate their living standards.

In the future, a greater exploration of the Mozambican Indian Ocean should be explored and strategic planning to maintain the attractiveness of the area and avoid loss of biodiversity is imperative. This will open up greater possibilities for locals to set up dive sites and cultivate diving enterprises, conserve the biological species and obtain greater income.

SPACES, Diving and Poverty Alleviation in Kenya

The Sustainable Poverty Alleviation from Coastal Ecosystem Services (SPACES) Project is a collaborative initiative funded by the U.K. Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation (ESPA) and SwedBio. The project aims to uncover the scientific knowledge on the complex relationship between ecosystem services, poverty and human wellbeing. The project studies sites in Mozambique and Kenya.

The concept of ecosystem services (ES) that the project uses determined that humans derive great benefits from ecosystems. People can apply these benefits to environmental conservation, human well-being and poverty alleviation. People can also use them to inform and develop interventions. If people implement the integrated framework coastal management, there is a large possibility for ecosystem services to inform the development of ES interventions that contribute to poverty alleviation through entrepreneurial activities. If locals cultivate diving enterprises, these communities would reap the benefits of the cash-based livelihood that many diving businesses currently possess.

Lobster Diving in Honduras

In Honduras, diving has been a primary livelihood. In the Central American country that shares its borders with Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua, lobster diving serves as a way of living, particularly in the indigenous community of Miskito. Mosquita is one of the most impoverished areas of Latin America.

Despite the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) setting safe standard diving techniques, one that calls for a gradual ascent to the surface and a limit to the number of dives a person can make in one day, the divers of Mosquita dive deeply, surface quickly and go back for more. They race to collect as much lobster as possible, fishing to take their families and themselves out of poverty. These conditions make them prone to nitrogen decompression sickness, a sickness that disabled over 1,200 Miskitos since 1980.

Nevertheless, a diver receives $3 for every pound of lobster they get and 28 cents for every sea cucumber. This is a significant amount of money for the area and for that reason, many take the risk. The boats where the divers spend their time between dives also only have rudimentary safety equipment, using aging tanks and masks. These divers need to do their jobs to raise themselves out of poverty. Until the government implements necessary training to divers, as well as health insurance provisions, divers will remain at risk. Lobster diving has great potential for promoting marine biodiversity, poverty alleviation and sustainable coastal development; however, health precautions must be a priority as well in order for lobster diving to be a truly sustainable solution.  

Looking Forward

Scuba diving can alleviate poverty with its safety practices and dedication for marine conservation, which opens up many opportunities for technological and economic advances through educational, conservation and entrepreneurship potential. Aside from igniting passion and dedication to fighting for the underwater environment, scuba diving urges divers to fight for their survival, their protection and their businesses as well. It is therefore understandable why many have come to value scuba diving as one of the most potent ways to educate society about environmental conservation, and with it, help increase living standards for coastal communities.

– Monique Santoso
Photo: Flickr

 

Tropical Cyclones in Bangladesh Monsoon season in the Bay of Bengal usually lasts from June to September and can be characterized by sudden, violent downpours of torrential rain. These heavy rains are integral to the climate and culture of this part of the world, but can also pose a threat to lives and infrastructure when storms become severe. In the Chittagong Hill Tracts region of Bangladesh, monsoon rains and cyclones can trigger landslides on the steep, uneven ground. These landslides have become increasingly deadly in recent years. Substantial landslides in the second half of the 20th century typically recorded few to no deaths. This changed by the turn of the century: in the 2007 and 2017 landslides, 136 and 170 people died, respectively. Landslides in Bangladesh are becoming deadlier and the government must take measures to prevent further loss of life.

Rapid and Unplanned Urbanization

With an urbanization rate of 3.17 percent, Bangladesh has experienced a large amount of internal migration. People who seek better job and educational opportunities are moving to urban areas. Urbanization itself is not a bad thing, but problems can arise when local governments do not utilize appropriate city planning measures. For example, 21.3 percent of Bangladesh’s urban population lived below the poverty line in 2010, and 62 percent of the urban population lived in slums in 2009. These statistics reflect an inability to accommodate a quick, large influx of people.

In the Chittagong Hill Tracts region, unplanned urbanization can be deadly. People seeking land in the area often end up settling on the hills just outside of urban centers. Building is supposed to be prohibited on these landslide-prone areas, but zoning is typically not enforced and people ignore the warnings. The Department of Energy found that there are about 2,000 families in the area currently at high risk.

Indigenous Displacement and Land Conflict

Land in the Chittagong Hill Tracts has a contentious history. Groups of indigenous people in Bangladesh have long fought for rights and protections that the federal government is reluctant to give. In the 1970s, an indigenous guerilla group launched an insurgency on settlers who were encroaching on their territory. The 1980s saw no more protection for indigenous lands, but a large influx of Bengali settlers moved to the area as part of a government-supported migration effort. Violence has since persisted between landless Bengali settlers building in the hills and indigenous communities who once called the area home.

Indigenous communities in Bangladesh suffer disproportionately from land conflicts and lack of governmental support. It is estimated that about 90,000 indigenous people were displaced as a result of the conflict, with many families setting up temporary structures on the steep and unstable slopes. Amnesty International has called on the Bangladeshi government to be more proactive in recognizing indigenous rights, but concrete progress on the issue remains evasive.

Increased Cost of Building Materials

Because many indigenous communities have lived in the Chittagong Hill Tracks for generations, they have the knowledge necessary to allow them to build homes that are less vulnerable to landslides in Bangladesh. Ideally, homes on these slopes would be stilted so that mud and water can pass underneath without causing damage. The increased cost of lightweight building material like bamboo, however, has recently made this practice much more expensive. When families cannot afford materials to stilt their homes, they are forced to build on the ground and in the path of landslides. These ground-level homes can also make the hills more unstable, as digging increases the amount of loose earth on the slopes.

Increased Storm and Monsoon Intensity

Monsoons have been changing in recent years. Increasingly, rain comes in powerful torrential downpours that may only last a few days but can dump as much water as would previously be recorded over the span of a month. This pattern is likely to increase the frequency of dangerous landslides as water has less time to seep into groundwater deposits.

Cyclones, known in North America as hurricanes, are single storm systems that form over the ocean and carry rain and wind to land along the coast. Only about 5 percent of the world’s tropical cyclones form over the Bay of Bengal. However, out of 10 cyclones that recorded very high loss of life, five were in Bangladesh. This statistic reflects the vulnerability of people living on the exposed hill tracts.

Measures Being Taken

Local governments have recently been more proactive about implementing storm warning and evacuation systems in vulnerable areas. Only 11 people died from landslides last year, which is significantly less than the 170 landslide fatalities in 2017. However, in the Chittagong Hill Tracts district, there are no official storm shelters. This means that during periods of evacuation, government-run buildings such as radio and TV stations must accommodate people fleeing their homes. These buildings sheltered about 4,000 people last year. Official storm shelters would be better equipped to handle the increasing number of people fleeing storm damage.

The Asian Disaster Preparedness Center (ADPC) is recommending that until more concrete preventative measures can be taken, schools and faith-based organizations should work to prepare and educate communities about the dangers of landslides in Bangladesh. If people living on the slopes of the Chittagong Hill Tracts cannot avoid landslides, they may have to learn how to adapt to them.

– Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr