Kalahan Forest Reserve
In 1971, the Philippine government passed Forestry Administrative Order No. 62 in an attempt to curb national resource deterioration and human displacement caused by increasing deforestation at the hands of agriculturalists and loggers. This administrative order initiated community-based forest governance systems in the Philippines. Shortly after in 1972, the government signed over to the indigenous Ikalahan people legal ownership of their ancestral lands. This step, eventually led to the creation of the Kalahan Forest Reserve.

Deforestation and Land Rights

Five villages of Ikalahan people, located in the northern part of the Philippine island of Luzon, convened to form the Kalahan Educational Foundation (KEF) to claim community ownership of 15,000 hectares of forested land. A memorandum from the federal government allowed the Ikalahan people to manage this land in exchange for the protection of a local watershed. This memorandum set a precedent for future indigenous land tenure rights cases.

KEF Forest Stewardship

Deforestation in the Philippines continued to rise following the 1971 government order, but on the Kalahan Forest Reserve, forest cover is increasing. The KEF executes a multifaceted approach to responsible forest stewardship. The KEF is under the leadership of spokespeople from nine communities within the reserve. It also includes youth and local government representatives. One division of the KEF ensures the local watershed remains unpolluted by wastes. Another oversees research and management of the forest and natural resources. This faction encourages responsible planting, harvesting and crop selection practices among farmers on the reserve. It also investigates forest resource improvements and agroforestry potential and manages land use and land allocation among local families.

Increased Access to Education

Also, the KEF established the Kalahan Academy. It is a facility dedicated to providing Ikalahans and other local children a formal education up to the 12th grade. The Kalahan Academy teaches its pupils about the sustainable forest and natural resource management and focuses on preserving indigenous Ikalahan culture. The academy encourages graduates to pursue a college education, after which many return to work as academy faculty and staff or in local government offices. Others find jobs outside of the Kalahan Forest Reserve, which alleviates local resource pressure and diversifies the communities’ economic opportunities.

Expanded Economic Opportunities

The KEF also established the Mountain Fresh product line. This product line includes preserves made from sustainably harvested indigenous plants like guava, hibiscus and ginger in local markets. Mountain Fresh preserves struggle to expand its market access due to transportation, marketing and raw material resource constraints, but institutional aid from NGOs like the Federation of Peoples’ Sustainable Development Cooperative helps the company to surmount these challenges. Other economic opportunities fostered by the KEF include the sale of sustainably harvested orchids and timber from agroforestry plots. Furthermore, the KEF Board of Trustees hopes to capitalize on carbon trading schemes. In 2002 alone, the Kalahan Forest Reserve sequestered over 38,000 tons of carbon. As the amount of forest cover on the reserve increases, so too does its potential to capture carbon.

Following the legal recognition of their indigenous land rights in 1972 by the Philippine government, the KEF instilled a conservation ethic among the Ikalahan people on the Kalahan Forest Reserve through sustainable forest stewardship practices and educational and economic opportunity. The profits from the KEF’s sustainable enterprises and the economic opportunity generated by formal education contribute to the improving quality of life for the Ikalahan people through local improvements and access to infrastructure, healthcare and education.

– Avery Saklad
Photo: Flickr

updates on sdg goal 15 in mauritiusMauritius is an island nation of 1.3 million people situated in the Indian Ocean about 700 miles to the east of Madagascar. The island is home to incredibly unique and rare species found nowhere else on the planet, although many have gone extinct in recent decades. One of Earth’s most famous extinct species, the dodo, was a flightless bird endemic to Mauritius. Unfortunately, updates on SDG Goal 15 in Mauritius reveal ongoing problems for biodiversity in the country.

The U.N. Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 15, Life on Land, tracks each nation’s attempt to “protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.” For this goal, Mauritius has the dire U.N. classification of “major challenges remain.” Still, valiant organizations are striving to protect the stunning species and ecosystems found in Mauritius. Here are four updates on SDG Goal 15 in Mauritius.

4 Updates on SDG Goal 15 in Mauritius

  1. The mean area protected in terrestrial sites is important to biodiversity. This statistic is particularly important in Mauritius’s case due to the array of endemic species found on the island. The average area protected for these crucial sites is just over 9%. However, limited protection poses major challenges for protecting biodiversity and preventing native species from going extinct. Despite the efforts of groups like the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation, the average protected area has risen by less than 1% since 2000. The fascinating species found within these habitats, like the extraordinary Mauritian flying fox, contribute to the beauty and wonder of the natural world. This may disappear if protected areas do not grow.
  2. Mauritius’ score on the Red List of species survival is getting worse. The Red List measures “the change in aggregate extinction risk across groups of species” with zero being the worst rating and one being the best. Mauritius comes in at 0.39 with its score decreasing steadily each year. Unfortunately, more and more species in Mauritius go extinct every year. There are, however, some success stories. For example, the Saint Telfair’s skink is an abnormally large species of skink (a type of lizard) only found on islands off the coast of Mauritius. The skink used to be dangerously near-extinct, with just 5,000 individuals. But the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation and the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust‘s careful recovery efforts have raised the population to 50,000 individuals. Thus, NGOs are fighting to save species from extinction in Mauritius.
  3. Mauritius struggles with the effects of permanent deforestation. This phenomenon occurs when people cut down trees for urbanization or agriculture with no plan to re-plant them. Updates on SDG Goal 15 in Mauritius are the most positive for this statistic. However, challenges remain, as less than 2% of Mauritius’ original forest coverage survives. According to Douglas Adams in “Last Chance to See,” “[v]ast swathes of the Mauritius forest have been destroyed to provide space to grow a cash crop [sugar] which in turn destroys our teeth.” Thankfully, NGOs like Fondation Ressources et Nature are carrying out reforestation projects in Mauritian biodiversity hotspots. The One Million Trees Project also aims to plant one million trees in Mauritius by 2030.
  4. Imports threaten terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity in Mauritius. There is only one nation (Guyana) in the entire world that has a worse ranking than Mauritius in this category. Industrialized nations like the U.S., Canada, Japan and many E.U. countries also struggle with this goal. However, none come close to Mauritius’s ranking. Furthermore, imports that threaten biodiversity in Mauritius only compound the rest of the island’s ecological problems.

Moving Forward

Overall, the forecast for life on land and in Mauritius is grim. Biodiversity hotspots are severely threatened, leading to more species going extinct each year. Additionally, permanent deforestation decimates habitats, and Mauritians’ dependence on imports ravages native species. The country needs to make a concerted effort to save its amazing organisms and environments found nowhere else on Earth. Organizations like the Mauritian Wildlife Foundation are already doing this work, and they could use more international support if Mauritius is to progress on SDG Goal 15.

Spencer Jacobs
Photo: Needpix

Deforestation-in-Uganda
With only 10% of the rural population of Uganda having access to electricity, it is no surprise that the rest of the population is forced to rely on other sources for food and energy. Unfortunately, this means that many people cut down trees leading to one of the highest global deforestation rates. Each year, nearly 3% of Uganda’s forests are cut down for fuel, agriculture and to make room for an increasing population. At the current rate of deforestation in Uganda, the country is likely to lose all of its forests in the next 25 years.

The repercussions of these actions are clear to see. Besides the landscape almost being completely devoid of trees, the dry season has become longer and filled with more droughts. The loose soil has caused heavy rainfall to turn into deadly floods, while crops are producing less and less yield. The wood from cut trees is mostly used to fuel stoves for cooking. But this has caused a separate issue where the smoke collects inside homes and causes respiratory issues for family members who stay at home and cook.

How Mud Stoves Can Help Reduce Deforestation

Badru Kyewalyanga, a local man frustrated by the minimal action from the government on the matter, developed a solution to this issue: mud stoves. The stoves are made of mud, water and straw, and require little time to be constructed. Balls of mud are thrown into the ground to remove air bubbles and prevent cracks. The mud is then molded around the trunk of a banana-like plant called the matooke tree. The stove is cut and arranged to form a combustion chamber, a chimney and several ventilation shafts. After two weeks, the mud hardens and can be removed from the tree and is ready for use.

The stoves are incredibly efficient as they require only half the amount of wood for fuel compared to a traditional stove and oven. In addition, the placement of the chimney when attached to a wall of the house means that the wood smoke can escape without being trapped inside. Kyewalyanga, along with local and international volunteers has worked together to build over 100 stoves helping villagers to breathe cleaner air, while also reducing the rate of deforestation in Uganda.

Use of Mud Stoves in South Sudan

The stoves have now begun to spread their usefulness to other groups of people in Africa as well. Refugees from South Sudan are often forced to venture into the forests for firewood or charcoal to prepare meals, which is risky due to the prevalent violence in the region. Unfortunately, they are left with little choice if they are to survive. However, they were introduced to a newer and more efficient method of cooking by the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA).

ADRA’s mission was to provide necessary supplies to the refugees escaping South Sudan. One of the items provided to the refugees was the mud stove developed in Uganda. Because the stove emits a smaller amount of smoke than a conventional stove and minimizes the number of trees to be cut down to collect fuel, they became incredibly popular. Members of ADRA were able to give demonstrations and trained women and children on its usage. These projects have shown that mud stoves are a useful and efficient way to provide a cheap way to cook food as well as fight deforestation in Uganda and other parts of Africa.

Aditya Daita
Photo: Pixabay

How Simple Cooking Stoves in Uganda Are Helping People EatUganda, an East African country that Winston Churchill once referred to as the “pearl of Africa,” is growing fast, with a population of about 34.5 million. The country has a rainy season and a dry season, and those climate conditions lead many Ugandans to be farmers. However, Uganda is facing a massive problem with deforestation, which in turn can cause uncertain weather patterns. People, who rely on cutting down trees for firewood to cook food in stoves in Uganda, partly cause this deforestation problem. However, a man named Badru Kyewalyanga has created a cleaner, safer, and more sustainable stove.

The Problem

Deforestation in Uganda poses many concerns for the population. With only 10% of Uganda’s population receiving electricity, the only option to create energy to cook food for many people is to cut down trees and burn firewood. The effects of wood-burning stoves in Uganda are detrimental to the population. In fact, Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority predicts that Uganda’s forests will disappear in less than 20 years if the current conditions do not change.

Deforestation creates irregular weather patterns, which can lead to intense droughts and heavy floods during different times of the year. In May 2020, floods affected thousands of people, destroying schools, a hospital, roads and power lines. Irregular weather patterns and storms leave many people without homes, schools to attend and electricity to cook food and conduct other daily activities. This contributes to the issue of poverty in Uganda, as more than 21% of Ugandans live in poverty. The irregular and extreme weather also causes high rates of crop failure in Uganda, which affects farmers who hope to earn money and plant food to feed their families. In the Rwenzori Mountains, floods left soil loose and unfarmable. Since many Ugandans have low incomes and cannot afford many basic necessities, the few crops that they harvest sell for money to pay for schooling for children and other essentials, leaving many people hungry as a result. Additionally, many women in Uganda have respiratory issues due to indoor air pollution from typical wood-burning stoves.

The Solution

After witnessing all the problems that traditional stoves in Uganda were causing, Kyewalyanga was determined to create a solution. He developed a stove using mud, water and straw, all of which are abundant in Uganda. The stove is essentially free to make and easy to build. To make a stove, Kyewalyanga forms the ingredients into small balls and attaches them together around a matooke tree, a common plant in Uganda which is much like a banana tree. As the mud hardens into a chimney, ventilation pockets and combustion chambers, the trunk of the tree rots away, thus forming an oven.

Kyewalyanga’s energy-saving stove reduces the amount of wood needed to cook food by 50%. However, the stove not only helps to reduce the number of trees that people must cut down, but it also provides the population with a sustainable alternative to traditional stoves in Uganda that cause respiratory illnesses and problems among farmers. A woman who cooks for her family of six people described how the smoke-filled walls of her kitchen caused health problems and how she hopes that Kyewalyanga’s stove will help her “get rid of [her] respiratory illness.” Since 2017, Kyewalyanga has created 100 stoves, but he hopes to develop many more in the future to combat deforestation and provide a more healthy lifestyle for the inhabitants of Uganda.

Shveta Shah
Photo: Flickr

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

Solutions to Desertification
Desertification is the “degradation of land in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas,” according to the United NationsWorldwide, people are seeing the encroaching effects of desertification increasing due to factors such as climate change, overgrazing of pastoral lands, deforestation, over drafting groundwater and over-farming land. When clearing trees and using groundwater, soil begins to lose root systems and hydration, causing it to simply blow away.

According to the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), one-third of the world’s land surface is susceptible to desertification. The issue is even more dire for areas already suffering from water scarcity, for when they lose their resources, there is often little rain or irrigation available to allow for the regeneration of forests and green lands. This then leads to subsequent food scarcity. However, many global initiatives exist to come up with solutions to desertification and its impact.

Technology

Satellite data has become an integral tool to map the spread and suppression of desertification globally. For 10 years, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) has worked with the European Space Agency (ESA). Its partnership involves efforts to monitor global desertification.

Satellites allow scientists a bird’s eye view to be able to strategize better and cut off desertification as it spreads. They can map the levels of moisture in the soil, allowing scientists the foresight into areas that may become more susceptible to desertification. Satellites are also offering scientists the ability to maximize their rehabilitation efforts. In doing so, they can gauge the number of trees an area can withstand. Planting too many trees in an area involves wasting time and resources, considering the trees will not survive.

Rehabilitation Efforts

Rehabilitation is critical in reducing desertification. In Africa, a plan that the African Union instituted will create a wall of trees stretching from Senegal to Djibouti. The Great Green Wall will reduce the spread of desertification across the African plains and create an ecosystem for animals to be able to return. With purposeful and considerate planning, the green wall should allow for the cohabitation of humanity and nature. The wall also offers industry. By planting fruit-bearing trees, local people will be able to see the trees as a profit rather than a hindrance.

As of 2019, these efforts have only resulted in the planting of 15 percent of the planned 8,000 km of trees due to monetary issues. In addition, the process of planting and caring for trees is very slow. In 2002, China began enforcing the Law of Prevention and Control of Desertification. This involved the world’s first integrated wall for the prevention and resolution of desertification. The law itself is rather vague, merely stating that “units or individuals that use desertified land have the obligation to rehabilitate the land.” However, that is intentional as it allows provinces affected to implement solutions to desertification that work for them, rather than trying to make the same program fit for a vast range of peoples and landscapes.

Education

In 1994, the United Nations instituted The World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, held annually on June 17. Observing the day acts as a way to promote education on the impacts of desertification globally. It also serves as a reminder that land degradation neutrality is achievable through problem-solving, community action and consistent cooperation at all levels.

Desertification has become a growing global concern, but affected countries are keenly and routinely taking action to develop solutions to desertification. Through preventative initiatives, pushes towards clean energy and climate change reducing measures, the hope is that someday land can restore so that desertification will be a problem of the past. However, it will need a global effort invoking the power of nations and people to care for the planet.

Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr

Economic benefits of planting trees

Forest sustainability programs are vastly underrated environmental boosters of today despite the clear economic benefits of planting trees. Their influence has been overlooked in favor of expensive experimental air cleansing tactics while forests are being destroyed around the world. Though most of their impact is found in cost reduction in areas like air purification and pollution initiatives, they also provide millions of jobs worldwide.

Natural Air Purification

Not only are trees cost-effective but they are also reliable air purifiers. One of the many benefits of planting trees is that they take in CO2 from the air and turn out oxygen. At the same time, they act as filters for particulates. As the particulate laden air moves through the trees, dust particles are caught on leaves and then are subsequently washed away with the rain. It was estimated that trees cleared 17.4 million tonnes of air pollution annually in the U.S. alone. The benefits on human health were valued at $6.8 billion.

Providing a cleaner atmosphere lowers the risk of airborne illnesses and at a much lower cost. Trees can provide relief for acute respiratory symptoms and asthma for almost one million people. Cities could save millions in healthcare costs and create a visually appealing cityscape by planting trees. Beautiful landscapes also boost mental health and civic morale.

Planting Trees Creates Jobs

Trees bring industry. Trees require a different amount of care in cities than they do in a national forest. Cities require people in order to water and prune the trees. Furthermore, specialists are needed to plan and optimize tree placement. Different cities and various parts of a city will require different numbers and types of trees. This creates jobs for urban planners, ecologists and arborists. These jobs are sustainable and essential to the success of an urban forest’s impact on pollution reduction and health promotion.

Through conscious management, a balance can be struck between conservation of forests and the industry they can provide (i.e., lumber). The lumber industry provides work for 13.2 million people worldwide. However, many of those jobs are primarily in deforestation. By bringing trees into the urbanscape, cities create more job opportunities and economic growth.

Lumber is an industry that will continue to grow as we see countries develop and urbanize. However, at the moment, the industry is causing harm by stripping the world of forests. We are sadly seeing our rainforests dwindle. Through enhancing forest management practices, investing in fire and pest management and developing intense monitoring systems, the economic benefits of planting trees can be brought to its full potential. An industry can be built, giving as much as it takes and ending the destruction of habitats, species and the climate.

Current Environmental Efforts

Slowly, countries are taking advantage of the clear economic benefits of planting trees. In fact, we are beginning to see forest and lumber sustainability programs developing in some parts of the world. The EU initiated the European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument, Forest Law Enforcement and Governance (ENPI-FLEG) in seven eastern European countries. The program helped these countries improve forest management and sustainability.

Mexico has developed multiple community forestry enterprises that work to renew what it takes from its forests. The National Reforestation Program and Commercial Plantations Program are working to plant trees throughout the country. Even in America, we see states like Georgia striking a balance between taking from and giving back to its forests through their forest management programs.

Lumber is an essential global industry. However, reforestation, conscious conservation and land management are necessary to keep this precious resource from being lost. Hopefully, more countries and cities will begin to understand the benefits of planting trees and to step up to support the world’s forests and protect their futures.

– Emma Hodge
Photo: Flickr

Deforestation in Indonesia

Indonesia is a large, island country in Southeastern Asia that is home to the second-largest rainforest next to the Amazon in South America. It is also home to some of the world’s largest palm oil plantations and logging operations. Deforestation in Indonesia for the past half of a century is largely to blame for mass species extinction. But animals are not the only ones who are affected. Indonesia’s poorest rural communities are hurt and displaced alongside the wildlife in the area.

How Deforestation Affects Indonesia’s Poor

Due to unethical agricultural practices, Indonesia has lost 80 percent of its total original forest coverage and continues to lose 6.2 million acres per year. Deforestation in Indonesia is a direct cause of loss of habitat in tropical areas since the animals have nowhere to go. However, cutting down trees is not the only step in clearing a swath of forest. The next steps that are typically taken are draining the swamps and burning the remaining brush to totally clear the land.

Peatlands are very common in Indonesia. This refers to a type of swampland made up of nutrient-rich soil from thousands of years of decaying plant matter. When these peatlands are drained and burned, they release a thick, noxious haze that carpets the surrounding area, and even travels to neighboring islands and countries on the air currents. The fumes poison the wildlife throughout the remaining forest and find their way into rural villages. More than 100,000 annual deaths in Indonesia can be attributed directly to the inhalation of particulate matter from these landscape fires.

Since deforestation in Indonesia leaves the land in the prime condition for mosquitos, there has also been a recent spike in mosquito-transmitted illnesses like malaria and dengue fever. Many communities affected by deforestation do not have ready, affordable access to vaccines for these diseases, and must deal with the outbreak largely on their own. The best option for these people is to sleep in mosquito nets and try as best they can to keep insects at bay during their most active hours.

Fighting Deforestation

Although the statistics seem gloomy, there is still hope and progress is being made. Indonesia is one of the few tropical countries to make official pledges to lessen or halt deforestation. Incentivized financially by Norway in 2017, Indonesia experienced a 60 percent drop in primary forest loss from 2016. Indonesia’s Peatland Restoration Agency has also been tasked to restore 5.9 million acres of decimated peatland.

The results of these regulations have been disputed, however. Many critics of the programs, such as Greenpeace, state that the programs leave loopholes that companies may exploit to further expand their palm oil plantations. In the moratorium, primary forests that have never been touched by corporations are protected under Indonesian law. But secondary forests (forests that have been previously transformed according to palm oil agriculture) are not protected.

NGOs Fighting Deforestation Now

NGOs like Greenpeace have been raising awareness of deforestation in Indonesia and lobbying the Indonesian government for more transparency in terms of deforestation statistics. Transparency efforts have been largely ineffective as far as the Indonesian government goes, but corporations have begun to be more open with their promises to halt deforestation in their palm oil farming practices.

Public pressure from many consumers has pushed companies to take significant measures to lessen their products’ effects on the environment and the people who live in it. For example, Wilmar International, the world’s largest palm oil producer, promised in December of 2018 to keep up maps that monitor hundreds of its suppliers to ensure no rainforests are being cleared.

 

While the overall situation of deforestation in Indonesia does not seem promising, anti-deforestation efforts have had significant impacts. More people than ever are aware of the detrimental effects of clearing the rainforest. Indonesia is seeing fewer cases of deforestation per year than it has in the past three decades and palm oil production companies are doing more than they ever have before to ensure their products are sustainably sourced.

– Graham Gordon
Photo: Flickr

Deforestation and Poverty
Deforestation throughout the world has been increasing over the past decades. Forests contribute to 90 percent of the livelihood of those that live in extreme poverty. Once people cut down and remove these resources, it takes years to replace them, which puts people deeper into poverty. Deforestation and poverty connect because of what the forest can provide for people living in poverty.

Reasons for Deforestation

There are several reasons that deforestation is so much a part of developing nations. One of the most prominent reasons is logging or cutting down trees for processing. While logging does provide temporary relief from poverty once loggers cut down the trees, it takes years for them to grow back.

Indonesia has the worst problem with illegal logging with 80 percent of its logging exports being illegal. Agriculture is necessary for a country to become self-sufficient and rely on itself to feed its people. Hence, to clear land for crops, farmers cut down large sections of forests. Indonesia also has the worst problem with clearing forest for agriculture; the country states that it is necessary to make way for the trees for palm oil, one of its major exports, in order to reduce poverty.

In Brazil, clearing forests to make way for grazing livestock is the reason for deforestation. Brazil is a top beef exporter having exported over $5 billion worth of beef in 2018 and beef is a significant contributor to its economy.

The Benefits and Harm of Deforestation

The three countries that have the most deforestation are Brazil, Peru and Bolivia. These countries all have access to the Amazon rainforest and they use its resources to help alleviate the strain of poverty. Deforestation has devastated all three of these countries, as each has cut down millions of acres of rainforest.

Since 1978, Brazilian loggers, cattle rangers and farmers have cut down 289,000 square miles of rainforest. One of Brazil’s top crops is soybeans that farmers use to feed its growing cattle population. Massive sections of forest require cutting to make way for both soybean production and cattle and this impacts the indigenous people of Brazil the most. Their entire livelihood is dependent on the forest and when the trees disappear, they suffer extreme poverty.

Peru has recently increased its efforts to control deforestation due to mining. Gold is a large part of the economy of Peru along with logging. These efforts have worked for the people of Peru who were able to cut their poverty rate from 48.5 percent to 25.8 percent in less than 10 years. However, experts believe that this relief, while significant, could only be temporary because the rate of deforestation will have a profound impact on climate change that will, in turn, harm the forests and economy of the country.

The GDP per capita of Bolivia is currently at $2559.51. This makes it one of the poorest countries in the western hemisphere. To help the poor people of the country, the government has doubled the amount of deforestation that occurs in the country to make way for cattle, agriculture and infrastructure.

With the increase of deforestation, the benefits can seem like relief for those that are deeply immersed in poverty. While these countries’ removal of whole forests can help those living in poor conditions, the help is only temporary and in the long run can harm their well being as much as help. Deforestation and poverty are linked and to save the forests, it is essential to help those living in and around the forests.

Samuel Bostwick
Photo: Flickr

Cacay Oil
Amongst the incredible array of biodiversity which stems from the Amazon grows a small green fruit, the Cacay nut. A Google search for Cacay oil generates dozens of reviews by beauty blogs and skincare gurus who have tested the product. But what is Cacay and what makes it so special?

The Cacay Nut’s Uses

The Cacay nut, which is similar in size and color to lime from the outside, has three smaller nuts on the inside. The fruit grows on trees in Colombia and has a plethora of uses. People can use every part of the fruit, and this fact makes it a sustainable crop because there is no waste. It has a high nutritional value containing over 40 percent protein, all the essential amino acids and omega 3, 6 and 9. People can use the peel for compost or animal food, while the shell’s slow combustion properties make it a great source of biofuel. One can also make nut milk from the Cacay nut, which can serve as an animal milk substitute.

People mostly covet the Cacay nut for its beauty and cosmetic benefits. The oil from it contains 50 percent more vitamin E than argan oil, which is essential for skin moisturization. Additionally, it contains a high retinol and collagen content, which reduces signs of ages and smooth fine lines and wrinkles.

Kahai Lifts Families Out of Poverty

Kahai, a Colombian-based company, has made it its mission to share the benefits of Cacay with the world and lift up the people who grow it as well. It sells Cacay oil for its incredible health and skin benefits and is the first to do so on such a large scale. Thus far, the organization has exported over three tons of Cacay oil worldwide. Kahai hopes that Cacay will take the place of many illicit crops that were previously a driving cause of deforestation across the region. The potential economic opportunities that farming Cacay will bring should motivate farming communities in Colombia to preserve their forests and plant thousand of more trees.

Kahai’s location in Bogota D.C., Colombia, is home to many impoverished peasant farming families. Because Kahai is seeking to farm the fruit on a commercial scale, it will utilize plantation-style harvesting. This has created over 200 jobs with sustainable incomes for the peasant families in this conflict-torn area. There is also the potential for upward growth within the company, with individuals who began working entry-level jobs now holding management positions.

Kahai’s Recent Initiative

Kahai’s recently launched initiative with the World Bank’s BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes may also assist in both the sustainability efforts and the community development efforts. The initiative’s goal is to partner with the government and privately-owned corporations in the region to provide payment for communities who reduce their emissions and demonstrate environmentally-friendly farming practices. This will further encourage this positive development and further support the local economy.

As the benefits of Amazonian gold become more apparent to the rest of the world, Kahai and its employees will reap the economic benefits as the first large-scale Cacay oil farming operation. It is the organization’s hope that farming villages that operate under sustainable practices and receive consistent sustainable incomes will only grow stronger.

Gina Beviglia
Photo: Flickr