The Decline of Deforestation in IndonesiaLast year, Indonesia recorded its lowest annual deforestation rate since 1990. The country lost only 285,300 acres of forest cover— a startling 75% drop from 2019. Belinda Arunarwati Margono, the Indonesian ministry’s director of forest resource monitoring, commended the country’s progress, remarking that, “in the past, we’ve often said that our deforestation was in the millions [of hectares]”, but the 2020 deforestation rate, “is remarkable for us because this is the lowest deforestation figure that we’ve ever achieved.” The decline of deforestation in Indonesia has many contributing factors that made it possible.

Causes of the Decline of Deforestation in Indonesia

Indonesia’s government attributed the drop to their several prohibited forest-clearing policies imposed last year. These include, “a permanent ban on issuing new permits to clear primary forests and peatlands; a moratorium on new oil palm plantation licenses; forest fire mitigation; a social forestry program; land rehabilitation and increased enforcement against environmental violations.”

Due to La Niña, 2020 was one of Indonesia’s rainiest years in the past four decades. As a result, deforestation from forest fires decreased significantly. Additionally, the economic fallout caused by COVID-19 slowed Indonesia’s timber production, contributing to the low deforestation rate. A researcher with Forest Watch Indonesia, Mufthi Fathul Barri, commented on the matter, “The disruption to economic activity can be seen from timber production from natural forests, which declined. In 2019, Indonesia produced timber from 8.4 million hectares of natural forests. In 2020, it was 6.6 million hectares.” As such, the very low rate of deforestation in Indonesia last year will be difficult to mimic in the near future.

Conservation Work

Yet another factor contributing to Indonesia’s declining deforestation rate is the conservation work done by advocacy groups such as Rainforest Alliance. This organization assists farm and forest communities across the island through training and certification. It successfully improves the health of the environment as well as the people. The Rainforest Alliance details their conservation efforts in Kalimantan on their website, which reads, “FSC [Forest Stewardship Council] certification significantly reduced deforestation by 5% points and air pollution by 31% compared to the rates of control villages in non-certified logging concessions.”

In addition, the Rainforest Alliance has helped educate Indonesian people on ecosystem conservation and sustainable farming. Their educational initiatives help protect the ecosystem while simultaneously administering information that can improve the livelihoods of Indonesian farmers. Overall, this aspect of the Rainforest Alliance’s mission offers considerable aid to low-income communities.

The organization’s work in Central Sulawesi has helped restore the region’s watershed, Lake Poso. This was achieved through a community-led program with the Karya Bersama cocoa cooperative in Pamona Seletan. Since the cooperative started working with Rainforest Alliance, their 500 farmers have experienced increased crop productivity, with a 20% yield increase in 2019. Rainforest Alliance’s work with the Karya Bersama cooperative shows significant potential to restore Indonesia’s ecosystem while improving the quality of life in rural communities. This can all be achieved through conservation and sustainable farming education.

Looking Ahead Amidst the Decline of Deforestation in Indonesia

Many factors caused the 75% drop in deforestation in Indonesia last year. The government’s new anti-forest-clearing policies, the rainy season and the slow in timber production due to COVID-19 all contributed. Although the climatic conditions of 2020 and the economic lull offered favorable circumstances for a decrease in deforestation, the Indonesian government, along with organizations can not be discounted for their tremendous efforts. Hopefully, Indonesia can continue the favorable trend into the future.

– Eliza Kirk
Photo:Flickr

The Great Green Wall
A healthy planet helps maintain healthy people. Therefore, stemming deforestation and alleviating poverty are vital steps to improving global health. Understanding how health, poverty and deforestation relate is complex and alleviating the effects of poverty and deforestation is all the more so. Still, initiatives like the Great Green Wall give hope to global health experts.

How Poverty, Health and Deforestation Interact

It is valuable to understand how health, poverty and deforestation interact with one another:

Poverty and Health: Poverty and health have a complex albeit well-known relationship. Living in poverty means important health determinants—such as access to healthcare, nutritious food, clean water and safe shelter—are compromised. The relationship between poverty and health is a bidirectional one. As a result, living in poor health can also prevent one from making a living wage to care for oneself and one’s family. These issues, therefore, feed on one another.

Poverty and Deforestation: Of those living in poverty worldwide, 85% are in rural areas. Agriculture serves as their primary occupation and is vital to survival. Not only does deforestation spawn poverty, but poverty exacerbates deforestation. Farmers must clear trees for immediate profit, despite knowing the importance of keeping forests lush long-term. Planting trees where forests have undergone clearing, however, can hold topsoil in place and water can better absorb into the ground. This stymies erosion and replenishes groundwater. Even more straightforward are the building materials for shelter, food and shade that these new trees can one day provide.

Health and Deforestation: The compromised access to food and water to which deforestation leads are obvious factors negatively affecting health. There are also more complex interactions between deforestation and health, such as an increased prevalence of infectious diseases. Research has shown that as trees are cleared and spaces are urbanized, populations of disease-transmitting species like bats and rodents grow. This results in more outbreaks, and even instances of human disease formerly only found in animals. However, by providing short-term assistance and adding trees back to the landscape for long-term improvement, these effects can disappear.

The Great Green Wall

For a demonstration of not only how health, poverty and deforestation relate, but the positive efforts happening to influence their interaction, one can turn to the Great Green Wall. Initiated by 11 African nations in 2007, with another nine joining by 2019, the overall goal of the Great Green Wall is to plant roughly 8,000 kilometers (5,000 miles) of trees across the continent of Africa, extending from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea. Though primarily a country-led effort, partners in this work include the U.N. Convention to Combat Desertification, the Government of France, the World Bank and the African Development Bank.

To the benefit of the people of Africa and beyond, this effort will undo some of the harm that deforestation practices have done and restore the myriad of benefits to having a natural barrier along the Sahara Desert. As previously mentioned, the destruction of forests compromises food security and access to water. This, in turn, leads to conflict and waves of emigration to neighboring nations. The creation of this barrier has the added benefit of creating a need for landscaping maintenance and therefore jobs in nearby communities.

The Wall was 15% complete by 2019. President Emmanuel Macron of France pledged to contribute $14 billion over the next 10 years, 30% of the necessary total. With this funding, the wall is on track for completion by 2030. But, importantly, the Great Green Wall will not stand alone. Work is happening across the globe that will help slow and occasionally reverse the effects of environmental degradation.

Organizations Fighting Environmental Degradation

Plant With Purpose works in Thailand, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and the Mount Kilimanjaro area in Tanzania. They not only plant trees, but educate people on sustainable farming. The Amazon Conservation Association has been partnering with locals for 20 years to conserve the Amazon Rainforest in a scientifically informed and sustainable way. Following the Action Plan for Prevention and Control of Deforestation in the Legal Amazon, the Brazilian government noted a 70% decline in deforestation in 2014. Supporting these groups and policies means promoting the health and wellbeing of people across the globe.

Amy Perkins
Photo: Flickr

One Health
For those living in wealthy nations, infectious diseases and foodborne illnesses are typically an inconvenience. Improvements in healthcare technology, including widespread vaccinations for once-deadly diseases, can render events such as the COVID-19 pandemic seemingly rare. However, in low-income nations, this is not the case. Around 420,000 people die each year from foodborne illnesses, most commonly children under 5 years old in Africa and Southeast Asia. Here is some information about the causes of disease outbreaks worldwide and the means of disease prevention that people know as One Health.

The Situation

Infectious disease outbreaks have increased significantly from 1980 and include SARS, H1N1, Ebola, MERS, Zika and COVID-19. Additionally, up to 75% of new infectious diseases are zoonotic, meaning they begin in animals and transfer to humans. Some animals, such as bats, are resistant to becoming ill and easily spread diseases that lie dormant in their immune systems.

Zoonoses are more and more common as humans become further integrated with the natural world. Reasons for the increase of zoonoses include:

  • Deforestation and Mining: Deforestation and mining destroy habitats and force animal populations closer to civilization. The World Economic Forum estimates that 31% of infectious outbreaks have a link to deforestation.
  • Urbanization: Urbanization can foster the dominance of disease-prone species such as white-footed mice.
  • Factory Farming: Factory farming harbors large populations of genetically similar animals in unsanitary conditions that are susceptible to disease outbreaks.
  • Wet Markets: Wet market merchants often bring exotic species out of their habitats and near humans.
  • Tourism of Wildlife: Tourism of wildlife, such as caves that contain bats, risks spreading diseases to humans.
  • Bacterial Infections and Antibiotics: While bacterial infections currently pose a minor threat due to the widespread availability of antibiotics, experts warn that modern animal agriculture practices, where farmers give antibiotics to livestock in large doses, are rapidly breeding strains of bacterial diseases resistant to antibiotics. Many of these strains are beginning to pose a threat in medical treatment practices.

One Health

Between foodborne illnesses, antibiotic resistance and zoonotic diseases, it is clear that the well-being of animals closely ties with the well-being of humans. This perspective of disease prevention is known as One Health. The One Health model necessitates considering major environmental and agricultural policy shifts, but people are already taking small steps to directly reduce disease transmission. Health agencies around the world are holding conferences to prioritize zoonotic disease prevention and conducting investigations into the origins of outbreaks.

In Thailand, a team of software developers launched a movement to monitor animal illnesses and contain possible outbreaks of zoonoses. Since 75% of rural Thai households have backyard animals, disease transfer is a major concern. The project, called Participatory One Health Disease Detection, consists of 3,000 volunteers using a smartphone app to report information about sick and dead animals to the project developers, who are veterinarians at Chiang Mai University. The developers are able to detect, investigate and quarantine potential outbreak risks. According to the Gates Foundation, an infectious disease could spread to every global capital in just 60 days, so detecting an outbreak early could save thousands of lives.

Keeping the human population safe from deadly diseases means acknowledging the connections between civilization and animal habitats, especially in high-poverty areas where habitat destruction from resource extraction such as deforestation and mining means that line increasingly blurs. The One Health model sets short-term and long-term goals for monitoring and restoring the health and safety of animals and the natural world.

– Elise Brehob
Photo: Flickr

the Amazon's River PeopleDeforestation is regularly spoken of on a global scale. Most people understand that deforestation, the removal of trees and plants, may seem beneficial to the global economy, but the positive effects disappear in the long term. Climate change is a looming negative externality. It also impacts our health directly. Deforestation correlates with an increase in disease and a decrease in immunity as natural remedies become scarce. One study found that around 30% of disease outbreaks were caused by deforestation of the surrounding areas. The impact of deforestation on a global scale may be hard to calculate. However, the effects of deforestation on the ribereño, the Amazon’s river people, puts deforestation in perspective.

Who Are the Ribereños?

The ribereños, also known as the river people or riverine peasants, live along the riverbanks of the Amazon. Their communities live apart from the rest of civilization in the forests of Peru and Brazil. The Amazon’s river people are self-dependent; they operate their own education, health, food supply and water supply systems. The ribereños are rather adaptable to the behaviors of the Amazon river and forest. Over the years, they have learned how to use their resources sustainably.

The Effects of Deforestation on Ribereños

Unfortunately, deforestation has increased hunger among the Amazon’s river people. These riverine communities rely primarily on fishing during lower tides and hunting during high-water seasons. Both of these resources have decreased over the last decade due to the deforestation of the Amazon rainforest. The removal of the trees decreases natural resources, so hunting and food gathering have become less and less effective in supporting these populations. Furthermore, there is a link between deforestation and more frequent runoffs, baseflow reductions, erosion and pesticide-contaminated water.

Additionally, developers use forest fires for deforestation in Brazil. As a result, the air quality has worsened, putting the Amazon’s river people at higher risk of respiratory disease. In the time of COVID-19, this could be detrimental to the ribereños. Their only way to receive medical treatment is to travel by boat, for hours or even days. Therefore, any new disease or increase in illness has the potential to end in mass deaths.

Fighting Deforestation in Amazonia

The effects of deforestation of the Amazon have changed drastically in recent years. According to Professor Bratman, the author of Governing the Rainforest: Sustainable Development in the Brazilian Amazon, the ribereño population has been rather vocal about their struggles. “Deforestation went hand in hand with threats to their land and livelihood. Ranchers and loggers were moving onto the land on which the ribereños have lived on for generations, claiming that they actually have the right to take it,” explains Bratman. She saw how the Amazon’s river people united against deforestation and caused a spike in media attention. They are not helpless, but they do need the help of others. Bratman stated it is important to help the ribereños “keep the issue in the news. Support the organizations on the ground doing the work. It is important to be environmentally aware because it’s all of our future at stake.”

Thankfully, several organizations are working to help the riverside communities of Amazonia. The main actors are the WWF (World Wide Fund For Nature), Environmental Defense Fund and Green Peace. These organizations focus on generally fighting deforestation and on helping the ribereños survive their changing environment.

The Amazon’s river people are staying vocal and so are the organizations helping them. Brazilian deforestation has headlined numerous international newspapers, putting pressure on the Brazilian government. The main way to help the riverside communities of Amazonia is to continue the discussion.

Anna Synakh
Photo: flicker

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