Gojira's activismThe Yanomami indigenous reserve in Brazil is roughly the size of Portugal, though fewer than 200 healthcare workers serve the area. The effects of malnutrition and malaria among indigenous Brazilians have taken a severe toll on children. Indigenous populations are also more vulnerable to COVID-19. Epidemiologist Andrey Cardoso told The Guardian that the COVID-19 death rate is higher in indigenous children younger than 5 compared to the same age group in the general population. Deteriorating healthcare is just one of the issues indigenous people in Brazil face. Rampant deforestation and attacks from illegal gold miners have also plagued these groups. These issues have resonated with a heavy metal band, Gojira. Gojira’s activism has spurred people to raise more than $300,000 in support of the indigenous Brazilian rights group, The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.

Illegal Gold Mining

Violent attacks have been a growing problem for indigenous Brazilians. Land conflicts in Brazil hit an all-time high in 2020 with more than 1,500 cases, 656 of which involved indigenous Brazilians. Illegal gold miners have been particularly aggressive toward indigenous groups. In May 2021, unlawful gold miners invaded the Munduruku indigenous reserve, setting multiple houses ablaze.

In another attack on the Yanomami people, illegal miners “opened fire with automatic weapons” during three consecutive days of violent fighting. Illegal mining has also led to severe deforestation in the region with more than 3,000 acres of forestland cleared in the Munduruku reserve in January and February 2021 alone. Additionally, reports indicate that more than 1,700 acres of land have been degraded in the Yanomami reserve from January 2020 till May 2021.

Brazilian Indigenous Healthcare

The effects of the attacks comprise just a portion of the problems that plague indigenous groups in Brazil. A 2019 report requested and funded by UNICEF reveals that, in the Yanomami areas of Polo Base de Auaris and Polo Base de Maturacá, roughly 81% of children younger than 5 were chronically malnourished. Poor access to nutritious foods was highlighted as one of the causes.

Overall, healthcare access in these regions is also poor. Member of the Indigenous District Health Council, Junior Yanomami, told El Pais that healthcare groups had not visited the village of Maimasi for six months at one point. Not only were many residents stricken with malaria, but several children suffered from malnutrition and verminosis — a disease caused by parasitic worms. In total, fewer than 200 healthcare workers cover the 28,000 Yanomami and Ye’kwana people in Brazil, highlighting the lack of health support in the areas.

Gojira Assists

Upon learning more about the problems plaguing indigenous people in Brazil, Gojira partnered with the activism support website, Propeller, to host an auction of heavy metal memorabilia in support of the largest indigenous rights group in Brazil, The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil. Gojira’s activism auction came after the band released its single, Amazonia, in support of The Articulation of Indigenous Peoples of Brazil.

The auction, which featured personal memorabilia from heavy metal icons like Metallica, Slayer, Slash and Tool, raised more than $300,000 for the indigenous rights group. In another successful effort by the band, Gojira’s activism also garnered support and awareness for an important cause. “Words are great, music is great, but action is something concrete,” Gojira drummer, Mario Duplantier, told Louder Sound.

Inspiring Activism

Hopefully, Gojira’s activism marks just one way in which indigenous groups in Brazil begin to receive the support and fundraising needed to combat the major issues they face. In addition, Gojira will hopefully serve as an example of how other famous groups can use their platforms to make an impact in struggling communities around the world.

– Brett Grega
Photo: Flickr

Tiger Reserve in IndiaThe opening of a tiger reserve along the Vaigai River in India offers hope that more conservation efforts will replenish the dried-up river. Once a vast, plentiful river that farmers relied on for crop cultivation and drinking water, this body of water has largely dried up. Many citizens and conservationists look forward to the preservation efforts now that India has directed efforts into preserving the surrounding land. Hopefully, the new tiger reserve will improve water insecurity and agriculture in India through the revival of the Vaigai River. 

What Happened to the Vaigai River?

The Vaigai River is dry for almost 300 days a year due to poor maintenance over the last 30 years. Sewage drainage and insufficient silt removal have changed both the quality and quantity of the water. Moreover, drought and inadequate rainfall have also been contributors to the depletion of the river. In fact, this year was the first time that the Vaigai Dam had enough water to release in 12 years. Additionally, the insufficient rainfall can be partially attributed to the rapid deforestation India has faced. 

Further, the sewage in the water has made the river a breeding ground for mosquitoes. Moreover, India carries 2% of global malaria deaths and 85.2% of Southeast Asia’s malaria burden. The country has made significant strides in malaria case reduction. However, this issue puts residents along the river at risk for infection.

Why the River Is Important

Residents in three districts receive their daily drinking water from the Vaigai Dam. This is significant as less than 50% of the Indian population has access to clean drinking water. Also, at least two-thirds of all Indian districts face water insecurity issues due to groundwater depletion and drought.

In 1959, the Madurai District built the Vaigai Dam to provide drinking water and combat water insecurity for farmers, who rely on the river to irrigate crops such as rice, cotton, peas, black gram and sorghum.

How the Tiger Reserve Can Help

On February 8, 2021, a government order declared two major wildlife sanctuaries would be combined to create a fifth tiger reserve along the Vaigai River. This new reserve will be called the Srivilliputhur Megamalai Tiger Reserve.

Once the reserve is operational, poaching, encroachments and grazing will be outlawed. This will preserve the surrounding land and the river. Experts except the tiger reserve will be in the forests of Meghamalai. This location is ideal as it will protect the land from deforestation and increase rainfall and water flow by acting as a watershed.

The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 will be used to enforce the regulations now that the land surrounding the river is considered protected land. This means poor silt removal practices, sewage drainage and poor maintenance by any government official can result in a fine or jail time. This gives Indian citizens the ability to hold their government accountable for the mismanagement of the river.

A forest official told The Hindu News that “with this new tiger reserve, Vaigai river and its catchment areas will be fully protected. The river, battling for its life, will be saved. This will help in the long-term sustenance of people in several southern districts.”

Looking Forward

This new tiger reserve in India is one of the first protective orders for the land surrounding the Vaigai river. Farmers, conservationists and citizens alike look forward to seeing the Vaigai river return to its former glory, alleviating water insecurity and aiding crop cultivation.

– Camdyn Knox
Photo: Pixabay

Deforestation in VietnamVietnam is a Southeast Asian country along the east coast of the Indochinese Peninsula. Its tropical climate makes it a naturally biodiverse place, but deforestation in Vietnam threatens the livelihoods of citizens. In April 2021, USAID approved two new projects totaling $74 million to help fight deforestation in Vietnam and improve the lives of thousands of citizens in poverty who rely on forests to live.

Deforestation in Vietnam

Deforestation in Vietnam is very severe. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the South Vietnam Lowland Dry Forests region is the most degraded forest outside India. Despite being home to many endangered species, only 2% of the forests are designated as protected. Furthermore, about 90% of the forests are subject to deforestation. The U.N. emphasizes that protecting biodiversity and restoring previously exploited land will improve the quality of life for citizens in countries worldwide. Indigenous and rural communities, in particular, will benefit from reversing deforestation as the protection of forest resources decreases the economic vulnerability of these groups.

The Sustainable Forest Management Project

The USAID Sustainable Forest Management project partners with the Vietnamese Government, the Vietnam Forest Owner Association (VIFORA) and forest owners to minimize the impacts of deforestation in seven of Vietnam’s most affected provinces. The main objective of this project is to develop and enforce forest conservation policies. This includes funding to increase the Vietnamese Government’s ability to prosecute deforestation crimes.

Execution of this program also involves working with the authorities, private companies and local forest owners to extend the reach of the Payment for Forest Environmental Services program. This mechanism provides direct monetary compensation to residents for forest protection efforts. Strong partnerships between aid organizations and local implementers allow these programs to help the target populations build self-sufficiency effectively.

USAID allotted $36 million for this project. In addition to funding forest management policies, this program directly helps Vietnamese communities living in forest land by promoting sustainable lifestyle practices for forest dwellers.  An estimated 250,000 hectares of forest and 70 organizations will benefit from the program. The program will also benefit the 60,000 individuals living in Vietnam’s forests who are expected to have improved and more sustainable livelihoods.

The Biodiversity Conservation Project

The USAID Biodiversity Conservation project partners with the World Wildlife Fund to provide economical alternatives for activities that lead to Vietnam’s deforestation. The project focuses on substituting forest-harming industries with forest-preserving ones. The project has the potential to increase incomes for forest-dwelling communities while reversing deforestation in Vietnam. The Biodiversity Conservation project relies on strong partnerships with the Vietnamese Government and local organizations for effective implementation.

USAID allotted $38 million for this project, which will benefit 700,000 hectares of forest land. An additional 7,000 individuals living in Vietnam’s forests will also gain income opportunities from forest-friendly endeavors. In addition, 250 villages will receive increased protection of their natural environments with a 50% decrease in animal hunting and consumption.

Deforestation in Vietnam threatens the livelihoods of the most disadvantaged populations still living in forest land. Despite this vulnerability, the Vietnamese Government struggles to stop deforestation without foreign aid. USAID’s two projects not only fight deforestation but promote practices that will directly help lift forest dwellers out of poverty.

Viola Chow
Photo: Pixabay

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