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

Rainforests in Gabon

Gabon is a country on the west coast of Central Africa, the equator passing through its center. The country is known first and foremost for its rainforests, which cover more than 80 percent of its terrain. Due to a historic deal with Norway, there now exists a financial incentive for preserving rainforests in Gabon.

Preserving Rainforests in Gabon

The deal, which took place at the 2019 Climate Action Summit in New York, will reward Gabon with $150 million over the course of the next 10 years. In preserving Gabon‘s rainforests, the U.N. hopes to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by the middle of the century.

Norway has been involved in similar preservation efforts in the past, most notably through its partnership with Liberia in 2014. Much of Norway’s partnership with Gabon is mirrored in its work with Liberia, in which Liberia was offered a maximum of $150 million by 2020. The main difference between the two deals involves their retroactive and proactive natures: the deal with Liberia was based on future preservation efforts, whereas the deal with Gabon is based on past accomplishments, as well as future goals for the nation.

Gabon has a quickly developing reputation for preservation. In 2002, the country established its first national park system. The national park system is comprised of 13 parks, one of which, Lope-Okanda national park, is a registered UNESCO natural heritage site.

The new deal was announced by a representative for the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). CAFI is a partnership between six Central African countries, the U.N. Development Program (UNDP), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Bank, and a coalition of foreign donors, including the Kingdom of Norway, France, Germany and the United Kingdom.

CAFI was launched at the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit in September of 2015. Its goal, to put it simply, is to assist the governments of the six partnered Central African countries (Gabon, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of the Congo) and to aid in reform efforts. These reforms are far-reaching, addressing issues of climate change, food insecurities and poverty.

How Does Preservation Help Address Poverty?

Preserving Gabon’s rainforests is currently a central focus of CAFI. What follows are just a few of the ways in which preservation can help alleviate the symptoms of poverty:

  • Climate change and the progressive loss of natural environments have a drastic impact on the availability of food and water. Land set aside for agricultural use often experiences extreme flooding or droughts as the problem worsens. Approximately 80 percent of drought damage was absorbed by agricultural land. By preserving the natural environment in Gabon, this danger can be largely avoided.
  • Conflict is one of the leading causes of poverty and tends to further divide the classes. By maintaining Gabon’s natural resources, and in turn reducing scarcities of resources, the country will likely continue to be largely at peace.
  • When the climate changes, so do prices. As shortages occur, prices rise, and the world’s poor are the most heavily affected by this. It is estimated that those living below the poverty line have experienced a 62 percent spike in their budgets for food in recent years. By preserving Gabon’s rainforests and the country’s environment as a whole, Gabonese people will likely avoid the impacts of further volatility in the market.

– Austin Brown
Photo: Flickr