North Korea begins agroforestry scheme to halt degradation


A “pioneering agroforestry project” in North Korea is restoring heavily degraded landscapes and providing much-needed food for communities, says the World Agroforestry Centre.

Jianchu Xu, the Centre’s East-Asia co-ordinator,  said agroforestry – in this case the growing of trees on sloping land – was uniquely suited to DPR Korea for addressing food security and protecting the environment.

“What we have managed to achieve so far has had a dramatic impact on people’s lives and the local environment,” he explained.

“Previously malnourished communities are now producing their own trees and growing chestnut, walnut, peaches, pears and other fruits and berries as well as medicinal bushes.”

Following the collapse of the socialist bloc in 1989 and a lack of subsidies for agriculture in DPR Korea, famine and malnutrition became widespread in rural areas.

DPR Korea is a harsh mountainous country where only 16% of the land area is suitable for cultivation, data from the Centre suggests.

It addded that out of  desperation in the 1990s, people turned to the marginal sloping lands but this had a price: deforestation for cropping land and fuelwood left entire landscapes denuded and depleted of nutrients.

In an attempt to reverse the situation, an innovative project began in 2002 involving the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Korea’s Ministry of Land and Environmental Protection. The World Agroforestry Centre was later brought in to provide technical advice.

A system of establishing user groups with one representative from each family enabled demonstration plots to be set up and a large number of households have benefited from knowledge about growing multi-purpose trees.

Using these types of trees have helped  improve and stabilise soils, as well as provide fertilizer, fodder or fruits.

To further support the development of appopriate skills in North Korea, the World Agroforestry Centre has announced plans to publish an agroforestry manual.

The Centre added that work was also underway to develop an agroforestry policy for sloping lands management, as well as establishing an agroforestry inventory.

Source: World Agroforestry Centre press release

Date: 27/08/2010

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Trees: More than just carbon sinks


“In the absence of trees, our communities would simply collapse,” states Andrew Dokurugu, a project officer for Tree Aid tells BBC News.

Speaking from the charity’s West Africa offices in Burkina Faso, he explains how trees are vital for poor rural villages to survive in the long-term.

“We are looking at ways to promote sustainable agriculture and agroforestry,” he says.

“This will help ensure that the remaining trees are well looked after and that communities have access to the trees they require.”

Using the Family Trees and Land Use scheme in northern Ghana, one of Tree Aid-led projects that have helped 600,000 villagers, Mr Dokurgu outlines why so many communities in West Africa are facing tough times.

“Rural settlements located close to big cities have particularly difficult challenges,” he says.

“Urban developments damage the environment and remove trees for use in the cities.

“This quickly deprives rural areas of their sources of food, fuel and other tree products.”

Rising urban populations and expanding cities makes life tougher both inside and outside the city boundaries.

Tree Aid was set up in 1987 by a small group of foresters who were keen to use their expertise to help people in Africa, explained programme director Tony Hill.

“They saw that trees, potentially, were a way for poor rural families to help themselves in the long-term,” he told BBC News.

And in 1997, the charity established a permanent office in Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso.

Mr Hill described this development as a “step change” for Tree Aid, which has now planted more than 6.5 million trees.

“We were then able to work directly with local partners,” he said.

“Projects always have a beginning and an end, but the needs of the villagers do not end when the scheme finishes – particularly when you are dealing with trees.

“You need to have the continuity of attention, care and protection if you are going to deliver the benefits long-term.”

The need to plant and manage the region’s tree stocks is becoming increasingly important, Mr Hill says.

“If you go back several decades, the wild tree resources were rich enough for villagers to get more or less all of the products they needed without having to plant trees.

“Now, growing populations and an erratic climate means that villages have to invest in trees, rather than letting nature do its own thing.”

However, it is not simply the case of telling people to plant saplings and sitting back and waiting for them to grow.

Some cultures, Mr Hill reveals, have traditionally considered planting fruit trees as taboo: “People believed that if you planted a tree, you were bound to die before it bore fruit.”

But he says one of the biggest challenges is the issue of land tenure.

“For farmers, it is like a declaration of ownership. Planting trees says ‘this is my land and it is going to be mine for a long time.

“For many people, it is difficult to negotiate adequate secure tenure and get permission from all of the relevant authorities.”

This is one area where Tree Aid has been focusing its efforts, especially for women, who generally are not allowed to own land.

“In the drylands of Africa, where Tree Aid operates, the real value of trees is the products that they can take: fruits, leaves, bark and roots, firewood, building materials,” Mr Hill says.

He adds that healthy trees also help maintain the area’s ecosystems.

“People rely on trees to recycle nutrients, prevent erosion and maintain moderate water flows.

“Without trees in the landscape, you cannot have a sustainable farming system.

“Without farming, you do not have any life in these communities.”

Source: BBC News website

Date: 19/03/2009

Forestry can create ‘ten million new jobs’


Ten million new “green jobs” can be created by investing in sustainable forest management, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

“As more jobs are lost due to the current economic downturn, sustainable forest management could become a means of creating millions of green jobs, thus helping to reduce poverty and improve the environment,” said Jan Heino, assistant director-general of FAO’s Forestry Department.

Since forests and trees are vital storehouses of carbon, such an investment could also make a major contribution to climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, said Heino.

According to a recent study by the International Labour Organization (ILO), unemployment worldwide could increase from 179 million in 2007 to 198 million in 2009 under the best case scenario; in the worst case scenario, it could go as high as 230 million.

Increased investment in forestry could provide jobs in forest management, agroforestry and farm forestry, improved fire management, development and management of trails and recreation sites, expansion of urban green spaces, restoring degraded forests and planting new ones.

Activities can be tailored to local circumstances, including availability of labour, skill levels and local social, economic and ecological conditions.

A number of countries, including the US and South Korea, have included forestry in their economic stimulus plans.

Similarly, afforestation is an important component of India’s rural employment guarantee programme.

According to FAO, the global potential is at least 10 million new jobs through national investments.

At the same time, improved forest management and new tree planting could significantly reduce the downward trend in forest cover reported by many countries.

This would help to reduce carbon emissions from land-use change and could potentially have a larger positive impact on climate change than any other initiative currently being planned or considered by world leaders.

How sustainable forest management can help build a green future and meet society’s changing demand for forest-derived goods and services will be the main thrust of World Forest Week, which begins on 16 March.

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, the UN secretary general’s special envoy on climate change, will deliver the keynote address.

She will emphasise the critical role of forests in society’s response to the challenges posed by climate change.

The meeting takes place against the backdrop of an unprecedented global economic crisis. The forest sector has also been affected severely, notes FAO’s State of the World’s Forests 2009, to be released on 16 March 2009.

However, the forest sector has considerable potential to play a catalytic role in the world’s response to the global economic and environmental crises, the FAO concludes.

Source: FAO press release

Date: 10/03/2009

Christmas trees ‘could hold cure to killer flu’


Christmas trees could provide part of the answer to treating the killer bird flu virus, according to researchers at Bangor University, Wales.

Scientists at the university’s BC Centre, working on a Woodknowledge Wales (WKW) project, have discovered that Welsh grown Sitka spruce contains valuable pharmaceutical material.

According to a report on the News Wales website, pine needles that drop into the carpet and found months later contain traces of shikimic acid, described by experts as an essential ingredient in the world’s only weapon against bird flu.

And now the research points to a possible way to extract this valuable new source of the drug from forest waste materials.

“The work so far shows that material that at best is chipped and composted can provide an excellent source of expensive chemicals needed in today’s society,” said Dr Dennis Jones of WKW.

” If a viable market existed for more than 70 tonnes of Welsh spruce oil, the gross value would be more than £10 million, not including production costs.”

Bangor’s researchers have also discovered essential oils, resins, flavinoids – anti-oxidants which can help fight heart disease – and sugars with probiotic properties which could be used in health products.

“Biorefinery of green materials has been proposed as a way to add value to the Welsh forest,” said Graham Ormondroyd of the Biocomposites Centre.

“Certainly our initial research shows that it is possible.”

Twigs and needles were taken off Ffridd Mountain, part of Bangor University’s Henfaes Research Centre at Abergwyngregyn.

Steam and organic solvents were used to extract the oils and further research identified the different naturally occurring chemicals.

“This is a classic example of how BC focuses on the science of renewable plant materials technology, turning it into a clear, commercial advantages for partners and clients.

Source: News Wales website

Date: 19/12/2008

Shade trees can protect coffee crops from climate extremes


Farming techniques that use shade trees may improve crops’ resistance to temperature and rainfall extremes that climate change is expected to trigger, says a study in BioScience magazine.

Researchers from the University of Michigan, US, focused on coffee production, although they added that their conclusions could be applied to other cash crops, including cocoa and tea, which also were traditionally grown under shade trees.

The scientists gathered evidence that showed that the intensification of coffee production in recent decades had made the crop, and the millions of people whose livelihood depends on it, more vulnerable to higher temperatures and changes in rainfall.

In an effort to boost production, the US researchers added, growers had increased their use of pesticides and relied less on shade trees.

Their findings suggested that these developments made the coffee plants more susceptible to extreme weather events.

The team added that the benefits of shade trees appeared to be greater in marginal growing areas.

They called for more research in to whether a return to more traditional agroforestry techniques were likely to protect the livelihoods of farmers threatened by climate change.

Below is the paper’s abstract:

An inevitable consequence of global climate change is that altered patterns of temperature and precipitation threaten agriculture in many tropical regions, requiring strategies of human adaptation.

Moreover, the process of management intensification in agriculture has increased and may exacerbate vulnerability to climate extremes.

Although many solutions have been presented, the role of simple agroecological and agroforestry management has been largely ignored.

Some recent literature has shown how sustainable management may improve agroecological resistance to extreme climate events.

We comment specifically on a prevalent formof agriculture throughout Latin America, the coffee agroforestry system.

Results from the coffee literature have shown that shade management in coffee systems may mitigate the effects of extreme temperature and precipitation, thereby reducing the ecological and economic vulnerability of many rural farmers.

We conclude that more traditional forms of agriculture can offer greater potential for adapting to changing conditions than do current intensive systems.

Source: American Institute of Biological Sciences

Date: 1/10/2008

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