It’s About the Trees

Dec. 21, 2015
EC_JK

In a little-publicized side note to the Paris climate talks, the Peruvian Ministry of Environment announced two weeks ago a new step in its program to reduce deforestation.

We’ve talked a lot in Erosion Controlabout the connection between deforestation, soil erosion, and landslides. In Haiti, for example, about 98% of the forests have been lost, first to farming and the timber industry, and then to the many thousands of individuals who clear land to plant subsistence crops, cut trees to burn for fuel, or try to eke out a living by making charcoal. The result has been an increase in the number and severity of landslides; in 2004, one village lost more than 2,000 people in a single storm.

In a little-publicized side note to the Paris climate talks, the Peruvian Ministry of Environment announced two weeks ago a new step in its program to reduce deforestation. We’ve talked a lot in Erosion Controlabout the connection between deforestation, soil erosion, and landslides. In Haiti, for example, about 98% of the forests have been lost, first to farming and the timber industry, and then to the many thousands of individuals who clear land to plant subsistence crops, cut trees to burn for fuel, or try to eke out a living by making charcoal. The result has been an increase in the number and severity of landslides; in 2004, one village lost more than 2,000 people in a single storm. [text_ad] But this program, known as the Peruvian National REDD+ Program, has a different focus: reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (REDD stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.”) One of the demonstration projects under the program is the Alto Mayo Protected Forest, an area covering 450,000 acres, or about twice the size of New York City. The Alto Mayo basin is home to more than a quarter-million people. Acknowledging that tropical forests like the Alto Mayo provide vital services like absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, and aware that unsustainable farming practices and other activities are claiming more of these tropical forests—even the ones with protected status—every year, the project is offering alternatives. Managed by the group Conservation International, and with financial support from the government and private industries—the Disney Corp. has contributed $3.5 million to the effort—the project teaches local farmers different agricultural techniques so they don’t need to continually cut down trees to find areas of still-fertile soil. It also provides other incentives not to clear the forest, such as educational materials and medical supplies for the local communities. As of early this year, deforestation in Alto Mayo was reduced 75% from baseline levels, as shown by satellite imagery—a record for Peru. Project leaders say that between 2009 to 2012, the effort has “generated close to 3 million metric tons of emissions reductions—the equivalent of taking 500,000 cars off the road for one year.” The project’s motto: “What if you didn’t have to choose between green and growth?” You can read more about the project here.

But this program, known as the Peruvian National REDD+ Program, has a different focus: reducing greenhouse gas emissions. (REDD stands for “reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.”) One of the demonstration projects under the program is the Alto Mayo Protected Forest, an area covering 450,000 acres, or about twice the size of New York City. The Alto Mayo basin is home to more than a quarter-million people.

Acknowledging that tropical forests like the Alto Mayo provide vital services like absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen, and aware that unsustainable farming practices and other activities are claiming more of these tropical forests—even the ones with protected status—every year, the project is offering alternatives. Managed by the group Conservation International, and with financial support from the government and private industries—the Disney Corp. has contributed $3.5 million to the effort—the project teaches local farmers different agricultural techniques so they don’t need to continually cut down trees to find areas of still-fertile soil. It also provides other incentives not to clear the forest, such as educational materials and medical supplies for the local communities. As of early this year, deforestation in Alto Mayo was reduced 75% from baseline levels, as shown by satellite imagery—a record for Peru. Project leaders say that between 2009 to 2012, the effort has “generated close to 3 million metric tons of emissions reductions—the equivalent of taking 500,000 cars off the road for one year.”

The project’s motto: “What if you didn’t have to choose between green and growth?” You can read more about the project here.
About the Author

Janice Kaspersen

Janice Kaspersen is the former editor of Erosion Control and Stormwater magazines.