By Rachel Cernansky
After returning home from college to northwest Cameroon in 2004, Tabi Joda felt a sense of profound loss. Trees that once bore fruit, provided medicine, and created shade had been cut down. Rich soils had turned to dust. “The land I used to know as a forest was no longer a forest,” he recalls. Joda, a business consultant, got to work, calling on what he’d learned in school and from local knowledge passed down over generations. He collected seeds, started a tree nursery, and launched an agroforestry initiative that enlisted local people in planting trees. They chose species that provided food and timber, supported livelihoods, and helped wildlife thrive. The effort soon spread to nearby communities. And Joda ultimately became a vocal advocate for an even bigger dream: the Great Green Wall, which aims to transform the lives of some 100 million people by planting a mosaic of trees, shrubs, and grasses along a corridor stretching some 8000 kilometers across Africa by 2030.
Since the African Union first launched the Great Green Wall in 2007, the initiative has struggled to make headway. Made up of local efforts across 11 countries, it has reached just 16% of its overall goal to vegetate 150 million hectares. But last month, the project—which analysts estimate will cost at least $30 billion—got a major boost: a pledge of $14 billion in funding over the next 5 years from a coalition of international development banks and governments. The money is meant to accelerate the effort to sustain livelihoods, conserve biodiversity, and combat desertification and climate change, French President Emmanuel Macron said in announcing the pledges on 11 January.
Environmental restoration and community development specialists welcomed the news. But many are also apprehensive. In recent years, research by ecologists, economists, and social scientists has shown that many forestry projects around the world have failed because they didn’t adequately address fundamental social and ecological issues. Project leaders often didn’t ask communities what kinds of trees they wanted, planted species in places where they didn’t belong, and did little to help the saplings survive. “Tree planting is often viewed as the simple act of digging a hole,” forest scientists Pedro Brancalion of the University of São Paulo, Piracicaba, and Karen Holl of the University of California, Santa Cruz, noted last year in a review of agroforestry projects in the Journal of Applied Ecology. “But this short-term, naïve view has resulted in large quantities of money being spent on … efforts that have failed almost entirely.”
It’s a problem that Joda knows well. “I have traveled the breadth of Africa and seen it everywhere,” he says. “Trees are planted, but they are not taken care of and so they never grow.” The question now, he and others say, is whether Great Green Wall projects fueled by the fresh burst of cash will heed those hard-learned lessons.
By Eric Hamilton
Deforestation dropped by 18 percent in two years in African countries where organizations subscribed to receive warnings from a new service using satellites to detect decreases in forest cover in the tropics.
The carbon emissions avoided by reducing deforestation were worth between $149 million and $696 million, based on the ability of lower emissions to reduce the detrimental economic consequences of climate change.
Those findings come from new research into the effect of GLAD, the Global Land Analysis and Discovery system, available on the free and interactive interface Global Forest Watch. Launched in 2016, GLAD provides frequent, high-resolution alerts when it detects a drop in forest cover. Governments and others interested in halting deforestation can subscribe to the alerts on Global Forest Watch and then intervene to limit forest loss.
By Evan Nicole Brown
ON JUNE 22, 2013, PAKISTAN’S Sindh Forest Department set a Guinness World Record when 300 people planted 847,275 trees in 24 hours. Three years later, on July 11, 2016, India eclipsed that mark, planting 49.3 million tree saplings (comprising 80 different species) in the same amount of time.
But yesterday, the arboreal record was shattered again—in half the time. A nationwide planting spree in Ethiopia saw volunteers plant more than 350 million trees across 1,000 designated sites—in just 12 hours.
This latest eco-challenge was designed as part of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s “Green Legacy Initiative,” a reforestation plan to address Ethiopia’s rapid tree loss. At the start of the 20th century, 30 percent of the country’s land was forested. Now, less than 4 percent of it is.
Ethiopia is not alone when it comes to tree loss. In 2015, 10 African countries launched the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative, which aims to restore 386,000 square miles of the continent’s land by 2030.
The benefits are legion.
“Restoring our landscapes brings prosperity, security, and opportunity,” Vincent Biruta, Rwanda’s minister of natural resources, said at the time. “With forest landscape restoration, we’ve seen agricultural yields rise and farmers in our rural communities diversify their livelihoods and improve their well-being. Forest landscape restoration is not just an environmental strategy; it is an economic and social development strategy as well.”
As part of this effort, Ethiopia pledged to tackle 57,915 square miles of its landscape. On July 29, Prime Minister Ahmed encouraged millions of Ethiopians to each plant a minimum of 40 seedlings. The citizenry took him very seriously. Some schools and government offices closed to encourage full participation.
By Eric J. Wallace
These ancient forest gardens may be more relevant than ever.
Before modernization, food forests were a staple of indigenous communities in Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and beyond. Though most have vanished, vestiges have been identified in places as diverse as Tanzania, southern India, Indonesia, the Amazon Rainforest, Central America, and the Caribbean islands.
“This method of agriculture was used throughout the world, but particularly in tropical regions, where multi-species food forests were once the dominant method of production,” says John F. Munsell, Virginia Tech professor of agroforestry and co-author of 2018’s The Community Food Forest Handbook. Though little is known about their early history and adaption, Munsell says forest gardens began with villagers seeking to make their lives easier.
“They settled inside or along forest edges and relied on them for food,” he says. “Naturally, they started managing and altering the environment to their advantage.”
Useful plants were cultivated. Those that weren’t got weaned out. As space opened up, new species were added.
“Say you find bananas growing a mile away,” says Munsell. “That’s great. But it takes time and energy to harvest those resources. Planting them in your backyard is infinitely more convenient.” If you apply that thinking across centuries, “the region’s indigent edible plants became aggregated in one spot.”
Villagers mimicked natural relationships and planted certain species closer to others. Trade introduced non-native plants. Trial-and-error brought horticultural knowledge. Techniques were passed down and steadily improved.
In time, conditions supporting helpful or edible bugs were encouraged. Ditto for mushrooms and medicinal herbs. Gardens came to include plants and nuts that fed livestock such as pigs or goats. Waterways were diverted and rainwater impoundments installed. Domesticated birds including chickens, guineas, and pheasants ate unwanted insects. Restricted to given areas, goats cleared brush. Pigs rooted in the soil, preparing it for planting. The animals’ manure served as fertilizer.
“The goal was effectively to create an agricultural ecosystem that was as self-sustaining as possible,” says Munsell. As a result, advanced region-specific methodologies emerged.
By Mike Gaworecki
A study published in the journal Science Advances this month found that, between 2000 and 2013, the global area of intact forest landscape declined by 7.2 percent, a reduction of 919,000 square kilometers, or a little over 227 million acres.
Intact forest landscapes (IFLs) are areas of natural land cover that are large and undisturbed enough to retain all their native plant and animal communities — defined at 500 square kilometers. For an IFL to be considered “lost,” its vegetation needs to be degraded to an extent at which it can no longer support its original levels of biodiversity.
Among the study’s other findings, one in particular was quite surprising: Certification of logging concessions, which aims to ensure sustainable forest management practices, had a “negligible” impact on slowing the fragmentation of IFLs in the Congo Basin, home to the world’s second-largest rainforest as well as high levels of biodiversity, including more than 600 tree species and 10,000 animal species.
By Franklin Alli
The federal government has been called upon to come up with legislation to tackle deforestation which stakeholders say is now threatening local sourcing of raw materials.
Vanguard learned that due to indiscriminate felling and burning of economic trees and deforestation in almost all forest reserves across the country over three million jobs have been lost in timber and wood production and processing under the Pulp, Paper and Paper Products, Publishing and Printing Sectoral Group of Manufacturers Association of Nigeria, MAN.
Dr. Frank Jacobs, MAN President, said: “It is important that the government pays close attention to afforestation in order to redress the situation. Forestry Research Institutes in the country should be empowered to effectively carry out their functions and legislation should be enacted and enforced, as the case may be, to check incessant felling of trees.
“As a result of other developmental needs, our forest reserves are rapidly being depleted as both economic and other trees are felled continuously.
by Brian Donnelly, Senior News Reporter
A SCOTS research team has warned a worldwide rubber shortage is looming as demand grows, costs rise and an adequate man-made substitute is yet to be found.
The natural commodity used throughout modern life is dwindling to such an extent that Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh researchers said if farmers in Africa and Asia continue to fell trees at the current rate more than half of the world’s main source of the critical plant will be gone in 30 years.
It means an impending rubber shortage that would affect production of everything from wellington boots to aviation tyres and scientists are calling for better management methods and policies in major producing countries including China, Vietnam, Thailand and Laos.