People have a strong and continuous connection to the land and forest. Forests provide food, wood, natural materials, medicines, fuel, homes for animals and birds, and a spirit connection with ancestors or animals which lived there long ago. Areas that have forests need to be protected and carefully managed. These forests are the seed banks of the future.
We have many plants and animals which can only grow and live in our environment. This is because of climate, landscape and the way the land was formed long ago. Preservation of these species will help us to retain our culture and heritage. Many of these plants are medicines, contain oil and other useful products which can bring income in the future.
The first step is to protect and carefully manage the forests. The next is to reforest and restore natures balance. We must maintain a strong connection with nature. We need long term solutions for keeping the environment and land healthy and strong for the future.
Many areas where forests have been removed are suffering from erosion and soil loss. It is difficult to obtain good productivity on these lands. In fact, agriculture practices on these lands can even create more erosion and new problems.
Reforestation and tree crops can help stop erosion, repair damaged land, while providing food, wood, oils, medicines, fiber and many other products for income. These are all sustainable incomes.
Tree crops can also be integrated with animals and annual crops. Products and income from trees and forests are more secure because trees are less affected by bad weather conditions. A well designed forest system will need little maintenance once it is established. Forests and trees will improve the health of the environment, not just on the land where they grow, but also on the land surrounding it. Healthy environmental improvements in the mountains will even affect environments on the coast and in the ocean.
Sustainable Forest Systems
Steps to achieving sustainable forest systems:
1. Store water in the ground
2. Protect soil and stop erosion
3. Control animals
4. Stop burning
5. Forest and resource management
1. Store Water in the Ground
Water is precious! Water stored in the ground will benefit the land, plants and people. Some of these benefits are:
- The soil will be protected from erosion
- Crop seasons will be longer
- Plants will be more fertile and can grow even during the dry season
- Ground water levels will rise so springs won’t dry up
2. Protect Soil and Stop Erosion
Erosion will reduce productivity by removing a very valuable layer of soil. Soil, especially soil which is good for agriculture, takes a long time to form, but can be lost very easily and quickly due to erosion.
If not controlled, erosion will quickly get worse and create bigger problems in the future. Erosion will also destroy all small plants, seeds and organic matter. Erosion on cleared land can cause landslides, which not only destroy land, but can be very dangerous for people.
Reforestation and tree crops are a long term solution for protecting the soil and stopping erosion. Making swales and terraces will help hold water, this is an important base for reforestation, tree crops and all sloped land agriculture.
3. Control Animals
Animals, especially goats, can damage reforestation and tree crops quickly.
This can waste a lot of hard work and useful tree crops.
Some solutions which can be used are:
• Village regulations can be made to protect specific areas
• Make fences especially for reforestation areas and tree crops • Make small fences (tree guards) around each individual tree • Tie up animals
• Work together with the community to control animals
4. Stop Burning
Burning land is not recommended because it can:
- Cause erosion problems
- Reduce plant and animal diversity
- Destroy natural mulch, soil biota and other organic matter important for the soil
- Cause water loss
- Pollute the environment
- Damage reforestation and newly planted tree crops
- Reduce certain resources
Many areas are burned to encourage new grass growth for animals this is achieved, but it causes the land to become unproductive in the future.
Also, burning will only encourage low quality grasses to grow for animal food.
Burning should be stopped because the damages caused are larger than benefits received. Think of better, alternative solutions to replace burning land.
5. Forest and Resource Management
The following are important steps for forest and resource management:
- Make a community management plan
- Replant trees which are cut down for use
- Make village regulations for protection community forests or certain areas which need protection
A community management plan is a plan for the future.
A community management plan should:
Plan what can be harvested and whom can harvest it
Control income from harvests, including how much income should return to the community to be used for forest management
Develop a working relationship with the government
Protect community land from other groups interested in ownership, for example from commercial enterprises
Use forest resources wisely. Beneficial forest resources include seeds, medicines, oils, bamboo products, honey and much more
Smaller community groups, like women’s groups and youth groups, can compile information and important guidelines regarding land and forest management. This information can be passed on and discussed at community meetings, so that knowledge and ideas can be included in community management plans.
Collecting firewood can cause huge losses to now existing trees. Collecting firewood is also hard work, which takes up a lot of time. Finding alternatives to firewood is important, because by reducing the use of firewood a lot of time and energy will be saved, while protecting the forest. Take into consideration changes such as:
• Planting trees around the house which can be used as firewood, this could even be living fences
• Using stoves and ovens which use less firewood or none at all, like charcoal stoves
International companies are looking to our forests to make money for themselves. This could be from harvesting forest resources or clear cutting for commercial purposes, such as for farming land or other reasons. Short term jobs and small amounts of money will never be able to replace the wealth and value contained in forests. Commercial companies will always take most of the money and benefits, this is how they work. This is already happening in many countries all over the world and it is causing huge problems and destruction.
Any plantations should be separate from the forest area and forests should never be replaced by plantations. Our beautiful forests and environment can be an important asset in the future, such as for ecotourism, which can provide many more jobs and local income than logging and plantations can. This is also more sustainable for the future.