Forests: Repairing the Natural World

Deborah Chisale, Katowo School

FYF supports schools in Malawi to establish tree nurseries that will act as a resource base for communities.

June 5th is World Environment Day. A couple of days ago UNEP published a report, in the lead up to WED making an Economic Case for Repairing the Natural World.

The report cites the fact that, in Vietnam “planting and protecting nearly 12,000 hectares of mangroves has cost just over $1 million but saved annual expenditure on dyke maintenance of well over $7 million” as one example of the fact that “compared to loss of ecosystem services, well-planned restorations may provide cost benefit ratios of 3 75 in terms of return on investment.”

On May 20th I attended an Earthwatch Institute lecture on the regeneration of forests with talks by Dr Mark Huxham from Napier University and Dr Glen Reynolds from the Royal Society’s South East Asia Rainforest Research Programme in Sabah, Malaysian Borneo.

Some of the key points made by the speakers underline, I think, the need for an amplification of the purely ‘economic’ focus of the report. Both Huxham and Reynolds spoke of the conflict between the ecological services provided by forests such as protection from erosion and water management that forests provide to many in the area (as well as their importance in fighting the battle against climate change) and the private benefits to the few from destruction of the forests for logging and alternative uses such as palm oil or shrimp farming.

In working with tribal people in India, FYF has found that forests have been degraded by logging and industrial development. This seriously impacts on the livelihoods of the indigenous population who depend on non-timber forest produce for food, medicine and craft activities which can provide a small income. Where forests have economic value for logging or as wildlife reserves, tribal people are often moved out of or kept out of the forests where their families have lived for generations. Having been deprived of education they find it difficult to fight the legal battles to retain or regain access to the forests. In Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh and Jkarkhand FYF supports tribal people to restore their rights to access forests for sustainable use and manage them as a community.

Meanwhile in Malawi much of the forest cover has been depleted by the pressures of a growing population for land for homes, agriculture and firewood. We support communities to regenerate local forests to provide protection from erosion, a sustainable source of firewood and help the land to store what rain does fall.

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