Tropical deforestation is a complex issue. Over 40 million acres of tropical forest is destroyed each year around the globe causing one of the largest and most rapid extinction events ever on the planet. Tropical forests habor more than 50% of terrestrial biodiversity and remove over 1.3 gigatons of carbon per year from our atmosphere. These forests are important for our own species survival.
However, there are large companies that are converting forests to plantations especially palm oil, there are oil companies polluting and destroying oil rich areas and there are mining companies doing the same. Public outcry at this corporate misbehavior is well placed and it is relatively easy to act against perpetrators.
The hidden cause:
However a large percentage, and perhaps the majority, of tropical deforestation is occurring because small holder farmers are slashing and burning it in order to open it up to agriculture. Why is this so and who is to blame? The immediate cause is that the soil lacks available nutrients, which are quickly removed when ground cover, or the forest, is removed. Crops typically can be grown for one year before another block of forest needs to be cut and burned. The deeper cause is underdevelopment of communities. These communities are very poor, often have little access to health care, education or even markets to sell produce. They have been forgotten by their governments and left to eke out a living on marginal land.
The consequences are that the world is losing enormous natural wealth that has both human utility e.g. in the form of cures for diseases, and inherent value. To make matters worse much of this wealth is being converted to CO2 which in turn is warming up our planet. Indeed 20% of all global CO2 emissions is due the burning of tropical forests.
What is the solution?
The solution is to help these rural communities with alternatives to slash and burn. The immediate solution lies in sustainable agriculture where soil can be made more fertile without adding man made chemicals eg through organic fertilizers, terracing, using trees as buffers, rotating crops and many more systems that are not currently being utilized. The long term solution lies in the development of these communities through access to health, education and opportunities for work.
CREA is currently employing a holistic concept of community development that brings sustainability to the forefront of community focus while aiding in basic community needs.
Bayano Watershed Project:
We are currently implementing a program in the Mamoni Valley and Cañitas of the Bayano Watershed in Eastern Panama that will:
CREA is currently seeking to develop a funding stream based upon this project through the Reduction of Emissions through Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) voluntary mechanism of the carbon market.