Global Forest Coalition https://globalforestcoalition.org Global Forest Coalition Tue, 23 Oct 2018 05:55:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Chaco under attack https://globalforestcoalition.org/world-food-day-chaco-under-attack/ https://globalforestcoalition.org/world-food-day-chaco-under-attack/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 12:00:25 +0000 https://globalforestcoalition.org/?p=9488 A photoessay about indigenous communities in the Chaco region of Paraguay, and their existence in a landscape under threat by agribusiness and international trade policies. By Fernando Franceschelli and Ines Franceschelli, Global Forest Coalition Today is World Food Sovereignty Day. To commemorate the occasion, we bring you this photo-essay to highlight the plight of indigenous communities living in the shadow of toxic agribusiness, with their territories polluted and their resources extracted and exported abroad. “El Chaco” has been home for …

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A photoessay about indigenous communities in the Chaco region of Paraguay, and their existence in a landscape under threat by agribusiness and international trade policies.

By Fernando Franceschelli and Ines Franceschelli, Global Forest Coalition

Today is World Food Sovereignty Day. To commemorate the occasion, we bring you this photo-essay to highlight the plight of indigenous communities living in the shadow of toxic agribusiness, with their territories polluted and their resources extracted and exported abroad.

“El Chaco” has been home for millennia to at least 15 groups of Indigenous Peoples. But over the past few years the land has been invaded by agribusiness, for unsustainable livestock production, to the extent that there are now twice as many head of cattle in the Chaco then there are human beings in the whole of Paraguay. As a result, the Chaco is losing forests at a rate of 2,000 hectares per day, and is recognised as one of the places on Earth that is being most rapidly deforested. And to make matters even worse, the land is increasingly being covered in genetically modified soy and the toxic agrochemicals that go hand-in-hand with it. The soy is primarily produced as feedstock for factory farms in Europe and other parts of the world. Cattle ranchers and soy planters have stolen indigenous land in the Chaco, and forced its people into slave labour.

Every day the Chaco’s inhabitants see immense convoys of ships and barges passing before their eyes, carrying away their resources to feed others in faraway places, with the profits of this trade remaining out of their reach. The unjust and exploitative trade rules that have caused the agribusiness take-over of the Chaco are set to worsen further with the proposed EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement. This deal will give corporations even more power to prioritise producing steak, pork and chicken for European consumers, while the lives of the Chaco’s inhabitants will remain submerged in poverty and hunger.

The photos below offer a glimpse into the lives of the Chaco’s Indigenous Peoples, and the struggles they face.


Despite living along the Paraguay River, one of the most important navigable rivers in the Americas, the Indigenous Peoples of the Chaco live completely isolated lives, forgotten by governments and public policies.

Pictured here is an Ayoreo elder from the community of Puerto María Auxiliadora.

Looking into the distance, she doesn’t say a single word as she listens to others narrate her story. She used to live in the forest as a member of one of the remaining uncontacted tribes in the Chaco. While still young, in the 70s, she was contacted and taken to “civilization”. Most Ayoreo die from diseases like measles when they are contacted for the first time, she was one of the few who survived.

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


Pictured here is Puerto Diana in Alto Paraguay. In the foreground, members of the Ishir indigenous community are crossing the Paraguay River by a small boat. In the background is a gigantic tugboat, pulling a convoy of barges carrying products from the Chaco including soybeans. In Paraguay, two main products make up to 80% of export value: cattle and soybeans. A trade agreement between the EU and Mercosur countries will only exacerbate the high rate of deforestation and land clearance to make way for cattle ranching and monoculture soy fields.

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


An Ishir man from Puerto Esperanza walks towards the community limits to cut firewood.

The communities here depend on fishing, and they also raise pigs and chickens for subsistence. Virtually nothing remains of their forest because everything has been cleared to plant soy and graze cattle. These communities are in a constant battle with agroindustry and large cattle ranchers, who have taken their lands and limited their access to it. The total absence of state infrastructure means that there there is no rule of law in these regions.

The EU-Mercosur agreement could create a framework that restricts the state’s ability to define policies that favour sustainable production and consumption. Fiscal reforms and subsidies supporting small-scale farmers and other sustainable livestock production methods would not be possible under the agreement currently proposed. This would lock places like the Chaco into continued cycles of ecological destruction, displacement of Indigenous Peoples and resource extraction.

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


A convoy of eleven barges sails along the Paraguay River crossing in front of a mountain range that lies in the neighboring country of Brazil.

In Paraguay, soybean farming has displaced food production to the point that 60% of vegetables consumed by Paraguayans are now imported.

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


Pictured here is a makeshift bathroom made with Caranday wood on the banks of the Paraguay River in Puerto Pollo. Caranday is a native palm, used for constructing homes.

The state’s abandonment of the Indigenous Peoples of the Chaco is such that local communities here lack even basic health, sanitation and communication services. The revenue from soy and beef production, concentrated into the hands of the few, has not yet reached the people of the Chaco. While the corporations increase their profits, local people face extermination.

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


Pictured here is a fisherman from the Ishir community of 14 de Mayo. He displays the day’s catch in front of a Caranday bark wall.

Artisanal fishing is one of the main sources of food for the indigenous communities of the Chaco. The river today is significantly polluted, a result of the massive quantities of toxic chemical runoff from genetically modified soy plantations in the area.

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


A young woman washes clothes in the waters of the Paraguay River in the Ishir community of Puerto Diana.

The majority of women do housework and produce handicrafts. Some have managed to go school and have become teachers in their own communities. But sadly, in order to make a living many also end up as sex workers in the capital, Asunción, or in neighboring Brazillian towns.

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


A starving dog looks at the camera. Hunger prevails over a land that looks sterile thanks to an economic model of extractivism that prioritizes the (over-) consumption of meat and dairy by Europeans over the food sovereignty and survival of Indigenous women and men in the Chaco.

Government policies should ensure healthy diets, however, under trade agreements like the EU-Mercosur, corporations drive decisions, using land for commercial purpose rather than food sovereignty.

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


Life resists death and destruction in the Chaco.
In the Ayoreo community of Carmelo Peralta, a mother lovingly looks at her newly born two-day-old daughter.

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


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Guahory women fight for the earth: https://globalforestcoalition.org/world-food-day-guahory-women-fight-for-the-earth/ https://globalforestcoalition.org/world-food-day-guahory-women-fight-for-the-earth/#respond Tue, 16 Oct 2018 08:35:31 +0000 https://globalforestcoalition.org/?p=9465 A World Food Sovereignty Day photo-essay about the impacts of toxic agribusiness in Paraguay and the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement By Fernando Franceschelli and Ines Franceschelli, Henoi and Global Forest Coalition On World Food Day, we bring you this photo-essay, which tells the story of rural women from the community of Guahory, in Paraguay, and their struggle against the impacts of agribusiness. Although Paraguay is a country with extraordinary natural wealth and a small population of 7 million inhabitants, it …

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A World Food Sovereignty Day photo-essay about the impacts of toxic agribusiness in Paraguay and the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement

By Fernando Franceschelli and Ines Franceschelli, Henoi and Global Forest Coalition

On World Food Day, we bring you this photo-essay, which tells the story of rural women from the community of Guahory, in Paraguay, and their struggle against the impacts of agribusiness. Although Paraguay is a country with extraordinary natural wealth and a small population of 7 million inhabitants, it is home to 2 million poor and 800,000 malnourished people. Over 1.6 million women of childbearing age suffer from anemia.

These shocking statistics are due to the fact that agribusiness exercises control over our national territory. These corporations have turned Paraguay into an agri-livestock enterprise that produces commodities for export rather than food for local people. Agribusiness occupies 94% of the cultivated land in Paraguay. It has been deforesting and contaminating our lands at a scandalous rate. It has concentrated wealth in the country, to the extent that the richest 10% of the population earns more than 4 times what the poorest 40% earns. They do not respect laws, don’t pay taxes, and claim more than 80% of the wealth produced in our country. For all of this they provide just 2.5% of jobs.

As the political landscape in South America shifts towards an even more ruthless form of neoliberalism, these impacts are set to worsen. Driving this shift is the prospect of the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement between EU and South American nations. Efforts to liberalise international trade in key commodities such as soy and beef will cause more landgrabbing and displacement of rural people, and more deforestation. Women will bear these impacts disproportionately.

Paraguayan women lack access to education and employment, with 40% of families dependent on women to sustain them. But they are also leaders in the struggle against agribusiness, and its unsustainable model of production. This model has been expanding with the complicity of government support, and communities that stand up and fight it are criminalized and persecuted, and their activists are assassinated.

These photos tell the stories of Paraguayan women and their struggles to protect their communities, land and way of life.


A woman from the Guahory community.
“We need to open our eyes, work with our conscience, and recognise our popular power. Together, women and men, for a new country!”

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


A peasant woman’s feet planted upon the soil.

“What are we going to do without our peasant seeds, what are we going to plant? Genetically Modified Seeds? Our Earth will not end, the money will.”

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


The further intensification of livestock and feedstock production resulting from the EU-Mercosur trade deal will lead to even more deforestation and ecosystem destruction, harm to communities and Indigenous Peoples, and animal suffering.

“It is necessary to recover our community work. To avoid the use of agrochemicals, mutual solidarity is central. Reforestation, soil recovery, local agricultural fairs, recovering our local food culture are all central to our resistance. it would be good to have a nursery of natural remedies in each organisation and to exchange seedlings”.

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


A peasant Guahory woman preparing meat for lunch. While the EU-Mercosur free trade agreement will include quotas for agricultural products aimed at boosting beef exports from Mercosur countries to the EU, peasant farmers will find it even harder to practice their traditional and sustainable livelihoods.

“In our communities, there are no schools. Young people are forced to leave the community. Our produce has no price. There are no health services. We have lost our seeds and knowledge. We are losing our most important heritage, our culture.”

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


A young woman from the Guahory community. Many Guahory have been violently evicted, and their lands taken for monoculture soy production.

“Our major strength for resistance comes from our organisations, our conscience, and our desire to fight. By organising, we have already confronted the police several times to stop chemical pesticide spraying by agribusiness in our territories.”

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


Peasant women cooking for an “olla popular” (community meal). These community meals are an important space for women to get together and organise.

“We can and we want to provide healthy, chemical free food for our children and families.”

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


Pictured here is a makeshift house built by community members to live in after their home was destroyed by state security forces in an attempt to evict them.

“In spite of everything we have not stopped producing. Our peasant agriculture cools the planet. We practice crop diversification, use no chemicals, and protect the soils. We resist by conserving our own seeds and fighting for the earth. We resist because we retain our ancestral knowledge; our knowledge is our power.”

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


This young woman is a victim of aerial crop spraying. Her land is next to a large industrial farm. The EU-Mercosur deal will increase the area of land that is sprayed with pesticides from the air, which will continue to displace local communities and force them away from their traditional ways of life. The EU is trying to frustrate negotiations on a legally binding treaty that would hold Transnational Corporations accountable for the human rights violations triggered by their supply chains.

“The worst are aerial fumigations, chemicals sprayed from airplanes, that affect all our crops. We can stop tractors, but we cannot stop airplanes. Many of our community members are forced to sell their land because of the chemicals on their fields, water sources, and homes. They are forced to live on the edges of cities where they face many hardships.”

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


A pot of mandioca (cassava) being cooked for lunch. Mandioca is a staple crop for peasant communities in Paraguay. As well as agricultural commodities, the EU-Mercosur agreement also brings control of intellectual property to the table, putting more control into the hands of companies and meaning that peasant farmers could find it harder to share and use their traditional seeds.

“We must improve our agroecological practices. We must seek food sovereignty, abandon the use of pesticides. Instead we can make our own homemade organic pesticides. With training, it is possible to learn how to do all this and become self-reliant.”

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


Women from the community gather with their children who, like them, will need to organise to protect their land and livelihoods. The EU-Mercosur agreement will tie South American communities in to generations of struggle, compounding the impacts that they already experience.

“The future of the world is in our hands, in the hands of poor women. If it were up to them, we would’ve given up, but we will continue to resist and fight.”

Photo by Fernando Franceschelli


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Cerrado towns terrorized to provide toilet paper for the world, say critics https://globalforestcoalition.org/cerrado-towns-terrorized-to-provide-toilet-paper-for-the-world-say-critics/ https://globalforestcoalition.org/cerrado-towns-terrorized-to-provide-toilet-paper-for-the-world-say-critics/#respond Tue, 02 Oct 2018 06:31:40 +0000 https://globalforestcoalition.org/?p=9527 A Mongabay investigation has found that global consumers who buy brand name toilet paper and tissues may unwittingly be fuelling land conflicts, environmental crimes and the loss of native vegetation in Brazil. Read the original article here. Image by Cássio Abreu on flickr.

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A Mongabay investigation has found that global consumers who buy brand name toilet paper and tissues may unwittingly be fuelling land conflicts, environmental crimes and the loss of native vegetation in Brazil.

Read the original article here. Image by Cássio Abreu on flickr.

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GFC deeply congratulates and celebrates with LVC on its historic victory! https://globalforestcoalition.org/gfc-deeply-congratulates-and-celebrates-with-lvc-on-its-historic-victory/ https://globalforestcoalition.org/gfc-deeply-congratulates-and-celebrates-with-lvc-on-its-historic-victory/#respond Sun, 30 Sep 2018 03:44:27 +0000 https://globalforestcoalition.org/?p=9381 La Via Campesina UN Human Rights Council passes a resolution adopting the peasant rights declaration in Geneva 28 SEPTEMBER 2018 Press Release (Geneva, September 28, 2018) Seventeen years of long and arduous negotiations later, peasants and other people working in rural areas are only a step away from having a UN Declaration that could defend and protect their rights to land, seeds, biodiversity, local markets and a lot more. On Friday, 28 September, in a commendable show of solidarity and …

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La Via Campesina

UN Human Rights Council passes a resolution adopting the peasant rights declaration in Geneva

28 SEPTEMBER 2018
Press Release
(Geneva, September 28, 2018) Seventeen years of long and arduous negotiations later, peasants and other people working in rural areas are only a step away from having a UN Declaration that could defend and protect their rights to land, seeds, biodiversity, local markets and a lot more.

On Friday, 28 September, in a commendable show of solidarity and political will, member nations of United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution concluding the UN Declaration for the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas. The resolution was passed with 33 votes in favour, 11 abstentions and 3 against. [1]

The declaration now goes before the upcoming 3rd Committee session at UN General Assembly in New York in October. From there, in November 2018, this Declaration will be up for voting and adoption by all Member States of the United Nations. Once adopted, the UN Declaration will become a powerful tool for peasants and other people working in rural areas to seek justice and favourable national policies around food, agriculture, seeds and land keeping in mind the interests of millions of rural food producers comprising all genders and youth.

After several rounds of international consultation process, La Via Campesina – a global movement of peasants, indigenous people, pastoralists and migrant workers adopted in 2008 a Declaration of Rights of Peasants – Women and Men[1]. With the support of civil society groups like CETIM and FIAN International, La Via Campesina presented this proposal to the Human Rights Council in 2008.

“This has been a long tough path but as peasants, as people who have seen the worst of poverty and neglect, we are tough too and we never give up”, says Elizabeth Mpofu, the General Coordinator of La Via Campesina

To be clear, today, peasants and others working in rural areas have insufficient recourse in the face of the discrimination they suffer and the other challenges they confront when seeking an adequate standard of living when subjected to forced displacement and marginalization. However, with this win in Geneva, peasants a step closer to getting their rights recognised and protected. According to Elizabeth, “This includes the right to life and adequate standards of living, the right to land, to seeds, to information, justice and equality between women and men” For her, it is a turning point for peasant struggles around the world. “Today, we are just a step away from acceptance by all member nations of the United Nations.” She added.

This UN Declaration can provide a global framework for national legislation and policies to:

  • better protect the rights of peasants – women and men – and improve livelihoods in rural areas;
  • reinforce food sovereignty, the fight against climate change and the conservation of biodiversity
  • take actions to implement comprehensive agrarian reform and a better protection against land-grabbing;
  • realise the right of peasants to conserve, use, exchange and sell their seeds;
  • ensure remunerative prices for peasant production and rights for agricultural workers;
  • recognise the rights of peasant women and bring about social justice for people of all origin, nationality, race, colour, descent. Sex, language, culture, marital status, property, disability, age, political or other opinion, religion, birth or economic, social or other status without discrimination

“While all of the member states said they are committed to human rights for all, the no votes and also abstentions are abysmal,” says Ramona Duminicioiu from Via Campesina Europe. “The nos and abstentions mean that these countries are not up to the protection of human rights of peasants and rural populations. They are against a bigger picture: eradication of poverty, food sovereignty, and the effort to reduce inequalities,” lamented Ramona.

“Our campaign for food sovereignty and people’s agrarian reform in Indonesia has received an important and much-needed boost,” says Henry Saragih, the Chairperson of Serikat Petani Indonesia. Indonesia has just passed a Presidential Decree in support of agrarian reform that favours peasants.

“Once the resolution is adopted at the UN General Assembly in New York, we will take the message of the Declaration to our people back home, and elaborate its significance and how it could strengthen our struggles against privatisation, criminalisation and more. The more we educate and inform our people back home, the stronger our movements become. It will enable us to demand better policies and laws that will take into account the rural realities of the developing world” added Henry.

“At this point, despite producing the bulk of the food we eat – peasants are subjected to extreme forms of violence. Those who resist are either murdered or arrested. This criminalisation of peasant struggles has to stop and this Declaration is a step forward in that direction”, says Diego from Movimiento Nacional Campesino Indígena (MNCI) Argentina CLOC-Vía Campesina

The adoption of such a Declaration and the recognition of rights contained in the proposed legal instrument can contribute to better protect the rights of peasants and improve livelihoods in rural areas in the long term and at the global level. It will fill existing normative gaps in protection and should also be forward-looking to deal with emerging gaps and thus end discriminatory practices by giving them more visibility and coherence.

Contacts:
English:
Henry Saragih: +62 811 655 668, Email: hspetani@gmail.com
Elizabeth Mpofu: +263 77 244 3716 Email: eliz.mpofu@gmail.com
Ramona Duminicioiu: +40 746 337 022, Email: ramona@ecoruralis.ro

Spanish: Diego Monton: +54 9 261 561 5062, Email: diegomonton@gmail.com

French: Ndiakhate Fall: +221 77 550 89 07, Email: fallriso@yahoo.fr

Note:
[2] Resolution A/HRC/39/L.16 on the UN Declaration on the rights of peasants and other people working in rural areas
In favour: Afghanistan, Angola, Burundi, Chile, China, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mexico, Mongolia, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Africa, Switzerland, Togo, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Venezuela

Abstention: Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Georgia, Germany, Iceland, Japan, Republic of Korea, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain

Against: United Kingdom, Australia, Hungary

[1] https://viacampesina.org/en/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/2011/03/Declaration-of-rights-of-peasants-2009.pdf

Photo credit: Muhammad Ikhwan

 

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Fire and Plantations in Portugal: A case study on the risks of using tree plantations to remove carbon from the atmosphere https://globalforestcoalition.org/fire-and-plantations-in-portugal/ https://globalforestcoalition.org/fire-and-plantations-in-portugal/#respond Fri, 28 Sep 2018 14:05:57 +0000 https://globalforestcoalition.org/?p=9369 We are pleased to share the following piece originally published in Science for the People, a recently revitalized organization of activists and scientists that published a bimonthly magazine from 1969 to 1989. This essay is part of a special issue on geoengineering in the lead up to the official relaunch of the publication, slated for early 2019. You can read the rest of the collection at Science for the People’s website or become a Patreon donor to receive a printable …

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We are pleased to share the following piece originally published in Science for the People, a recently revitalized organization of activists and scientists that published a bimonthly magazine from 1969 to 1989. This essay is part of a special issue on geoengineering in the lead up to the official relaunch of the publication, slated for early 2019.

You can read the rest of the collection at Science for the People’s website or become a Patreon donor to receive a printable PDF version.

 

Fire and Plantations in Portugal

A case study on the risks of using tree plantations to remove carbon from the atmosphere

by Oliver Munnion

Special Issue, Summer 2018

Photo: Domingos Patacho

Devastating wildfires are increasingly a feature of summers across the globe, and their intensity and scale have been linked directly to climate change in a number of recent publications.1 Longer fire seasons, coupled with heatwave and drought conditions, from California to Chile and Siberia to Greece, are more likely, more frequent, and more intense. Forest fires north of the Arctic Circle, unprecedented loss of life in Greece and Portugal, and unique geophysical phenomena such as the “firenados” in California are becoming the “new normal”2 in our climate-changed world.

One response to the climate crisis that is gaining prominence is “Carbon Dioxide Removal” (CDR), and at the forefront of this suite of technological approaches to climate mitigation are afforestation and Bioenergy with Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS). These geoengineering techniques came to the fore with the IPCC’s 2014 Assessment Report, which assumed major deployments of BECCS in a majority of its “mitigation scenarios” in order to hold global temperatures to below a 2°C increase by 2100.

BECCS: a huge appetite for land and biomass

BECCS and afforestation go hand-in-hand, owing to the enormous feedstock requirements of BECCS. Bioenergy has by far the largest land footprint of any form of energy generation;3 indeed, one estimate suggests that using BECCS to limit the global temperature rise to 2°C would require that crops be planted solely for the purpose of CO2 removal on up to 580 million hectares of land–equivalent to around one-third of the current total arable land globally. Planting at such scale, at least initially, is predicted to involve more release than uptake of greenhouse gases, due to the impacts of land clearance, soil disturbance and use of fertilizers. Rather than helping to conserve biodiversity, this large land footprint could cause a loss of terrestrial species perhaps worse than the losses resulting from a temperature increase of around 2.8°C above pre-industrial levels.4

Moreover, the technical viability of BECCS remains unproven, and for a technology seemingly essential to the IPCC’s global carbon targets there is startlingly little evidence that BECCS can go from being purely conceptual to commercially viable within the timescale required. Many authors have highlighted the dangers of such a reliance on such an unproven, indeed non-existent, technology.5 Optimism about large-scale BECCS deployment is a dangerous distraction6 from much needed efforts to drastically reduce fossil fuel use, and it threatens to legitimize existing forms of dirty bioenergy that are already being scaled up significantly.

Further threat comes from the fact that afforestation requires no technological breakthroughs, so the raw materials for BECCS can and will be planted regardless of the number of BECCS facilities that are actually built. Private-sector involvement in reforestation and afforestation projects prioritizes industrial-scale planting of fast-growing, non-native tree species that can be harvested and sold, whether for bioenergy, pulp, or timber. Such tree plantations bring serious environmental and social impacts.

Portugal is a prime example of the dangers of an approach to climate mitigation that relies on sequestering carbon through tree planting, for BECCS, commercial afforestation or both.

Portugal: the eucalyptus capital of the world

2017 in Portugal will be remembered for extreme heat waves, severe drought, and catastrophic forest fires. Half a million hectares of land burned, equivalent to 5 percent of the national territory the greatest yearly total in the country’s history. Though relatively small in comparison to its southern European neighbors, considerably more of Portugal burned in 2017 than in the rest of Europe combined.7

Portugal leads Europe in another statistic: it has more land planted with eucalyptus than any other EU country. Concentrated in the northern and central regions, roughly 10 percent of Portugal’s land area is planted with Eucalyptus globulus, an exotic, highly invasive, fast-growing subtropical tree.8 In absolute terms, only Brazil, India, Australia, and China have more eucalyptus–relative giants compared to Portugal. But proportionally, Portugal has by far the largest land area planted with eucalyptus in the world.9

The harm caused by fires in Portugal in 2017 was unprecedented. On June 17, 64 people lost their lives near Pedrogão Grande, in the district of Coimbra, central Portugal, in what has been described as Europe’s first “firestorm.” Climatic conditions conspired to create an inferno that eventually covered almost 50,000 hectares in one fire alone. In the days before the fire, temperatures had reached over 40 degrees during a heat wave, with much of the country already experiencing severe to extreme drought conditions. A dry lightning storm ignited multiple fires, and strong winds quickly spread the fires across a huge area.10 The extreme heat wave in Southern Europe in June 2017 has been clearly linked to climate change, with researchers finding that the conditions in Portugal were ten times more likely to have occurred due to global warming.11 Fires raged throughout the summer, culminating in a second firestorm on October 15, in which another 45 people lost their lives. This time, Portugal’s burned area doubled in size overnight, with fires sweeping across huge areas of central and northern Portugal.12

Satellite mapping of the infamous Pedrogão fire has shown that eucalyptus and pine plantations covered around 70% of the burned area, and that these areas experienced high fire severity.13 Both eucalyptus and pine have evolved to deal with fire. They are resinous trees that burn very easily and give off volatile oils that can even spontaneously combust in high temperatures. The bark of eucalyptus trees moves the fire quickly up the trunk and into the highly flammable leaves, both of which can be projected hundreds of meters, spreading the fire quickly.14 Compounding this is the fact that Portugal’s plantations are often illegal and unregulated,15 meaning that adequate firebreaks and zoning are not in place to prevent fires spreading easily.

From a biodiversity perspective, Portugal’s eucalyptus plantations have sometimes been referred to as “green deserts.”16 Eucalyptus leaves give off oils that inhibit soil microorganisms and prevent the growth of other plant species by blocking the development of root systems and inhibiting seed production. Eucalyptus leaves aren’t easily broken down by soil microorganisms (not even goats will eat eucalyptus leaves), and there are fewer invertebrates, fungi, and herbaceous plants in eucalyptus plantations.17

Soils in eucalyptus forests are also highly hydrophobic, which prevents water penetration into the ground and leads to large seasonal fluctuations in water courses, resulting in greater flood risk in winter and drier conditions summer. Similar to soils, the numbers of organisms in water courses in eucalyptus plantations are lower than in water courses in mixed, deciduous forests.18 Eucalyptus plantations also place a significant strain on water resources,19 which for a country like Portugal, experiencing frequent severe drought conditions on top of long, hot, dry summers, has spelled disaster for many rural communities.

Compounding the ecological harm caused by eucalyptus plantations is the way in which they are planted, especially where the land is terraced.20 Heavy machinery is brought in to plow the land on contour, causing significant soil erosion21 as it effectively scrapes away any topsoil and vegetation, leaving bare, exposed subsoil. Eucalyptus saplings will grow in these conditions though, and this planting technique is favored as the resulting plantations require much less maintenance.

Eucalyptus production has been sold to the Portuguese public as a green, environmentally friendly industry, bringing economic benefits to areas with few prospects, and producing a high-value export commodity in the form of paper products. More recently, the wood pellet industry has become another driver, supplying the market for domestic biomass heating. Pellets are even exported to the world’s largest biomass power station, Drax in the UK.22 Still, concerns over the impacts of eucalyptus plantations in Portugal are longstanding–some communities physically uprooted eucalyptus plantations almost three decades ago, citing concerns about fires and the drying up of springs.23 Ultimately, the strength of the pulp and paper lobby and large-scale migration away from rural areas left hillsides abandoned, with landowners turning to eucalyptus as an easy way to turn a small profit from land that would otherwise go unused. 24

Over the years, lack of a coherent forestry policy and the absence of effective management of forest areas has resulted in a planning system that has either not been able to or not wanted to regulate where and how eucalyptus can be planted in Portugal.25 On a national level, subsidies and other public supports have incentivized planting, with few regulatory barriers in the way of doing so. In 2017 alone, Portugal’s government made 18 million Euros available to increase the productivity of plantations, supplementing a 125 million Euro investment by Altri, a leading eucalyptus company.26 A further 9 million Euros came from the EU via a rural development program to support the replanting of eucalyptus where plantations had already been cut three times. These areas are also considered to be at high risk for fire.27

To highlight the extent of illegal planting, the Portuguese forest association Acréscimo has pointed out that some 32 million eucalyptus trees were estimated to have been planted in officially sanctioned plantations in Portugal during 2014 and 2015. But nurseries would have produced 60 million trees over the same period. Acréscimo asks, What happened to those extra trees?28 New laws limiting where eucalyptus can be planted that came into force at the end of 2017 saw a rush to get the trees in the ground ahead of the deadline, meaning that, despite the fires, more eucalyptus was planted than ever before.29

The shocking tragedy of Portugal’s fires has galvanized public opinion against eucalyptus plantations and in favor of replanting native forests. However, the worsening impacts of climate change will undoubtedly mean that without significant positive change to forestry policy and enforcement at the national and local levels, forest fires will continue to worsen. As an example of the lack of political will to restore Portugal’s forests, none of a 27 million Euro budget allocated to planting three ecologically and economically important oak species in 2016 and 2017 was spent,30 despite the clear demand from communities to replace eucalyptus with diverse, native forests. Even in areas burned last year, there is now five times more financial support available for replanting with eucalyptus than for native species.31

The most positive changes since the fires have come from the impacted communities themselves. Villages such as Ferraria de São João and Casal de São Simão, both badly burned in June 2017, have taken matters into their own hands and agreed to remove all fire-prone eucalyptus and pine trees within a 500 metre boundary of houses in the villages, creating “Village Protection Zones,” and replant the area with more fire-resistant, native tree species.32

Throughout Portugal, recognition of the important role played by native trees is growing, in contrast to the clear negative impacts of plantation species. Manuela Raposo Magalhães, a landscape architect and professor at the Lisbon Superior Institute for Agronomy, asks: “Have you noticed that southern Portugal, especially the Alentejo, is much hotter than the north, but rarely burns? Why do you think that this is? The cork oak is abundant in the south and it is a fire retardant species, even when the cork has been removed from the trunk… Similar to deciduous trees, cork oaks have broader leaves, which accumulate more humidity, and hinder the combustion process.”33

Industrial tree plantations are a growing global threat

The Portuguese plantation model has been exported with devastating effects to Brazil, and Mozambique is similarly seeing large investments in eucalyptus plantations destined for the pulp and paper industry; both are former Portuguese colonies. Exotic tree plantations cause significant impacts all over the world, particularly in the global South where companies are allowed to operate with even greater impunity than in Portugal. There, the ecological impacts of tree plantations are compounded by more profound social impacts.

Communities are often violently forced from their homes and denied grazing rights and rights of access to their traditional lands, which increases displacement and reduces food security.34 Indigenous peoples are often involved in land disputes over tree plantations, especially where they do not have legal rights to their land. In Chile, for instance, the indigenous Mapuche have lost access to large areas due to privatization of land and the expansion of monoculture tree plantations. With traditional livelihoods impossible to pursue, very low levels of employment per hectare of plantation mean that prospects can be bleak in plantation areas. The expansion of industrial tree plantations is associated with higher levels of poverty,35 and often bring about land ownership concentration, loss of customary rights of resource access, rural displacement, and socioeconomic decline in neighboring communities. Consequent emigration and decreasing population can in turn lead to isolation and reduced social services and infrastructure for the people that stay.36 A transient, low-paid workforce brings further social problems.37

Despite the clearly documented negative impacts, investment in tree plantations is rising. Indeed, climate finance is increasingly directed towards commercial tree plantations: funds have recently been approved for projects in Brazil, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Mozambique, Paraguay, and Uganda.38 In Mozambique, the Forest Investment Program is funding up to 40,000 hectares of new eucalyptus plantations, to be planted and managed by Portucel, a leading Portuguese pulp and paper company.39 And in Paraguay, the Green Climate Fund recently approved funding for a project that will see eucalyptus and other exotic species planted to produce bioenergy for the soy sector, itself one of the leading causes of deforestation in the country.40

International climate finance depends increasingly on the private sector, which means ever more emphasis on commercial tree plantations as a means of generating revenue. If future climate policy is geared toward reliance on BECCS and afforestation then this trend can only be expected to increase.

Conclusion

It is clear that there is a willingness to finance industrial tree plantations, and that private-sector involvement in climate finance is prioritizing commercial plantations ahead of other approaches to carbon sequestration. The example set by Portugal should serve as a strong warning to policymakers that commercial tree plantations, especially with exotic species such as eucalyptus, do substantially more harm than good. At the extreme end of the scale, tree plantations’ susceptibility to fire is a positive climate feedback, reinforcing hotter, drier climates and leaving soils even more prone to desiccation, erosion and desertification.

There are, however, alternative ways to sequester carbon in natural terrestrial ecosystems that benefit not only the planet but the people who live in and depend on them. In Nepal, for example, one-third of the country’s forests are managed by thousands of forest user groups that include some of the poorest and most vulnerable mountain communities. They have played a central role in halting forest loss and promoting forest restoration, which enhances ecosystem-based climate resilience. In turn, access to forest resources has provided an income for the communities.41

To be effective, such alternative approaches require a substantially different form of governance, with much greater emphasis on rights-holders and avoidance of corporate capture. Rights-based and community-led forest restoration could, in theory, involve many positive schemes that together would help to mitigate climate change on a large scale. There are vast areas of deforested and degraded lands that could be restored through community-led, bottom-up approaches. In many parts of the world such schemes are already being practiced by people in their everyday lives. Ecosystem regeneration, agroecology, and indeed many forms of peasant agriculture do restore and conserve terrestrial ecosystems, sequestering carbon on many different scales. Supporting these kinds of practices should be at the forefront of climate mitigation strategies.

References

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  21. Shakesby. R. A. et al., “Limiting the soil degradational impacts of wildfire in pine and eucalyptus forests in Portugal”, Applied Geography 16, no. 4 (1996).
  22. “Biomass sourcing in 2017”, Drax Plc., accessed July 1 2018. https://www.drax.com/sustainability/sourcing/
  23. Ricardo Rodrigues, “Há 28 anos um povo lutou contra os eucaliptos. E a terra nunca mais ardeu”, Noticias Magazine (2017). https://www.noticiasmagazine.pt/2017/ha-2-28-anos-um-povo-lutou-contra-os-eucaliptos-e-a-terra-nunca-mais-ardeu/
  24. Bárbara Gonçalves and Henrique M. Pereira, “Regime analysis of the Portuguese land use system”, Pathways Project (2015):p15. http://www.pathways-project.eu/sites/default/files/Country%20report%2010%20Portuguese%20land%20use%20regimes.pdf
  25. Quercus, “Visão comun.”
  26. A. Costa, “Governo disponibiliza 18 milhões de euros para melhorar produtividade na plantação de eucalipto,” Observador (2017). http://observador.pt/2017/01/16/governo-disponibiliza-18-milhoes-de-euros-para-melhorar-produtividade-na-plantacao-de-eucalipto/
  27. M. Lopes, “Governo está a financiar renovação do eucaliptal em zonas como a de Pedrógão”, Público (2017). https://www.publico.pt/2017/06/23/politica/noticia/governo-esta-a-financiar-renovacao-do-eucaliptal-em-zonas-como-a-de-pedrogao-1776653
  28. “Sobre o controlo das plantações ilegais com eucalipto”, Acrésicmo (2016). http://acrescimoapif.blogspot.pt/2016/09/sobre-o-controlo-das-plantacoes-ilegais.html
  29. Paulo Cunha, “Plantação de eucalipto bateu recorde no último ano”, Observador (2018). https://observador.pt/2018/06/28/plantacao-de-eucalipto-bateu-recorde-no-ultimo-ano/
  30. “Em 2 anos, foi nulo o apoio do Governo às arborizações com espécies autóctones”, Acréscimo (2018). http://acrescimoapif.blogspot.com/2018/07/em-2-anos-foi-nulo-o-apoio-do-governo.html
  31. Ricardo Rodrigues, “Eucaliptos têm cinco vezes mais apoio do que floresta nativa”, Diário de Notícias (2018). https://www.dn.pt/edicao-do-dia/29-jul-2018/interior/-eucaliptos-tem-cinco-vezes-mais-apoio-do-que-floresta-nativa-9650078.html
  32. Agência Lusa, “Aldeia de Penela já está a cortar eucaliptos, reflorestação arranca em Outubro”, Público (2017). https://www.publico.pt/2017/07/28/sociedade/noticia/aldeia-de-penela-ja-esta-a-cortar-eucaliptos-reflorestacao-arranca-em-outubro-1780642 and Jacinto Silva Duro, “Casal de São Simão (Aguda) deixa políticos a falar e segue exemplo de Ferraria de São João arrancando eucaliptos”, Jornal de Leiria (2017). https://www.jornaldeleiria.pt/noticia/casal-de-sao-simao-aguda-deixa-politicos-falar-e-segue-exemp-6721
  33. “Incêndios: 29 perguntas que já têm (algumas) respostas” Observador (2017). http://observador.pt/especiais/incendios-25-perguntas-que-ja-tem-algumas-respostas/
  34. J. F. Gerber, “Conflicts over industrial tree plantations in the South: Who, how and why?” Global Environmental Change 21, (2009): 165–176.
  35. K. Andersson et al., “More Trees, More Poverty? The Socioeconomic Effects of Tree Plantations in Chile, 2001–2011,” Environmental Management 57, no. 1 (2015).
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  37. Gerber, “Conflicts” 165–176.
  38. Global Forest Coalition, “The risks of large-scale biosequestration in the context of Carbon Dioxide Removal” (2017). https://globalforestcoalition.org/risks-of-large-scale-biosequestration/
  39. Republic of Mozambique, “Forest Investment Plan in Mozambique”, Forest Investment Program (2016):p141 https://www.climateinvestmentfunds.org/sites/cif_enc/files/meeting-documents/mozambique_fip_investment_plan.pdf
  40. Green Climate Fund, “Consideration of funding proposals – Addendum XIII Funding proposal package for FP055” (2017). http://www.greenclimate.fund/documents/20182/820027/GCF_B.18_04_Add.10_Rev.01_-_Funding_proposal_package_for_FP055.pdf/111e9560-113f-4753-9b59-e93115039a0a
  41. Ministry of Forests and Soil Conservation, “Conservation Landscapes of Nepal” (2016). http://d2ouvy59p0dg6k.cloudfront.net/downloads/conservation_landscapes_of_nepal.pdf

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Forest Cover 56 – Community conservation in Africa https://globalforestcoalition.org/forest-cover-56-community-conservation-in-africa/ https://globalforestcoalition.org/forest-cover-56-community-conservation-in-africa/#respond Thu, 27 Sep 2018 17:38:29 +0000 https://globalforestcoalition.org/?p=9331 Welcome to the 56th issue of Forest Cover, the Global Forest Coalition’s magazine. It provides a space for environmental justice activists from across the world to present their views on international forest-related policies. We are excited to bring you this special edition of Forest Cover on community conservation in Africa, which also contributes to discussions at the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention on Biodiversity this November, which will take place in Egypt. It has been 18 years …

The post Forest Cover 56 – Community conservation in Africa appeared first on Global Forest Coalition.

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Welcome to the 56th issue of Forest Cover, the Global Forest Coalition’s magazine. It provides a space for environmental justice activists from across the world to present their views on international forest-related policies.

We are excited to bring you this special edition of Forest Cover on community conservation in Africa, which also contributes to discussions at the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Convention on Biodiversity this November, which will take place in Egypt. It has been 18 years since a Biodiversity COP has been celebrated in Africa.

Africa’s rich biodiversity is facing multiple threats from industrial and extractive activities. Here we highlight five fantastic examples of community-led conservation and livelihood generation efforts. These stories from Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya, South Africa, and Tanzania reveal some of the threats that community conservation efforts face, but also how Indigenous Peoples and local communities are using their traditional knowledge and customary practices to protect and conserve biodiversity in their territories. The articles make important recommendations on the kind of policy support that can strengthen community initiatives.

We hope that policymakers, activists, community members, academics and journalists from around the world will take inspiration from these stories. Happy reading!

You can download the print version or read the articles individually below. To subscribe to the newsletter, please write to gfc@globalforestcoalition.org.

Download the print version in English (web quality | low resolution PDF) and French (web quality | low resolution PDF)

Contents:
Editorial: Community conservation is a strategic approach to saving the planet
Conservation by communities, for communities: An engine for sustainable
community livelihoods

Pygmy endogenous knowledge is at the heart of resilience and adaptation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
Indigenous Peoples’ commitment to conservation and sustainability in Kenya
Trees and diapers threatening communities and biodiversity in South Africa
Tanzanian communities organise for environmental conservation


Editorial: Community conservation is a strategic approach to saving the planet

By Kwami D. Kpondzo, Les Amis de la Terre, Togo

Pastoral landscape, Kenya. Jeanette Sequeira/GFC

Africa is one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. It is a continent rich in natural resources, including forests. At present, the sustainable governance of Africa’s forests is facing numerous challenges.

This issue of Forest Cover is dedicated to exploring the challenges and successes of forest dwelling communities across Africa. On the one hand, people living in Africa’s forests are facing numerous challenges. On the other hand, these communities are standing up for their rights and implementing good practices which allow them to save local biodiversity and livelihoods.

We are happy to announce that this is the first issue of Forest Cover to focus on community conservation initiatives in Africa. This issue gives Global Forest Coalition members and participants of the Community Conservation Resilience Initiative (CCRI) the opportunity to inform the world about their community- led conservation practices. Community conservation initiatives are important for forest governance and biodiversity protection in Africa. Through these initiatives, communities better understand the significance of their traditional knowledge and practices related to conservation. Importantly, the CCRI is based on participatory methods including Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). Communities are free to choose what is best for them.

It is imperative to remember that biodiversity is crucial for all humans. Biodiversity provides us with food and medicine, and an environment rich in biodiversity provides us with cultural and aesthetic values, spiritual enrichment, intellectual development, and space for recreation. Biodiverse ecosystems help to regulate the climate by sequestering carbon and regulating water flows. But sadly, communities are suffering because of biodiversity loss and the destruction of ecosystems, driven by the unprecedented commercial exploitation of our forests.

Community livelihoods depend on forests and biodiversity. People depend on the forest to meet their needs and solve their problems, particularly related to accessing food and remedying health issues.

Bearing in mind the critical role that nature plays, it is absolutely critical to conserve it, not only for the sake of humans, but also for nature’s own sake. Local communities and Indigenous Peoples have been doing this work for millennia through their own efforts across the world, not least of all in Africa. As part of customary conservation practices to prevent the destruction of forests and biodiversity loss, people have ascribed sacred qualities to forests or prohibited hunting during specific seasons. Such community conservation initiatives must be recognised and promoted to save the planet.

Pygmy fisherman, DRC. PIDP-KIVU/GFC

This issue of Forest Cover features five articles on community conservation initiatives across the African continent. Examples from DRC, Kenya, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda are shared, involving reforestation with indigenous tree species, beekeeping projects and many more. The articles examine the skills and resources that different communities have used in their community conservation initiatives as well as the challenges that they face. Communities are confident about their traditional knowledge and practices.

Africa’s rich biodiversity faces numerous threats from human activities such as extractive industries, industrial agriculture and monoculture plantations. These activities are drivers of biodiversity loss and climate change, dangerously affecting local communities and their livelihoods. Climate change and rising average temperatures are leading to droughts, floods and community displacement. Drought has serious impacts on animals, crops and rivers. Flooding destroys houses and farmland, and temporarily disrupts community farming activities. Pastoralists in particular are vulnerable to climate change- driven drought and loss of biodiversity. They face increasing difficulty in finding food and water for their animals and themselves.

Extractive industries, industrial agriculture and monoculture plantations are typically accompanied by land-grabbing, destruction of forests, community displacement and conflicts.

Community lands are grabbed without adequate compensation. The forests that communities live in and on which they depend for their livelihoods are destroyed with no alternative livelihood options given. There are increasing levels of conflict and violence between local communities, government, and the multinational companies behind the land-grabbing and forest destruction. Intra-community conflict is also increasing as a result of the practice of ‘divide and rule’ and community displacement. These conflicts destroy communities and their livelihoods.

Finding and promoting real solutions to climate change could resolve most of these conflicts, but surprisingly many of the proposed mainstream solutions to overcome the global climate crisis—such as schemes to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD)—only make matters worse. Communities end up becoming even more desperate after the implementation of REDD projects, which limit community access and control over their lands and territories. Truly effective solutions, like the community conservation initiatives explored in this issue, need to be scaled up.

Building local movements and solidarity are key elements of community conservation. The building of local movements allows communities to share their experiences from the implementation of their traditional knowledge and practices. Solidarity around innovative community conservation initiatives and the showcasing of good conservation practices will positively change the world.


Conservation by communities, for communities: An engine for sustainable community livelihoods

By David Kureeba, National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), Uganda

Community training on the need for conserving biocultural resources in Uganda. David Kureeba

The Community Conservation Resilience Initiative (CCRI) is important in this era of climate change. Community-based conservation initiatives must be prioritised when Africa’s land— including forests, wetlands, and sacred natural sites—are increasingly targeted for industrialisation by corporations.

Our governments in Africa often don’t emphasise the participation of local communities in decision- making processes, with women being marginalised from decision- making power to an even greater extent. This state of affairs poses a challenge for community conservation initiatives. To meet this challenge, the CCRI was introduced.

The CCRI uses a bottom-up approach to examine the resilience of a range of initiatives and biocultural approaches used by Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities to conserve and restore biodiversity. Potential legal, political, socio-economic, financial, technical, and capacity-building support was also examined by the CCRI, to sustain and strengthen these initiatives and approaches.

The assessment in Uganda involved eight communities, and analysed the specific rights, roles, and needs of women in biocultural approaches to biodiversity conservation and restoration. The analysis examined the implications of relevant human rights instruments, in particular instruments related to the rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The assessment process aimed to contribute to the development of rights-based, environmentally and socially sustainable, and financially sound biodiversity conservation and restoration policies. In this era of visible climate change, good policies are those that provide effective and appropriate forms of support to the endogenous, biocultural approaches to biodiversity conservation and restoration that are implemented by Indigenous Peoples’ and local communities.

The assessment found that different communities have different skills and resources, and that these are treasured by the communities. Examples of unique resources included food crops, species of plants and animals, and sacred natural sites, forests, and hills. While indigenous communities typically wanted to continue using and pass on their knowledge, it was found that the current generation—often influenced by government and faith-based groups—have characterised some indigenous traditional values as satanic, and have mounted a hate campaign against traditional lifestyles. This has weakened traditional conservation practices such as seed-saving, keeping animals and protecting sacred natural sites, which are biodiversity reservoirs that ensure long-term survival of the ecosystems. It has also alienated people from traditional practices.

It should be noted that most African governments treasure investors, at the expense of community livelihoods and the protection of biodiversity. In Uganda, the land tenure regime is too fragile to protect rights-holders from unscrupulous investors. If an investor wants to develop an area of community land, it is fairly easy for the investor to be granted access to it. In most cases, the community owners of the land are inadequately compensated and are not resettled, resulting in internal displacement.

The CCRI in Uganda looked at how communities can protect themselves against unscrupulous investors and destructive development plans, and actively promote development that improves the livelihoods of local communities. The CCRI created awareness among communities and developed their capacity to engage with governments and investors, to ensure that their rights are respected.

The introduction of oil palm and other plantations in most African countries, including in Uganda, has brought many human rights challenges. Communities suffer when their forests and land are grabbed by plantation companies.

The heavy use of chemicals in the oil palm business has also affected and polluted water sources and lake buffer zones that most communities depend on.

Some of the products harvested from community lands by groups participating in the Community Conservation Resilience Initiative. David Kureeba

Community livelihoods and sustenance depend on the land and all of the natural resources on it. Once this primary means of production is denied to communities, problems ensue. Communities depend on their territories to harvest food and medicines. They believe in their right to ownership of their ancestral land.

Communities in Uganda, and across Africa, have faced challenges related to the REDD+[1] programme, where they have been convinced to participate in carbon sequestration projects. This has been documented in the districts of Kalangala and Mayuge in Uganda. REDD+ targets the conservation of natural forests and aims to benefit smallholders and forest dependent communities, but in reality it is a false approach that promotes corporations and governments at the expense of the livelihoods of Indigenous Peoples. The promition of “Climate-Smart” agriculture is similar, where agribusiness is favoured over the protection of indigenous seeds and foods, which are vital to communities’ food sovereignty.

Another challenge is that local government has limited knowledge of or committment to equality and equity. Despite the fact that Uganda has very inclusive gender policies, there is a need for knowledge of these policies to trickle down to the district and community-level staff to ensure that they are respected, and that gender-responsive programmes are budgeted for. This approach can ensure that women are included in the planning and decision-making processes, and that their concerns are addressed, especially since women are often disproportionately affected by development processes.

The government, private companies and development partners should respect the rights of forest-dependent communities and other local people in different constituencies. Land is a primary factor of production, and once a community has lost its land, its way of life and essentially disappears. International programmes such as REDD+, which create a market for for ecosystem services, are false solutions to climate change. Emissions reductions should be prioritised at the source of the emissions.

Plantations are not forests, and forest conservation should be done by communities, for the benefit of communities. Indigenous Peoples and their way of life have conserved the global environment for millennia, and their philosophies and methods should be respected and adopted if climate change mitigation is to be successful.

[1] REDD+ is a climate change mitigation project being developed by Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). https://www.unredd.net/about/what-is-redd-plus.html


Pygmy endogenous knowledge is at the heart of resilience and adaptation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

By Diel Mochire, PIDP-KIVU, DRC

Men from the Bambuti Babuluko Pygmy community. PIDP-KIVU/GFC

The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is located in the centre of Africa, and is considered the world’s second forest lung, after the Amazon. Rich in biodiversity, its forest ecosystems are internationally-recognised as hosting rich, endemic biological diversity, and natural resources of great importance. These forests are the habitat of numerous ‘flagship’ conservation species, such as mountain gorillas in the Kahuzi-Biega National Park and Ikobo-Pinga Forests. As well as biological diversity, the country also has vast mineral and water resources, which attract the attention of multinational corporations.

Pygmies were Central Africa’s first natural resource and forest conservationists
Four large ethnic groups live in the Democratic Republic of the Congo: the Bantu, the Nilotic, the Sudanese and the Pygmies. Practicing hunting and gathering, the indigenous Pygmies are considered the first inhabitants. They are known for their unique lifestyle and culture which is steeped in environmental conservation. Pygmy communities live semi-nomadically in the high Montane forests of the Great Lakes region of Central Africa.

Pygmy people are often considered to be guardians of the planet’s biological resources. Their lifestyle and values are renowned for integrating the protection of the environment and natural resources on which they rely. According to the Indigenous and Traditional Peoples of the World and Ecoregion Conservation: An Integrated Approach to Conserving the World’s Biological and Cultural Diversity report, 95% of the world’s ecoregions with the highest and most threatened biodiversity are situated on indigenous territories. The extent to which full recognition of the rights of Indigenous Peoples, including Pygmies, would positively impact biodiversity protection deserves further consideration.

Pygmies have extensive knowledge on local natural resources due to their daily relationship with the forest. Through their traditional knowledge and hunting and gathering lifestyle, Pygmies are privileged collaborators in forest and natural resource conservation.

Pygmies are seen as being instrumental to accustomising gorillas to the presence of humans and contribute to the success of the Kahuzi-Biega National Park (PNKB). Established in the early 1970s, it is the first park in the world to organise visits to view gorillas in their wild habitat. In 1996, during the war, when the Congolese Institute for the Conservation of Nature (ICCN) lost control of the Park, the Pygmies protected and guarded gorilla families in the tourist areas. These days, Pygmies work as guides for tourists in the Park.

Pygmy communities have collaborated with scientific researchers and provide considerable assistance to conservation work. They share precise information about faunal, floral and aquatic species, including the identification, distribution, eco- ethology, and traditional use of species by Pygmy communities. They certainly deserve to be recognised as co-authors of scientific work on conservation in Central Africa, but often researchers and those responsible for the biopiracy of Pygmy indigenous knowledge do not seem to embrace this idea.

Thanks to their vast knowledge of the forests, Pygmies are very important for anti-poaching operations as they provide clear and accurate information on the activities and whereabouts of poachers. Through the support of local Pygmy communities, the killing of gorillas and elephants has been reduced by 25% in national parks and natural forests.

With their help, more than 3,000 metal collars for small mammals were seized in one month. By reporting on the movement of poachers, they have contributed to reducing the number illegal entries into national parks.

Two traditional ceremonies are characteristic of the involvement of Pygmy communities in gorilla conservation. Firstly, the “sheep rite” takes place once a year, and aims to save gorillas during natural calamities and external attacks. Secondly, Park Executives are subject to an induction ceremony, which ensures that they protect the forest and its resources, including gorillas, effectively.

The first forest concession issued to Pygmy communities: Babuluko in Walikale territory
The first community land concession to be granted to Indigenous Peoples by the Congolese government is called “Kisimbosa Chamakasa”, which means “fertile land”. The concession was granted through a decree made by the provincial government. The concession land is approximately 15,101 hectares and includes five main hills: Chankuba, Mashogho, Mabaka, Kambushi and Sankakemenge. The forest concession encompasses four Babuluko Pygmy villages; Kissa, Kilali, Lufito and Kambuchi.

The community forestry process is based on the existing legal framework established by the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which includes: The Republic Constitution (Articles 34, 53, 56 and 207); Act No. 011/2002 of 29th August 2002 on the Forest Code in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Articles 22, 111, 112 and 113) recognising and protecting the rights of communities to customary forest ownership; Decree No. 14/018 of August 2nd 2014 which outlines the procedures for allocating forest concessions to local communities; and Ministerial Order No. 025 / CAB / MIN / ECN- DDCCJ / 00 / RBM / 2016 of February 9th 2016 on the specific provisions for the management and operation of local community forest concessions.

The aim of the community forestry process is to ensure the management and sustainable use of forests and natural resources for the benefit of present and future generations. The characteristics of the process are unique: it is participative and inclusive of all stakeholders, social and socio-professional strata (for example, young people, women, older people, ethnic minorities including Bantu and Pygmies, and local and customary authorities).

The area of the concession has been occupied for thousands of years by Indigenous Peoples, and control of the land is their customary right. Thanks to their traditional knowledge and conservation practices, the area has kept its natural integrity despite facing multiple threats. The Babuluko Pygmy communities have developed practices and values that have enabled them to withstand these challenges and threats.

Women from the Bambuti Babuluko Pygmy community. PIDP-KIVU/GFC

The role of Pygmy women in the conservation of biocultural areas
Humans are central to the concept of sustainable development, which entitles people to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature. Women have a fundamental role to play in adopting environmentally- sustainable patterns of consumption, production and management of natural resources, as agreed by the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development.

Women sustain their families and communities by managing and using natural resources wisely, both as consumers and producers. Due to their role in preserving the quality of life for present and future generations, women have an important role to play in promoting sustainable development.

The situation of rural women and women workers in the agricultural sector should be recognised, and particular attention should be paid to their needs. Access to training, land, natural resources, credit, development programmes and cooperative structures can help them to become more involved in sustainable development. Exposure to environmental risks at home and at work can have a disproportionate impact on women’s health, and it is is particularly at risk in both urban and low-income areas where there are high levels of industrial pollution.

Internal and external challenges to community conservation
There are a range of internal and external challenges to successful community conservation:
• Illegal logging and mining in indigenous areas and territories without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of indigenous Pygmy peoples;
• Development of technology;
• Creation and extension of protected areas without the Free, Prior and Informed Consent of communities;
• Development of practices that undermine and threaten the culture of the Pygmy Babuluko Indigenous People;
• Social disrepute of Indigenous Peoples in Walikale territory is one of the causes of the lack of access to natural resources;
• Population growth;
• Land grabbing;
• Granting of hunting permits to local communities that organise illegal hunting and fishing on the Babuluko Pygmy indigenous territory;
• Insecurity due to the presence of armed groups that include local neighbors of tho Babuluko Pygmy Indigenous Peoples (these armed groups have organised looting in indigenous Pygmy villages such as Kissa);
• Unsuitability of legal texts to local realities of management and
governance of natural resources by Babuluko communities;
• Slash-and-burn agriculture practiced by neighbours of the Babuluko Pygmy Indigenous Peoples;
• A project establishing an ecological corridor through Pygmy land;
• Legal regimes applicable to other natural resources, such as mining for minerals and hydrocarbons, do not recognise customary appropriation.

Principal recommendations
• Community regulation of hunting and fishing;
• Environmental education for children and all social classes;
• Valorisation of traditional knowledge and practices of Indigenous Peoples
through the production of works of art and the organisation of cultural events;
• Establishment of an agricultural intensification plan and the fight against slash-and-burn agriculture;
• Implementing anti-poverty initiatives through the promotion of Income
Generating Activities.


Indigenous Peoples’ commitment to conservation and sustainability in Kenya

By Lucy Mulenkei, Indigenous Information Network (IIN), Kenya, and Edna Kaptoyo, International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forests (IAITPTF), Kenya

A Maasai indigenous woman addressing the CCRI community meeting. Edna Kaptoyo

In Kenya, Indigenous Peoples’ territories are home to important biodiversity. Forest management by Indigenous Peoples provides social, cultural, economic and environmental benefits to the communities themselves and the entire country. Indigenous groups like the Maasai of the Nyekweri Kimintet forest and the Rendille of Mount Marsabit live in harmony with wildlife, and conserve forests through their customary laws and values.

The Nyekweri Kimintet forest, which borders the famous Maasai Mara National Park, is a significant breeding area for elephants from the reserve. To combat external threats to conservation, the Maasai community formed a trust to ensure the continued conservation of biodiversity and to prevent conversion of forest land. Findings from the 2017 Community
Conservation Resilience Initiative in Kenya showed that Indigenous Peoples, and particularly women, have been playing a key role in conserving biodiversity and maintaining traditional knowledge relevant to conservation through ensuring the intergenerational transmission of vital knowledge and values. In Kenya, Indigenous Peoples maintain strong connections with the natural environment and values related to conservation are rooted in their culture. For example, the Rendille traditionally only cut down tree branches to use for house construction, and harvest herbal medicine sustainably. As pastoralists, Rendille communities plan their migration routes to allow for the regeneration of vegetation, ensuring a sustainable food source for their livestock.

The Kenyan government has a comprehensive policy and legal framework for environmental protection. The Environment Management and Coordination Act asserts various environmental rights and responsibilities. The general principles of the Act are founded on Article 42 of the 2010 Constitution, which provide every citizen the right to a clean and healthy environment, including the right to have their environment protected for the benefit of present and future generations. Currently the government is reviewing its National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (NBSAP), and there are indications that the government recognises the importance of community conservation and traditional knowledge in achieving the strategic actions laid out in the NBSAP. In Kenya, community conservation has without a doubt been a significant contributor to the achievement of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets and Sustainable Development Goals 13 and 15, as well as other cross- cutting goals.

Wildlife grazing in the Kimintet area. Edna Kaptoyo

However, community conservation in Kenya faces a number of challenges. One challenge is the impact of climate change, which has caused severe drought, species extinction, and other adverse impacts. At a time when many people are choosing to abandon community conservation, the Maasai and Rendille peoples maintain that their land is part of them and that environmental protection is crucial to their livelihoods and cultural practices. As one indigenous woman put it, “we cannot talk about protecting Indigenous Peoples’ and women’s rights without protecting and conserving the land and resources which we are part of.” Another challenge is a lack of legal protection for community forests by the county and national-level laws, and institutions tasked with providing protection. In practice, the legal framework recognises the role of community forests in biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services, but does not support communities to strengthen their conservation activities.

The vision of indigenous communities is to see land, forests and natural resources conserved for future generations, and to acheive this they call for support for community conservation initiatives from county and national government, environmental authorities and development partners. The Maasai and Rendille peoples want to raise public awareness of the positive contribution that community conservation makes towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and Aichi Targets, and to strengthen community land rights as well as engagement with Indigenous Peoples’ and women’s groups as advocates of environmental conservation. Meaningful engagement with Indigenous Peoples’ and women’s groups is needed to tip the balance towards sustainable use and conservation in Kenya, as well as to ensure that the government is meeting its commitments.


Trees and diapers threatening communities and biodiversity in South Africa

By Phillip Owen, Geasphere, South Africa

A eucalyptus plantation being cut down in South Africa. Wally Menne

The Community Conservation Resilience Initiative (CCRI) process in South Africa underscored environmental issues relevant to our region and of particular concern to the communities dependant on local ecosystems.

All around us we can see degradation of nature, desertification, biodiversity impoverishment, pollution from mining, large scale agriculture, carbon-based transport systems and society’s growing consumerism.

All participants in the local CCRI process agreed that industrial timber plantations constitute one of the biggest threats to environmental integrity, reaching far beyond the physical areas where they are being grown.

One of the most immediate consequences of the establishment of industrial timber plantations is the usurpation of water resources. Approximately three years after establishment of eucalyptus plantations, local water resources become compromised. Eucalyptus plantations consume approximately 35% more water than pine species, due to their broader leaves and deep roots (eucalyptus roots have been measured 50m+ into the soil profile). A single eucalyptus tree can use more than 100 litres of water daily.

In addition, local plantations lead to the destruction of grasslands, compromising the ‘water retention’ and ‘flood prevention’ services this natural vegetation type provides. It is clearly evident that soil erosion has increased in timber production areas, with higher turbidity in the remaining dwindling water resources.

Climate change is manifesting itself in more extreme weather, including prolonged dry spells broken by heavy rain, storms and flood events. Even though such weather events have occurred in the past, long before the establishment of large- scale industrial timber plantations, these events are now compounded by general land degradation and fragmentation of natural habitats.

Timber plantations are highly flammable, and during intensified ‘dry spells’ this presents a problem of alarming proportion. Some plantation fires burn out of control, leading to tragic loss of life and livelihoods, and long-term consequences for the environment due to the scorched, dead earth left in the wake of such intense fires.

Timber plantations should not be promoted as ‘forests’. Monoculture plantations should not be certified and legitimised by certification schemes such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), unless there is diversity and multi-level utility within timber plantation compartments. This could be achieved by making full use of the ‘understory’ for growing of food, herbs and alternative fibre crops, and by incorporating animals into the system, thereby maximising job opportunities and livelihood choices.

Furthermore, timber plantations should be ‘fragmented’ by establishing wide (200m minimum) ecological corridors within them, to act as sinks for nature and as ‘buffer zones’ to assist in fire management and control. Such corridors should be managed to maximise natural biodiversity, in order to promote environmental resilience on a landscape level.

The establishment of industrial timber plantations is driven by global over-consumption of paper products, including sanitary products like diapers that require significant amounts of softwood pulp. This is indicative of the overall growing problem of global consumption patterns and general apathy towards the environment. The use of disposable diapers in South Africa has escalated dramatically over the past two decades, and this issue was raised by CCRI participants as it is linked to another major environmental problem impacting nature and communities.

In a community where there are well- established waste removal services and infrastructure, used disposable diapers find their way into waste dumps, as they cannot be recycled or re-used. The absorbent material and plastic components of disposable diapers make them extremely resistant to decomposition. In landfill conditions, disposable diapers can last for more than 500 years before deteriorating. Where waste dumps are properly constructed and lined with non-permeable material, the waste problem is shifted to future generations to deal with. Most waste dumps in South Africa are not ‘lined’—so the human waste and chemicals contained in disposable diapers leaches into the underground water and environment generally, leading to increased environmental degradation and escalating health risks.

Many communities in South Africa and Africa in general live in areas where there are limited or no waste removal services. In these cases, people often discard used diapers along the roadside, or simply throw these items off bridges into waterways, streams and rivers. Local residents dependant on these sources for daily water requirements are most severely impacted, and are confronted with this new and growing threat to health and livelihoods. In Southern Africa, traditional health practitioners often use rivers and streams in their rituals and healing practices. Now these places are often compromised by used diapers, an icon for our ‘throw away’ consumer society.

The Mariannhill waste dump in Durban, South Africa. BBC World Service

In South Africa, approximately 4 billion disposable diapers are being used annually, and it seems we can indeed be described as a ‘shit-hole country’. But this problem is not unique to South Africa: in the UK another 4 billion are used, in Germany 5 billion, and in the USA approximately 40 billion disposable diapers are being used each year. Globally, a staggering 450 billion diapers are used annually, resulting in around 77 million tons of solid waste entering landfill sites.

Confronted with these numbers it is clear that the need for change is becoming urgent, and a monumental and collective effort is needed from our global society. The Absorbent Hygiene Products Industry (i.e. Kimberly Clarke and Proctor & Gamble) need to put more resources towards products which are recyclable and/or safely compostable.

Re-usable cloth diapers should be promoted, and alternatives to diapers such as the ‘elimination communication’ method should be tested.

At the very least, the corporations producing these products should inform their customers as to the negative impacts associated with the use of disposable diapers, so as to ensure consumers can make informed decisions in exercising their choice.

It is apparent that we live on a fragile planet with finite resources. We are linked globally through complex interactions, and what we do in one country or continent affects other areas. Toxic chemical run-off from agribusinesses and mining ventures pollute the land, and vast islands of plastic pollution in the worlds oceans are commonplace.

As well as the various initiatives that have been instigated and the relationships formed between participants, what has emerged from the CCRI process is a stronger awareness and a deeper realisation that we can no longer continue along the current path of destructive consumerism, and that we will have to act as a collective to make change happen.


Tanzanian communities organise for environmental conservation

By Salome Kisenge, Envirocare, Tanzania

Members of the Kahe community planting trees in their forest. Simone Lovera/GFC

Men and women from Ngasinyi village (Kahe, Moshi Rural District, Kilimanjaro) and Wiri, Lawate and Sanya Juu villages (Siha District) have been implementing community conservation initiatives, facilitated by Envirocare[1] and with support from the Global Forest Coalition.

In these communities, people have organised themselves into environmental conservation working groups to address the degradation of their local natural resources.

Each village has an Environmental Committee which oversees issues of environmental conservation, develops village plans and ensures environmental by-laws are enforced.

Community members have tried their best to plant indigenous trees around rivers, as they grow very well in the area. They also practice beekeeping, which is important for their income and livelihoods.

In Ngasinyi village, people have been cutting down trees in forests that were traditionally used for the preservation of culture and the conservation of biodiversity, which is causing deforestation. Trees are being cut down for the production of charcoal and as fuel for brick- making operations. This commercial logging activity is illegal under the Forest Act of 2002, the National Forest Policy of 1998 and the Environmental Policy of 1997.

The village has also been suffering from water pollution from large- scale cultivation of maize, beans and rice, established by investors. Oil leakages from the water pumps used by agricultural labourers has been polluting water sources used by local people for irrigation and domestic purposes, posing threats to both human health and the environment. Parallel to this, climate change is seen to be the cause of drought, as local water sources have been decreasing following less rainfall and long periods of strong sun. After villagers and local leaders informed the District Commissioner and Police about their water pollution problems, they acted to ensure the investors stopped polluting the water and the water pumps were moved away from local water sources.

In Lawate village, community members have planted indigenous trees. These perform better than the non-native trees, which suck a lot of water from soils. For example, Dakika Tatu/Three Minutes trees were provided by the District Council for people to plant in their areas. They were once planted due to their fast growth, but they were also decreasing soil fertility. Crops grown in the area where Dakika Tatu trees were planted did not perform well. Community members reported the matter to the village leadership, who reported the same to the District Council, and the council ordered the trees to be uprooted for environmental conservation.

Women from Wiri and Sanya Juu villages discuss and map their community biodiversity resources, problems and prioritise actions for restoration. Salome Kisenge

People from Wiri village, in Siha District, are also faced with increasing deforestation in their area. Deforestation has been occurring around water sources such as Lake Magadi (a saline lake) where young trees have been planted, but are consumed by livestock. The Maasai communities living around Lake Magadi are pastoralists and keep cattle, goats, sheep and other livestock. But the abundance of trees and grass that their animals feed on has been decreasing, putting pressure on their way of life. The situation has been made worse by climate change, where rainfall patterns have changed, resulting in long periods of strong sun and dry weather, which has hindered the growth of trees and other vegetation.

Because of this, village leaders, in collaboration with environmental committees, District Council Natural Resources Officers and the Envirocare team, have raised awareness of environmental conservation in the area by
planting suitable, indigenous trees, which fertilise the soil, and provide animal fodder, medicines, and firewood, and have ornamental value.

[1] Envirocare is non-profit, non-governmental, registered organisation founded in 1993. Envirocare’s holistic approach addresses the connections between poverty, gender and human rights. http://envirocare.or.tz/about-us/


Editorial Team: Ashlesha Khadse, Kwami Kpondzo, Mary Louise Malig and Simone Lovera
Editor: Michael Braverman

Graphic Design & Photo Research: Oliver Munnion

Donate to GFC here.

This Forest Cover was made possible through support from the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the The Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU). The participatory CCRI assessments described in this issue were also made possible through financial contributions from the Christensen Fund and the Siemenpuu Foundation. The views expressed in this publication are not necessarily the views of our contributors.

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Indigenous Peoples, Afro-descendants, and peasant farmers resist “green deserts” in Brazil https://globalforestcoalition.org/resisting-green-deserts-in-brazil/ https://globalforestcoalition.org/resisting-green-deserts-in-brazil/#respond Thu, 20 Sep 2018 19:00:33 +0000 https://globalforestcoalition.org/?p=9258 By the Global Forest Coalition On International Day Against Monoculture Tree Plantations we bring you this photo-essay showing the devastation caused by monoculture tree plantations in Brazil, and in contrast, community efforts to restore native forests and build sustainable livelihoods. We focus on the northeastern Brazilian states of Bahia and Espirito Santo, where eucalyptus plantations cover as much as 70% of the land area in some municipalities, having replaced the Atlantic Forest ecosystem which is endemic to the region. The …

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By the Global Forest Coalition

On International Day Against Monoculture Tree Plantations we bring you this photo-essay showing the devastation caused by monoculture tree plantations in Brazil, and in contrast, community efforts to restore native forests and build sustainable livelihoods.

We focus on the northeastern Brazilian states of Bahia and Espirito Santo, where eucalyptus plantations cover as much as 70% of the land area in some municipalities, having replaced the Atlantic Forest ecosystem which is endemic to the region. The plantations are run by Suzano, Fibria and Veracel, some of the most powerful players in the global pulp industry. Their eucalyptus is mostly exported internationally as pulp, to produce consumer paper products such as toilet paper.


Eucalyptus is an exotic species of tree endemic only to parts of Australia, but today it dominates tree plantations around the world. Brazil is now the world’s top exporter and producer of eucalyptus round wood and pulp.

Eucalyptus plantations in Brazil are ecologically very harmful as they suck up huge quantities of water, support a very low diversity of flora and fauna, and require high pesticide and fertilizer use. Unlike native forests, they disrupt the hydrological cycle, severely reduce biodiversity, and don’t produce food. Locals call these plantations “green deserts”, as they are devoid of life.

Photo by Simone Lovera


Originally, the entire region was covered in biodiversity-rich, native Atlantic Forest, a subtropical rainforest. Today, over 92% of it has been lost through land conversion to monoculture tree plantations, vast soy fields for animal feedstock, and extensive cattle ranching.

Ironically, replanting deforested areas with eucalyptus counts as “reforestation”, and has given the industry further opportunities for expansion. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization has supported this type of fake “reforestation” as a false solution to climate change.

Photo by Simone Lovera


The state of Bahia is one of the worst affected by eucalyptus plantations in Brazil. All together, Fibria, Suzano and Veracel own almost 1 million ha of land in the state. 60% of this is eucalyptus plantation. The three corporations are very closely linked: Suzano and Fibria recently merged to become a global pulp giant, which in turn owns half of Veracel.

These companies claim to play a key role in conserving forest remnants, and by law 20% of their land should be conserved as a “legal reserve”. But the companies meet this target by designating land that is too steep to be economically profitable as reserves, whilst covering the rest in plantations.

Photo by Simone Lovera


Deforestation and land conversion on such as scale has created serious conflict with and problems for local communities.

In spite of claims made by the industry that they are providing jobs for local people, the reality is that plantations and ranching provide barely any employment at all for local communities. Plantations in the region typically provide less than one job per 100 ha of land, which is the lowest of all of the crops grown.

Photo by Simone Lovera


In stark contrast to this is an agroecological farm in the same area, run by Movimento Sem Terra (MST, Landless Workers’ Movement), which provides 5-10 times more jobs per hectare of land than the surrounding plantations. The MST is one of the largest social movements in Latin America, and has been fighting against the concentration of land ownership into the hands of the few. Land occupations are one of the key direct-action tactics used by the MST.

The MST reclaimed the land pictured here from the plantation owners, and created this agroecological farm as a training school and community project. It was part of a series of actions to apply political pressure, including protests and land occupations. Today, the farm grows 120 different tree and plant species on its agricultural plots, which provide food and sustenance for local communities.

Photo by Simone Lovera


Women have played a central role in the campaigns, land occupations and the establishment of the agro-ecological school. Here, Elione Oliveira, one of the coordinators of the Egidio Brunetto Agroecology School established by the MST, explains how they are fighting back against the expansion of eucalyptus plantations.

Women have made critical links between patriarchy and plantations. Elione explains that when they occupy eucalyptus plantations, they spend a significant part of the day debating about patriarchy, problems with monocultures, aerial agro-toxic spraying, land ownership, and why all of this is important for women.

Photo by Ines Franchescelli


The Tupiniquim are indigenous to the area and have been supported by many international and national NGOs in their 20 year struggle against the Aracruz plantation company (now Fibria/Suzano). They have succeeded in reclaiming 18,070 ha of land, for the 3500 people in their community, but they are still suffering the impacts of the surrounding eucalyptus plantations, which have led to a lack of water and pollution from agrochemicals. They are also still struggling to remove eucalyptus trees from their land, which have to be dug up by the roots.

Photo by Simone Lovera


The Coxi Quilombera community is surrounded by Fibria plantations. Quilombos are hinterland settlements founded by Afro-descendents, and the small community pictured here is led by seven sisters.
A high percentage of community members suffer from glaucoma, which has been scientifically linked to poisoning from exposure to glyphosate, a chemical used on the plantations. Water courses that used to provide the community with fish and freshwater have dried up, and the company has also blocked access to the Quilombola communities only source of fuelwood, which consisted of unused leftovers from the wood harvest.

Photo by Simone Lovera


Plantation companies claim to plant primarily on “degraded lands”, but land formerly used for cattle ranching and other agricultural uses in the Atlantic Forest area have significant restorative capacity. Up to 60% of these lands can be restored naturally, without human intervention, if set aside. But once they are planted with eucalyptus, it is almost impossible to restore the original forest cover. Eucalyptus trees are allelopathic, which prevents other tree species from becoming established, and the impact on water resources and pollution from agro-toxics reduces biodiversity further, and destroys soil fertility.

Photo by Simone Lovera


Pictured here is a “reforestation” effort with barely any undergrowth because the area has been heavily sprayed with glyphosate. Companies like Suzano are legally required to reforest some areas. In order to do this, they use significant amounts of glyphosate to remove existing vegetation before planting, as this is cheaper than doing it manually.

On a national level, the Brazilian Climate Plan includes an afforestation target of 13 million hectares of land, of which only 15% has to be with native species. Suzano has already received hundreds of thousands of Euros through a forest carbon offset scheme for these “restoration” activities. But even when areas are planted with native trees, these schemes only cause more harm.

Photo by Simone Lovera


A more positive state intervention is the Arboretum Program, set up by the Bahia State Government to promote forest restoration with native trees. It is central to efforts to restore the Atlantic Forest through community forest restoration. Here, staff at the Arboretum Center are showing native tree leaves to colleagues. The centre collects and disseminates a wide variety of native trees, and encourages communities to collect native seed varieties, exchange them, and plant trees. It works with a network of community centres throughout the region.

Photo by Simone Lovera


Wherever there are eucalyptus plantations, the consequences for local people and biodiversity are devastating, from across South America, to Southern Africa, Southern Europe and even Australia. But in all of these places communities are fighting back, and trying to undo the harm done by restoring forests themselves.

Our member group in Brazil, FASE, have been actively campaigning against monoculture plantations for decades. On the 21 September they will highlight the severe water shortages caused by commercial eucalyptus plantations in Espirito Santo. They have collected evidence and testimonies of environmental crimes that Fibria/Suzano have carried out, and are organising with fishermen, landless workers, and Quilombolo communities to expose these companies. You can find out more about their other activities here here.

Poster by FASE

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Local communities’ unique conservation practices need policy support in Georgia, says new global report https://globalforestcoalition.org/local-communities-unique-conservation-practices-need-policy-support-georgia/ https://globalforestcoalition.org/local-communities-unique-conservation-practices-need-policy-support-georgia/#respond Tue, 18 Sep 2018 03:11:15 +0000 https://globalforestcoalition.org/?p=9401 Rural communities in Georgia practice a wide range of forest and biodiversity conservation techniques, which have great potential to provide sustainable livelihoods and protect the environment. This has been highlighted in a new report [1], released as part of the global Community Conservation Resilience Initiative (CCRI). The CCRI involves a large number of local communities and facilitating organisations, and is spearheaded by the Global Forest Coalition [2]. Since 2014, the initiative carried out participatory assessments in 68 communities in 22 …

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Rural communities in Georgia practice a wide range of forest and biodiversity conservation techniques, which have great potential to provide sustainable livelihoods and protect the environment. This has been highlighted in a new report [1], released as part of the global Community Conservation Resilience Initiative (CCRI).

The CCRI involves a large number of local communities and facilitating organisations, and is spearheaded by the Global Forest Coalition [2]. Since 2014, the initiative carried out participatory assessments in 68 communities in 22 countries, including in Georgia, to document the resilience of community conservation initiatives. The initiative is influencing key United Nations policy spaces on biodiversity conservation [3].

The CCRI in Georgia invovled three communities – two in East Georgia (Sakorintlo and Okami, Kaspi Municipality) and one in West Georgia (in Merjevi, Sachkhere Municipality). Assessments carried out by the communities themselves revealed a number of positive conservation initiatives.

In Sakorintlo, local communities have protected 100 hectares of natural oak forest from a historical energy crisis that has seen illegal logging for fire wood. In Ereda, near Okami, communities have protected 50 hectares of regenerated hornbeam forest, which has conserved enough water for six wells. In Merjevi, there is a community prohibition on people taking even the smallest stick from their forests.

Despite these locally-led initiatives, the report finds that communities are facing a number of internal and external threats, which are affecting their ability to sustain their livelihoods and conservation initiatives.

Communities lack irrigation infrastructure, which limits what they are able to grow, and they also experience energy poverty, which puts pressure on forests due to demand for fuel wood. Unemployment rates are also high, resulting in serious out-migration to urban areas. Although there are some local livelihood activities connected to forests, such as the collection of medicinal plants, mushrooms and forest fruits, there is no knowledge about or state support for processing or transportation of the collected products, which could create sustainable income for the villagers.

The report makes important policy recommendations which could help to improve conditions and provide sustainable livelihoods for the communities. It also reccommends a focus on capacity building and awareness-raising for local decision-making bodies, to invigorate local municipalities and engage them in the development process. Addressing gender inequality was also identified as a key area for further work.

The communities expressed great interest in organic farming methods and renewable energy technologies to conserve forests, protect water resources, areas that the state could support.

“I didn’t think about the links between environmental protection and our social development. We now know more about our rights to nature, and the responsibilities of our authorities and we will demand changes for a better future,” said a Villager from Sakorintlo community

NOTES

[1] A summary of the CCRI in Georgia can be found here. It is part of a global report which includes assessments in 22 other countries. See: https://globalforestcoalition.org/ccri-reports/

[2] The Global Forest Coalition is a worldwide coalition of 93 NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ organisations from more than 60 different countries, striving for rights-based and socially just forest conservation policies. Link: https://globalforestcoalition.org/media

[3] The CCRI aims to contribute to the implementation of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s 2011-2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity and the Aichi Targets. See: https://globalforestcoalition.org/resources/supporting-community-conservation/

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Community Conservation Resilience Initiative in Georgia https://globalforestcoalition.org/community-conservation-georgia/ https://globalforestcoalition.org/community-conservation-georgia/#respond Mon, 17 Sep 2018 17:32:14 +0000 https://globalforestcoalition.org/?p=9060 Download the summary report here Introduction The CCRI assessment in Georgia involved three communities. Two of them, Sakorintlo and Okami, are in East Georgia, in the region of Shida Khartli of Kaspi Municipality. The other, Merjevi, is in West Georgia, in Sachkhere Municipality. The communities all differ in terms of their natural, social and cultural conditions. The village Sakorintlo is located in the Khvemo Chala Community (an administrative area that consists of several villages), close to the border of the …

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Download the summary report here

Introduction

The CCRI assessment in Georgia involved three communities. Two of them, Sakorintlo and Okami, are in East Georgia, in the region of Shida Khartli of Kaspi Municipality. The other, Merjevi, is in West Georgia, in Sachkhere Municipality. The communities all differ in terms of their natural, social and cultural conditions.

The village Sakorintlo is located in the Khvemo Chala Community (an administrative area that consists of several villages), close to the border of the conflict area in Tskhinvali region. It has the status of High Mountain Village, and is located 13 km from the regional centre. According to a census in 2014 it has a population of about 114 people, 61 men and 53 women. The village of Okami is similarly at the centre of a community that consists of six villages. It is 15 km from the regional centre and home to about 1,401 people, including 701 men and 700 women. Merjevi village is located in the centre of its community, and has 1,449 people, including 716 men and 733 women.

community conservation georgia 1

Sakorintlo community garden. Ilia Kunchulia/GFC

The assessment consisted of a series of meetings in the villages with different stakeholder groups, including interested participants from local communities, local authorities and school teachers. The round table meetings with local authorities were held to ensure mutual agreement, cooperation and information sharing. Separate meetings were organised with the teachers, because of their high level of interest in the initiative and their influence within the communities. Overall the assessments addressed a wide range of issues including agricultural production, the importance of environmental protection and its benefits, and environmentally friendly technologies and methodologies that can contribute to local needs and solving local problems. A national conference was also held bringing all the different stakeholder groups together, along with the national forest agency. It was a very successful meeting, and representatives from local communities felt supported and listened to as a result.

Due to the resulting increased interest and demand from the communities, a number of interested people were taken to Ereda village to visit Otar Potskhverashvili’s organic farm. Here they could see methods for producing organic vegetables and fruits, and they found out about marketing, and renewable energy technologies and their development perspectives in Georgia, among other things. They also learned about how the farm conserves forest to protect its water resources. All of this inspired them further, and they asked many questions and appealed for assistance and consultations.

In the three target regions community-based non-profit organisations have now been established with the support of the project group. These organisations have started to establish programmes to support their communities. Two project proposals have already been prepared and sent to donors for funding, and one more is under development.

Watch a short video about the CCRI in Georgia here:

Internal and external threats

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Meeting in the Merjevi community . Ilia Kunchulia/GFC

The overriding factor influencing these rural communities and their environment is the extremely poor socioeconomic circumstances they endure, including high rates of unemployment and a general lack of economic activity. In Okami, for example, there is very little economic activity, and even though the village is only 60 km away from Tbilisi, the unemployment level is extremely high. Sakorintlo has similar socioeconomic problems, including a lack of basic infrastructure and high unemployment, and is experiencing massive out-migration of local youth. Community participants in Merjevi also reported a very low level of economic activity, with the local communities living in deep poverty, and massive out-migration of both local youth and middle-aged citizens. Another key finding is that the distribution of tasks among women and men in the communities is not equal, with most of the household jobs being done by women, together with the collection of water and firewood.

This potential for development is well illustrated in Merjevi, where one of the main sources of income is the collection of non-timber forest resources, such as the medicinal plant bladdernut (Stafilea colhica), and different species of mushrooms and wild forest fruits. But there is no knowledge about or state support for the proper processing and transportation of the collected products so that they can be properly preserved and sold as high quality products, creating a source of income for the village.

Lack of general information about the environment is also a problem. For instance at the moment local communities often use cheap chemicals for soil, which results in degradation of soil quality and underground water, and damages their health. Pollution is a significant concern as well. For example, although Merjevi village has a central water supply system, and electricity and natural gas supplies, there are still numerous problematic issues including the unsustainable use of natural resources, ground and water pollution, and the fact that there is no waste water treatment system. This situation has severe implications for the overall health of the local population.

One of the major problems communities face in both Eastern and Western Georgia is a lack of irrigation infrastructure, which is mostly caused by poor management of water resources and its incorrect distribution. In Sakorintlo, the village suffers from a lack of irrigation water because its source is now within the boundaries of an occupied zone, and Georgian citizens no longer have access. For Merjevi lack of irrigation water is also a major concern because of its negative impact on local agricultural production. Okami has the same problem, and community participants described how it impacts the women in particular, as they have to make extra efforts to collect water from far away. The pollution of the drinking water is also a significant problem in the village.

Energy poverty is a highly problematic issue that results in illegal and uncontrolled forest cuts in the region. In Okami even heating water is problematic. Local people have to purchase firewood in the market, as nearby forests are under strict protection, and collecting wood there is now prohibited. The local government does issue special permits for the local population to collect firewood, but only in forests that are 40-50 km away, and people cannot afford the transport costs. Due to this fact, illegal forest cuts frequently take place.

Similarly in Merjevi, due to high prices for electricity and natural gas and non-energy efficient housing, the local population collects firewood to satisfy basic energy needs. Illegal forest cuts are taking place across forests with important ecological functions, to such an extent that the forests are becoming degraded.

Centralised government is also a concern. Local authorities have no power and thus no motivation to initiate new development strategies. The CCRI legal and policy overview found that local authorities prefer to follow governmental directives rather than come up with new initiatives of their own. Participants in Merjevi also explained that the local population is not well informed about their rights, and the lack of local initiatives by the local authority means that communication between communities and local governments is very weak, and there is generally a lack of trust and hope for the future. As a result one of the major problems faced by communities is lack of enthusiasm and local
initiative.

Community conservation initiatives and environmental impact

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In spite of these difficult circumstances all the villages have some conservation initiatives of their own devising. In some places people preserve nearby ecosystems including for cultural and traditional reasons, and villages also try to protect their water resources.

For example, in Sakorintlo local communities have an initiative to protect about 100 ha of natural oak forest. This started at the end of the last century, when all the nearby forests were under serious pressure because of the energy crisis. The local communities still preserve the local forest due to agreement amongst the local population that it is important for them.

In Okami the forests eventually became so damaged by other villagers that the community started to protect their land themselves as well. For example, in Ereda community, where the organic farm mentioned above is located, there are now 50 hectares of naturally regenerated hornbeam forest that have conserved enough water for six wells in the valley.

In Merjevi the villagers stopped ploughing the lands after the Soviet Union collapsed, converting it to pasture and planting trees as well, in order to prevent landslides. They also protect forests around holy places and there is a community prohibition on people taking even the smallest stick from these forests. They also protect tree Kartna on Shamanadzes’ hill, which is a community tree protected as part of the community’s heritage.

Testimony

Meeting between Merjevi, Sakorintlo and Okami community members. Ilia Kunchulia/GFC

“I didn’t realize before how important environmental protection is for our lives. I didn’t think about the links between environmental protection and social development. Our village suffers from various environmental problems and most of them are caused by people. Sometimes you don’t realise that you’re doing something terrible, that your children and future generations will suffer because of what you are doing today. This particular project helped us to think differently, it gave us the key to some of our problems and helped us to start finding solutions. We now know more about our rights, and the responsibilities of our authorities and we will demand changes for a better future. We want our children to know more about our rights to nature and our responsibilities as citizens”. Villager from Sakorintlo community

Conclusions and recommendations

An important finding from this CCRI assessment is that the process itself, including the local and national meetings, significantly improved the motivation of involved stakeholder groups. It can be concluded from this that there is considerable scope for positive improvements with respect to community conservation, especially when community participants and local authorities have more autonomy and feel more in control of their future.

In particular, the region is already famous for its agricultural production and there is great potential for developing the organic agriculture sector, which would reduce pollution and benefit biodiversity as well as the communities. In Sakorintlo, for example, the village is rich in natural resources, including non-timber forest resources, and the local population already generates its main income from agricultural activities selling the harvest in Kaspi local market and in Tbilisi. Developing organic production would be a good way of reducing unemployment in the village. Similarly Okami village is rich in natural resources and has the potential to develop environmentally friendly income-generating activities, but due to lack of management and an absence of planning, this potential has yet to be explored.

It is essential to raise local communities’ capacities and knowledge about their rights and possibilities for participation in decision-making processes in their region, to foster their involvement in the management of natural resources more broadly.

Focusing on capacity building and awareness-raising for local decision- making bodies is also crucial, to invigorate local municipalities and engage them in the development process.

NGOs can help to strengthen the rights and empowerment of communities facing these serious social-economic conditions, so that the communities are better able to use their constitutional rights to demand more actions from governments. NGOs can also play a role mediating with relevant authorities to overcome the bureaucratic barriers that exist in relation to gaining permission to collect and process non-timber forest resources. They can also organise educational activities to teach marketing and processing technologies and methodologies.

Finally there is a need to work on gender equality within the villages to balance the distribution of tasks among women and men.

This summary is based on a full CCRI report about the communities’ conservation resilience assessment in Georgia, which can be found here.

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Fire and Plantations in Portugal https://globalforestcoalition.org/fire-and-plantations-in-portugal-2/ https://globalforestcoalition.org/fire-and-plantations-in-portugal-2/#respond Thu, 13 Sep 2018 11:02:20 +0000 https://globalforestcoalition.org/?p=9460 By Oliver Munnion A case study on the risks of using tree plantations to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Devastating wildfires are increasingly a feature of summers across the globe, and their intensity and scale have been linked directly to climate change in a number of recent publications. Longer fire seasons, coupled with heatwave and drought conditions, from California to Chile and Siberia to Greece, are more likely, more frequent, and more intense. Forest fires north of the Arctic Circle, …

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By Oliver Munnion

A case study on the risks of using tree plantations to remove carbon from the atmosphere. Devastating wildfires are increasingly a feature of summers across the globe, and their intensity and scale have been linked directly to climate change in a number of recent publications. Longer fire seasons, coupled with heatwave and drought conditions, from California to Chile and Siberia to Greece, are more likely, more frequent, and more intense. Forest fires north of the Arctic Circle, unprecedented loss of life in Greece and Portugal, and unique geophysical phenomena such as the “firenados” in California are becoming the “new normal” in our climate-changed world.

Read the original article here.

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