Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Deforestation's Impacts in Africa: "The rains stopped, and banana groves and corn stalks died"

I'm a big fan of pictures and stories of the benefits that healthy ecosystems provide to humanity.  As I drove up toward Redwood Regional Park for my weekly meditative hike on Saturday, I was glad to find Living On Earth airing on NPR.

This quote got me -- a story about a reforestation project in Uganda, where the locals talk about what happened after the government cut down their forests:
HOFFMAN: Jerome Byesigwa chairs the group and explains how it started. In 2003, he says, the weather in the area suddenly changed when the government cut down much of the nearby Central Forest Reserve for timber. The rains stopped, and banana groves and corn stalks died.
[BYESIGWA SPEAKING] VOICEOVER: As soon as it had been harvested we realized there was a change in the weather. Just even ordinary people would tell you that the problems we were experiencing were because our forests there had been harvested.
The fact that these folks are getting carbon credits for planting highly invasive, water-hungry non-native tree species is just wrong.  It's great to see the World Bank funding reforestation projects like this, but it would be nice if they would help the local people by selecting native species, adapted to local environmental conditions (especially water needs) that help to replace the ecosystem services that have been lost to deforestation.

Clearly, we've got a ways to go to better integrate the science of sustainability into the planning of Uganda and the World Bank.

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