Deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon? Time for a change, time for productive conservation with analog forestry!
Globally, the Amazon is the most important forest stock of CO2: Siberian forest are mayor in area, but way less dense in biomass. ArBio (Assiciation for the Resilience of the Amazon forest to the Interoceanic highway – seewww.arbioperu.orgis a no- profit organization founded in 2010 in Puerto Maldonado (Madre de Dios, Peru). The main aim of the ArBio project is to fight the ongoing deforestation in the region by developing a model for productive conservation through analog forestry. Such method is opposite to monoculture and integrates at least 20 different species, which vary in terms of height and type of products which can be harvested. At the moment in the region of Madre de Dios ArBio is directly protecting 1600 hectares (16 km2) of virgin Amazon forest and carrying out research activities to identify the most promising species in terms of resilience, productivity, ecosystem services and mutualism with each other. The aim of this process is to achieve a multi-species crop model for long term production and is done in cooperation with the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM, Lima). In the last four years Arbio has been working in the field of productive conservation methods and is the Peruvian representative for the International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN – www.analogforestry.org). The local people have the right to make a living form their land, without compromising its biodiversity and at the same time, the World has the right to have a flourishing Amazon forest, which can serve as lungs that provide oxygen for all of us. By developing projects like the one proposed by ArBio, we ensure that such needs and rights are guaranteed and made sustainable in the long run.
What actions do you propose?
The Peruvian Amazon represents at the same time the most relevant source of GHG emissions and the biggest stock of CO2 in the country (MINAM, 2010). Various studies have predicted that the temperature increase, together with the subsequent reduction of precipitations and increase of fires, will lead the southern part of the Peruvian Amazon to undergo a process of “savanization”, which will have serious consequences on the structure, distribution and functioning of these ecosystems (Nepstad et al., 2008; Dourojeanni et al., 2010). Apart from being the subject of critical factors such as climate change, these forests are endargered also by land use change, which worsens the negative impacts of climate change. In general terms, the Amazon region has not had a relevant role in the climate change adaptation strategies, for example it has not been included in most of the National Programs for Action and Adaptation. This underlines the importance of focusing the attention on the actions connected to climate change in the Peruvian Amazon.
In Peru deforestation represents 47.5% of the total net GHG emissions, which are generated mostly during fires and land use change operations in the forests. In the Madre de Dios region, the climatic variability has increased to unprecedented levels and it is resulting in longer and more intense precipitation. This causes floods and droughts in the same year, as well as a higher chance of fires in the forest. Among the important ecosystem services offered by the forest is the water regulation capacity: it can store water during the rainy season and release it little by little during the dry season, thus guaranteeing a suitable water supply throughout the year. In the same way, the forest is able to ensure protection against natural hazards such as floods, landslides and it protects the soil from erosion and nutrients loss through placer mining. For these reasons, maintaining the forest cover, especially near the residential areas and the main roads, is of fundamental importance for local climate change adaptation: it increases climatic security and diminishes the chance of floods and droughts. Globally, maintaining the forest contributes to climate change mitigation (because of carbon storage and emissions avoidance).
ArBio (Association for the Resilience of the Forest to the Inter-Oceanic Highway) works in the Madre de Dios region, which is twice as big as Switzerland and has 130 000 in habitants. Only one paved road crosses this region, the Inter-Oceanic highway: as the name suggests, it starts from the Atlantic coast of Brasil and reaches the Pacific coast of Peru. This road has helped a lot to improve the quality of life of the local populations, but it has also brought the classical development and land use change: deforestation, massive fires, monoculture and extensive bovine farming.
In Peru the Inter-Oceanic highway is still relatively new, as it has been completed only 3 years ago. Deforestation is ongoing, but the possibility the change the development model is still open.
Therefore, our idea is to demonstrate the concept of productive conservation and spread it in the region of Madre de Dios. The local populations have the right to have food available,but also to earn an income from the available land. The Planet Earth needs the Amazon forest, it has the right to have a biodiversity storage. The solution we propose is the productive conservation, a method which enables both the preservation of the ecosystem and the harvest of its fruits.
A multi-species crop system allows the permanent use of the land as productive, but in the same time allows the production of typical amazonian ecosystem services. This address directly the problem of inicial deforestation in our region: small farmer who clear cut forest to plant a single species, who exhaust the nutrient pretty fast, and the normal solution is move a little further and clear cut another slice of forest. allow a permanent agriculture technique to spread in the amazon will reduce the deforestation process acting on in his root and generating a huge benefit on GHG emission.
The suggested cultivation method is the analog forestry, an agricultural system with characteristics opposed to those of monoculture. It includes over 20 different species, with all sorts of vegetation: trees of different heights, fruit trees, aromatic trees, medicinal trees, ornamental trees, trees that produce precious wood, as well as palm trees, shrubs and lianas, all planned and arranged according to a model which allows maintaining the same structure of the virgin forest, but using productive species. Moreover, such method is suitable for small and medium scale farming, the processes which are accountable for the first stage of deforestation.
In Brasil this method is known as successional agroforestry, or edible forest gardening, and it can be considered as an evolution of agroforestry, in which usually only 2 cultivation levels and 3 or 4 species are used.
Analog forestry allows biodiversity conservation, forest resilience increase, erosion decrease, habitat conservation for the local fauna and the maintenance of a water percolation system. All these process take place without using any chemicals, but guaranteeing the production of organic matter and ecosystem services, while ensuring well-being and good health for the whole humanity.
The relevance of the Amazon forest restoration and conservation needs to be underlined also from a global perspective: it generates precipitation, it stores carbon and influences the global climate, it purifies air, prevents floods and it is also a genetic reserve of extraordinary importance from the point of view of medicinal plants. For all these reasons, the wider the diffusion of the analog forestry model will be, the more positive environmental effects will take place.
The model is in favor of the small scale producers, it is completely organic and avoids 100% of chemicals and pesticides, it ensures a monthly income from multiple sources and it significantly improves the productivity of the cultivated area.
ArBio is the Peruvian representative of the International Analog Forestry Network, which supports the project of ArBio through the success stories of other countries (over 15 different projects all over the world), which will be used as a basis for these actions:
1 – Comprehensive research of the most promising species to be used: out of 50 potential species, only 25 will be selected. The selection criteria will be: productivity (both in terms of production times and amounts produced), market value, flood and/or drought resistance, suitable multifunctionality (for example, a plant can both bear fruits and be a nitrogen fixer, or bear fruits but also have medicinal roots, or be an ornamental plant but also potential sources of essential oils) in the right proportions in the different cultivation levels (high trees, shrubs, lianas, tubers, grasses or palm trees), giving priority to the native species.
2 – Comprehensive analysis of the selected species, including the analysis of nutrients available in leaves and roots, hydric stress, minerals and nutrients requirements, amount of space and light needed. This process is necessary in order to define the arrangement of the plants and to understand which are the “good neighbors", so plants which work best when planted next to each other.
3 – Manual cleaning of the land, leaving the high trees standing and without burning
4 – Sowing according to the scheme derived from the second stage of analysis
5 – Maintenance of the system in the first year and a half, before it becomes self-sustaining thanks to the first harvest of the fastest growing species (for example papaya, banana and cassava)
6 – Diffusion of the model through the support of the AAE (Ecological Agriculture Association), an association which has over 20 years of experience with local farmers, construction of a meeting center in the analog forestry model location, development of a teaching farm, production of informative materials, including infographics and practical manuals
Who will take these actions?
ArBiowww.arbioperu.orgis a no- profit organization founded in 2010 in Puerto Maldonado (Madre de Dios, Peru), by Michel Saini and Tatiana Espinosa, two environmental engineers with a M.Sc. in Management and Conservation of tropical forests at CATIE, Costa Rica. The ArBio team is composed of 6 people in Peru and about 10 people in Italy, all the work is voluntary. The Italian headquarters take care of awareness raising towards the environmental issues related to the deforestation occurring the Peruvian Amazon and fund raising and support for the project of Arbio in Peru. At the moment in the region of Madre de Dios ArBio is directly protecting 1600 hectares (16 km2) of virgin Amazon forest and carrying out research activities to identify the most promising species in terms of resilience, productive, ecosystem services and mutualism with each other. The aim of this process is to achieve a multi-species crop model for long term production and is done in cooperation with the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina (UNALM, Lima). In the last four years Arbio has been working in the field of productive conservation methods and is the Peruvian representative for the International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN – www.analogforestry.org). The dissemination of the proposed agricultural model will be carried out through the network created by the partnership with the Ecological Agriculture Association (AAE – Asociacion de Agricultura Ecologica), which has over 20 years of experience in capacity building with local farmers.
Where will these actions be taken?
The proposed crop model will be developed and implanted firstly in the Madre de Dios region (Southern Peruvian Amazon), but can be replicable and scalable to the entire Amazon ecosystem.
Madre de Dios holds many biodiversity world records:
– 1st place in butterfly diversity
– 1st place for bird watching (350 species)
– 3rd place mammals and reptiles
Unfortunately, an average of 200 000 hectares of Peruvian forests disappear every year.
How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?
It has been calculated that the average stock of Co2 in natural forest of the Madre de Dios region is 506 tons of CO2 equivalent/ha (taking into account soil, branches, leaves, trunks, roots and dead organic matter).
In the business as usual monoculture process, the forest undergoes clearing and burning priori to sowing. This technique release most of the 506 tons of CO2 eq./ha stock into the atmosphere.
By using the analog forestry method, no burning is allowed and the resulting crop is fairly dense since is estimated to be able to stock around 300 tons of CO2 eq./ha. (for having a rough idea, more or less three times more than European, Siberian or Canadian untouched forests)
Among the proposed actions for this call is the exact calculation of the amount of CO2 eq. stock of the final analog forestry model for this region.
What are other key benefits?
- Greater stock of CO2 eq. in comparison with business as usual monoculture or agroforestry
- Greater impact per unit of territory since the density of CO2 stock and biodiversity /ha
- Increased biodiversity
- Mutualism among plants, which translates into no use of pesticides and chemicals
- Using multi cropping systems allows regular monthly incomes deriving from multiple harvests: this ensures economic stability for local population throughout the year
- Increased resilience of the system from both an agricultural and an economic perspective, through the establishment of farmers cooperatives
- Provision of ecosystem services which are similar to those provided by the virgin forest
- Conservation of the forest habitat, by increasing the density of fruits available and serving as ecological corridor
What are the proposal’s costs?
We already have started the study, we ask for the possibility to put into practice. The first step was:
- Finding and buying a patch of land suitable for the implementation of the analog forestry model, located in an easily accessible area that give us visibility for the model– already funded
- Obtaining funds for stages 1 and 2 of the research activities to be performed on the analog forestry model (See the description of the proposed actions for further details) - already funded
We are looking for funding the following:
- Initial cleaning and implementation of the analog forestry model – looking for funds – estimated cost 2000 US$
- Maintenance and diffusion of the model – cost estimate 3000 US$ for the maintenance and 5000 US$ for the diffusion of the resulting model
The proposed analog forestry model becomes productive one and a half years after the initial sowing, but continues to improve its productivity until it reaches the age of 15 years, then it stabilizes (in the initial stage only 3 out of 25 species are productive, then the slower species starts to produce as well).
After 15 years, the full system is productive for about 10 years, after this period, most of the plants will need to be replaced in order to maintain a constant level of production. After 25 years, the owner can decide how to improve the model according to his needs: the options include getting rid of the species which are harder to trade, increase the amount of the most productive species, or introduce new ones. After 50 years the soil will still be productive, and can still be used for cultivation with this method, despite some slight modifications to the trees location or type.
The time-line of this particular proposal is 1 year, based on the following actions:
1- Manual cleaning of the land, leaving the high trees standing and without burning (2 months)
2 – Sowing according to the scheme derived from the second stage of previous analysis (2 months)
3 - Maintenance of the area until first crops are available (6 months)
4- creation of the operative manual for open-source diffusion of the technique between farmers (2 months)
Dourojeanni, M; Barandiarán, A; Dourojeanni, D. 2010. Amazonía Peruana en 2021. Explotación de recursos naturales e infraestructura: ¿Qué está pasando? ¿Qué es lo que significa para el futuro? Sociedad Peruana de Derecho Ambiental (SPDA). 180 p.
Ministerio del Ambiente (MINAM). 2010. El Perú y el Cambio Climático. Segunda Comunicación Nacional del Perú a la CMNUCC. Lima, Perú. 204 p.
Nepstad, D.C; Stickler, C.M; Soares-Filho, B; y Merry, F. 2008. Interactions among Amazon land use, forests and climate: prospects for a near-term forest tipping point. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 363(1498): 1737–1746.