The loss of forest cover has serious consequences for our environment. In the past decades forests have absorbed about 30% of the annual anthropogenic (human-induced) CO2 emissions . Furthermore, deforestation can result in soil degradation and interfere with the water cycle, which directly affects us as well as animals and plants together. Stopping deforestation is thus extremely relevant for our survival on Earth. Answering the question of how best to conserve forest cover has been an international debate for decades.
The first intents of conserving forests were set as early as 1776 with the declaration of the Tobago Main Ridge Forest Reserve. Early forest conservation was based on strict protection and restraining local people from the use of forest resources. Nowadays, several other programs have been developed with the intent to involve local populations in activities that both allow them to generate livelihoods and protect forests. This new participatory conservation approach has decreased the pressure on governments for monitoring and protecting forests, which is important because many of the biggest forested areas exist in developing countries which have little means for investing in their protection.
The main assumption is that allowing local people to sustainably use forest resources, especially for marketable timber, will generate enough economic incentive for them to act as forest guardians. Unfortunately, local forest communities require high external support to be able to finance marketable forest-based production. In practice, these communities must compete with big timber companies that have reached production scales high enough to provide timber at more affordable prices as communities do. Despite this, there have been good examples where communities have reached stable market access and have managed to maintain forest cover and even halt deforestation. A great example is the Mayan Biosphere Reserve in northern Guatemala, where yearly deforestation decreased to almost 0% between 2000 and 2013, due to sustainable agroforestry practiced carried out by the population living inside the reserve and managing its resources as well as due to support from international organisations .
International development cooperation organizations have had a key role in designing and implementing participatory forest conservation. However, more hands are needed. As civil society, we can all make little contributions that can add to the global effort for conserving forests. At Offsetra we are aware of the difficulties forest communities face when managing forests commercially and want to give a hand. You can help participatory conservation efforts around the world by offsetting the CO2 you generate through your activities — generating incentives for local actors to engage in forest conservation and protection and thus supporting the life of our forests and of their people.
Read about the Agrocortex REDD project in Brazil which is supported by Offsetra.
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