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Analog Forestry: A Way Forward for Sustainable Change in the Amazon

Analog Forestry: A Way Forward for Sustainable Change in the Amazon

This article was published originally by Guido Scaccabarozzi in the ASVI Social Change blog in Italian. It has been edited and translated with the author’s permission.

For more about ArBio’s work, see the ArBio Peru website.

In my October article about the forest concession managed by ArBio (the Association for Forest Resilience in the context of the Inter-Oceanic highway) in the Peruvian Amazon, I explained the organization’s mission. But what technical tools will ArBio use to preserve the forest against the threat of a super-highway that crosses South America from east to west? This technique is called analog forestry and it is a method that can reduce deforestation and at the same time promote economic development in the Madre de Dios region.

Analog forestry is not only a method for conserving primary forests, it is also a technique that allows for the recovery of biodiversity in places that have lost many of their species. How is this possible? Analog forestry is based on observing a primary or mature forest near the area to be restored. The mature forest is then described with a formula that describes its principal characteristics: species, architectural structure, leaf area, and so on. The objective is to attain a forest that is “analogous” (which is what gives analog forestry its name) to the primary forest, which has not yet been destroyed by humans.

IAFN trainer Milo Bekins in Puerto Maldonado, Peru

IAFN trainer Milo Bekins in Puerto Maldonado, Peru. Photo: ArBio

The process unfolds as we try to close the biodiversity gap between the degraded forest and the climax forest. This is accomplished by planting tree species along with fruit trees, bushes, herbs and plants with medicinal and other uses for sale in local markets, or in the Fair Trade movement – and all this without using agrochemicals or chemical fertilizers.

Analog forestry, the productive system closest to a climax forest, was born in 1981 in Sri Lanka as an alternative to pine and eucalyptus monoculture and quickly spread to India, Vietnam, the Philippines, Australia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Canada, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

An international organization, the International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN), with its secretariat in Costa Rica, brings together the most important organizations at a global level who work with the analog forestry technique. The role of the IAFN is to promote analog forestry and support the network’s members. ArBio is an active partner in this network, and organized a workshop in November 2013 on analog forestry theory and practice in which community members learned the basics of analog forestry, so that they could apply this alternative, sustainable system.

Another method that ArBio is using for the promotion of analog forestry is to work in an area of more or less 2 hectares, which was previously burned to make way for a monoculture. What is being done in in this area is the planting of 150 trees, along with some that were already present, which follows a lengthy process of analysis whose result was the selection of the most important plants in the best position for their growth. The area is close to the city of Puerto Maldonado, which allows for public visits – this way, the local population can see and learn about analog forestry, especially once the area starts to show results in 2-3 years.

At the same time as this project is being developed near the city of Puerto Maldonado, several sites are being developed in the ArBio concession, in the middle of the rainforest, with the same process. We plan to plant pineapple, papaya, cassava, cacao, mango, cinnamon, oranges, starfruit and bamboo, among others.

Analog forestry is contributing to the economic, social and environmental development of these populations through some initial investments coordinated through a fundraising strategy that ArBio has been using since its beginning, and is continuing to improve. But that is a story that we hope to tell you some other time – Coexisting with the forest is possible!

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