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Food and sustainability

The project “Analog forestry: productive conservation to fight deforestation”

Winner of the 2015 edition of the BCFN YES! competition proposes productive conservation to tackle the phenomenon of deforestation in the Amazon and achieve a harmonious and sustainable coexistence between man and the forest.

In practical terms, productive conservation involves analog forestry or successional agroforestry, an agricultural model which is perfectly suited to primary forest. It is characterised by an ecological structure which matches that of the natural forest and is therefore able to maintain the fundamental “services” which the forest provides. At the same time, analog forestry ensures ample production of fruit and vegetables thanks to the type of produce cultivated.

In 2015, deforestation in the Amazon rainforest exceeded 765,000 km2 (since 1970), an area equal to two and a half times the size of Italy. This problem does not only affect the nations of the Amazon basin, but has an impact on a global scale. Indeed, the rainforest provides certain ecosystem services which are fundamental for our planet, such as carbon storage (crucial when it comes to climate change), and is a key component in processes which affect the whole planet, such as the water cycle.

The loss of this key ecosystem is due to various human activities which are exerting huge pressure on the precious resources within it (especially timber, minerals and soil). Among these activities, agriculture is particularly significant: over 60% of the area subject to deforestation is due to intensive livestock and monoculture farming.

The analog forestry set out by this project represents an alternative and sustainable development model for the rainforest. Indeed, it is 100% organic, minimises the use of external resources, ensures the coexistence of different species (over 25 in a single area) and, by imitating the forest’s ecological structure (different levels of vegetation, from grasses to trees over 30m high), it is able to maintain its ecologic functions. This agro-ecosystem contrasts with traditional agricultural models such as intensive monoculture farming. There are two key targets: reforestation and requalification of the areas subject to deforestation, or the integration of other forest conservation activities (such as absolute conservation or ecotourism).

As well as the ecological benefits, there are also socio-economic advantages for the local communities. Indeed, through the implementation of this model, it is possible to grow a wide variety of produce (from fruit to medicinal plants) throughout the year, improving the economic conditions of local communities, which currently suffer from highly seasonal activity and inconsistent earnings.

Where is this work being carried out?
The project’s starting point is in the Peruvian region of Madre de Dios. More specifically, the association ArBio, thanks to which this project is being implemented, manages an area given over by the Peruvian government located in the heart of the forest, and has a second area close to the capital of the region, Puerto Maldonado. In the first area, absolute conservation activities are being carried out, such as biological monitoring and ecotourism (which in the future will be integrated with analog forestry activities), while the second area has seen the implementation of the productive conservation project. This area was chosen because it is close to the city and can therefore be easily reached. It is the demonstration site for showcasing and raising awareness of the analog forestry model among the local population.

Thanks to the support from BCFN, last winter some crucial work was completed to start experimental cultivation and set up the nursery at the demonstration site. Furthermore, in the coming months training courses will be organised for some local agricultural communities. Finally, a data collection programme will be organised to monitor and evaluate productive conservation in terms of environmental, economic and social sustainability. For the support given, ArBio has dedicated to the Barilla Centre for Food & Nutrition Foundation the protection of 10,000 m2 of Amazon rainforest in the Madre de Dios region and the team in Peru are working to install a billboard featuring the BCFN logo in the protected area.
The coming year will see a hive of activity for the project so…stay tuned!
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