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The Lost Forests Of Afghanistan

You can't save the trees unless you understand the people, says Forestry Assoc. Prof. Gary Bull - photo by Martin Dee
By Lorraine Cha
Vancouver, Canada (SPX) Dec 06, 2007
This month, Assoc. Prof. Gary Bull from UBC's Faculty of Forestry is spending time in Kabul training an Afghan field crew. He is joining forces with the New-York based Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) in a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded project. Bull and UBC Forestry PhD student KiJoo Han are leading an effort to help protect and restore Afghanistan's remaining forest in the north east province of Nuristan.

Over the past 20 years, in some provinces, Afghani farmers have participated in deforestation rates of up to 70 per cent. Currently, the country has 1.3 per cent forest cover, one of the lowest in the world.

"If you're poor enough, you'll cut down and burn every last tree," Bull says. "Some of Afghanistan's national parks are largely denuded and people are going after the remaining scraps for fuel."

Bull's job will be to deploy Afghani enumerators to conduct 350 surveys among Nuristan villagers. Bordering Pakistan, Nuristan is a remote and rugged region that has seen much conflict, and more recently insurgent ambushes.

While an outsider would face great danger, Bull says locals can do the job in greater safety. The enumerators will gather data on forest uses, household behaviour, income and education levels, taking into account the region's caste system in which the population is divided into livestock grazers, wood carvers and the landless. Bull says each caste would need a different financial incentive structure to help both restore and protect forests.

"If you don't understand what motivates people, you'll never help them rebuild," says Bull, noting that environmental protocols and standards to combat climate change can severely impact the poor. About 75 per cent of Afghan people live in rural areas.

"We examine the appropriate public policy responses because if you ignore the people, especially the rural populations, it'll end up in disaster," says Bull, who specializes in forestry, economics and policy.

To avoid these pitfalls, UBC has pioneered a multi-faceted approach to sustainable forest management. The Faculty of Forestry assembles interdisciplinary teams that encompass sociologists, foresters, biologists, engineers, chemists and biometricians.

The Faculty of Forestry is providing its expertise to China, where the government is planting 13 million hectares of new forest -- an area about half the size of B.C.'s productive forests -- and to Mozambique, where non-profit organizations are investing in agro-forestry, which pays farmers to plant trees between their crops.

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Report Finds Deforestation Offers Very Little Money Compared To Potential Financial Benefits
Bali, Indonesia (SPX) Dec 04, 2007
Deforestation in tropical countries is often driven by the perverse economic reality that forests are worth more dead than alive. But a new study by an international consortium of researchers has found that the emerging market for carbon credits has the potential to radically alter that equation.

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