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To fight against the illegal cutting of wood and deforestation, the NGO Latitud Sur has developed an agroforestry model which enables farmers to diversify their sources of income.
The province of Loreto in northern Peru is faced with two major environmental problems. On one hand there is the trafficking of timber, as it is estimated that between 78 and 88% of trees are being cut illegally! On the other hand, the expansion of land being used for agriculture, which contributes to rapid deforestation in this part of the Amazon rainforest. This state of affairs is largely linked to the precarious living conditions of the region’s inhabitants, who primarily work in subsistence agriculture. The timber trade and the production of charcoal are often what make up the only sources of income for a large proportion of the population.
Furthermore, the settlers who have set up home in the Loreto region, the majority of whom come from Sierra, have brought with them the tradition of burn farming. This consists of cutting trees, burning the branches and the weeds, then leaving the plot of land to grow crops for two or three years. It is then set aside to lay fallow to allow the forests to recover. Unfortunately, this extensive type of slash-and-burn agriculture has a negative impact on the environment that can lead to decomposition and lasting erosion of soil.
Plants which interact well together
To combat these practices and restore eroded areas, the Franco-Peruvian NGO specialising in development projects for indigenous communities Latitud Sur is putting forward a unique and sustainable agroforestry model. It is based upon ancestral knowledge inherited from local herbalists which has been built on through the use of modern techniques. This agroforestry model combines different species of plant which interact well together, particularly fruit trees and medicinal and food plants. Land that is cultivated in this way will then allow communities to improve their standards of living by offering them a source of income that is both varied and sustainable. Additionally, as activities like wood cutting or charcoal production are gradually phased out, this type of agriculture supports improvements in the quality of soil and the gradual restoration of ecosystems.
49,000 trees replanted
Supported by the GoodPlanet foundation created in 2005 by Yann Arthus-Bertrand as part of his ‘Action Carbone Solidaire’ (Carbon Action) programme, Latitud Sur aims to reforest 200 hectares of eroded areas within the Loreto region. That’s 49,000 trees which are to be planted over three years. The project is ambitious, but this is not the first time the NGO has done it. Since 2008, almost 50,000 trees have already been replanted as part of four projects, that’s a total of 72 hectares of reforested land! Simultaneously, twenty farming families have reaped the rewards from this new, alternative agroforestry model.