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'Forest Hero' Shigeatsu Hatakeyama. © Ryo Murakami/UNU
Dec 2011

Forests 'activate' coastal seas

Already decades ago, Katsuhiko Matsunaga, a marine chemist at Hokkaido University in Japan, discovered that when tree leaves decompose, they leech acids into the ocean that help fertilize plankton. And when plankton thrives, so does the rest of the food chain. [1]

This was put into good practice by Japanese fisherman Mr Shigeatsu Hatakeyama who inherited an oyster farm business from his parents. But the waters in Kesennuma Bay in Miyagi, Japan, had become unsuitable for oyster cultivation after an outbreak of red tide plankton. On a trip to France in 1984, Mr Hatakeyama saw healthy oysters in the Loire river estuary and noticed a vast deciduous broadleaf forest upriver. He made the connection and he realized the positive influence forests have on ocean ecology and biodiversity.

Back home, he held the first Mori wa Umi no Koibito (Forests are Lovers of the Sea) campaign in 1989: with other fishermen he planted broadleaf trees upstream along the Okawa River to reduce pollutants flowing into the sea. These afforestation activities became an annual event and have since gained momentum – so far, more than 50,000 trees have been planted. It has led to a region-wide proactive movement to preserve the environment, including water drainage regulation and promoting farming practices with less agricultural chemicals. [2] [3]

Mr Hatakeyama became known as 'Grandpa Oyster' after spending more than twenty years developing the forest that keeps the Okawa River clean and his thriving oysters healthy.
In 2009, he established another Forests are Lovers of the Sea programme which provides hands-on education for children, bringing them closer to the ocean and the forest.

He has now received a Forest Heroes Award from the UN International Year of Forests 2011 committee.

sources:
[1] Jim Robbins, Why Trees Matter, NY Times, April 11, 2012
[2] Asia & Japan Watch
[3] UN Forest Heroes Award

Logo der Pan-African Agency of the Great Green Wall
June 2010

The Great Green Wall of Africa

The Great Green Wall (French: Grande Muraille verte) Spanish Gran Muralla Verde is a project to halt the spread of the South Sahara. The transcontinental belt is planned to be 15km (nine miles) wide and 7,775km (4,831 miles) long and will be made completely of trees. This equals the reforestation of 15 million hectares of land.

The project is held by the African Union and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF)*. An inter states organization was established to effectively implement the project in each of the eleven member states.

* The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is an independent financial organization uniting 182 member governments, in partnership with international institutions, nongovernmental organizations and the private sector, to address global environmental issues. According to their website, they are the largest funder of projects to improve the global environment, having allocated US$8.8 billion, supplemented by US$38.7 billion in co-financing, to more than 2,400 projects in more than 165 countries.

Landkarte Sahel

On 17 June 2010, the GEF announced that Africa's green barrier will be funded by a US$119 million grant. The project had long been searching for funding: it had begun to take shape in 2005, the idea first appeared in 2002 and can be traced back to projects fighting desertification in Burkina Faso under president Thomas Sankara. Inspirations are the (more decentrally organized) Green Belt Movement initiated by Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, and the Green Wall of China (see tree news Jan. 2010).

source: Great Green Wall website
Earth911.com

Tamarisk trees (Tamarix articulata) in the Sahara. © RosaFrei/istockphoto.com
Jan 2010

Great Green Wall of China is growing

The Great Green Wall of China is the biggest afforestation project in the history of humankind. The 'Wall' is going to be a woodland belt about 2,800 miles (4,500 km) long which is hoped to halt the desertification of whole regions of China. 28 per cent of the land surface of China is threatened by desertification, which jeopardizes the livelihood of 100 million people. Gigantic dust storms sweep over vast areas bordering the Gobi Desert (located in the north of the country. Extending desert heat has already risen average temperatures in Peking by a few degrees Celsius. Japan, North Korea and South Korea too suffer from sand storms coming over from China.

The reasons for desertification are, like in the other continents, anthropogenic, i.e. human-made:
• increased land use overburdens the soil, depleting it of nutrients and breaking down its structure;
• overgrazing and deforestation decrease plant cover, the ground loses its firmness and becomes subject to erosion by wind and rain;
• since the foundation of the People's Republic in 1949, industrialization has shown an ever-increasing hunger for fuel which has been satisfied by tree felling (until 1978, forest cover in China had fallen from eight to five per cent!);
• growing water consumption of the industry, agriculture and increasing population contributes further to the desertification of vast areas.

Forests are generally perceived as the best countermeasure against desertification of entire regions.
The work on the Green Wall of China began in 1978. So far, protective forests have been planted in thirteen provinces of China, covering 22 million hectares (220,000 sq. km – the size of the main island of Britain; the size of Kansas or Idaho) altogether. This already prevents 200 million tons of desert sand from spreading onto non-desert land annually. But an actual inversion of the annual desert area increase could not be measured until the years from 2000 to 2004.
In 2009, China's afforestation program had increased forest cover to 18 per cent of the republic's land area.
In 2050, the Green Wall of China is scheduled to be completed, with a total area of 35 million hectares (350.000 sq. km).

Because monocultures can easily succumb to pests and diseases, the focus is on mixed woodlands. But pastures too are considered a part fo the Green Wall. The Chinese people are legally obligated to direct participation: every citizen between 11 and 60 years of age has to plant three to five trees annually (or pay a fine).

In 2003, China began to restructure its forest sector. Now, single farmers are allowed to lease woodlands and get their rights certified on paper. The leaseholders are now registered as the owners of the trees they planted. They are entitled to manage these youg woodlands, with certain restrictions. In this way the reform has created an incentive for farmers to invest in tree planting. [1]

The genus Tamarix deserves special mention in the fight against the desert. The tamarisk has been called the guard soldier of the desert because it is resistent against sand storms and even grows on salt or chalk soils. Already in the 1960s the botanist Prof Liu Mingting researched and cultivated tamarisks – and planted
them on 100,000 hectares of saline desert and semi-desert in Kashgar Prefecture (Xinjiang). Since then, the ground has become fertile soil again, corn and cotton are grown widely, and the income per head has risen fourfold. [2] (compare tree news June 2009: Amazon deforestation fails to improve local life)

sources:
[1] Wikipedia about the Great Green Wall of China
[2] China.org: Ein Tamarisken-Forscher (German)
see also tree news: The Great Green Wall of Africa

SM Raju at a tree-planting site. © Prashant Ravi
Sept 2009

Massive tree-planting scheme in India

An Indian civil servant, SM Raju, has created an innovative project to provide 'sustainable employment' to millions of poor people, by planting trees.

Mr Raju's campaign is located in the east Indian state of Bihar, the poorest state of India, and engages people in afforestation which, according to the BBC, 'addresses two burning issues of the world: global warming and shrinking job opportunities. Evidence of Mr Raju's success could clearly be seen on 30 August, when he organised 300,000 villagers from over 7,500 villages in northern Bihar to engage in a mass tree planting ceremony.' On this day alone, almost a billion trees were planted.

Mr Raju is an agriculture graduate from Bangalore but the secret of the success of his 'social forestry' programme is that he linked it to the central government's National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA). This act was initiated in February 2006 as an employment generation scheme for poor people: the authorities are bound by law to provide a minimum of 100 days of employment a year to members of families living below the poverty line. But before Mr Raju's project, Bihar had not been able to spend the allocated NREGA funds.

'Every village council has now been given a target of planting 50,000 saplings – a group of four families has to plant 200 seedlings and they must protect them for three years till the plants grow more sturdy.' Payment is staggered into three groups, 90%, 75–80% and less than 75% survival rate of the seedlings.

The scheme also includes planting fruit-trees inside the villages.

source: Amarnath Tewary, Meeting India's tree planting guru, BBC News, 19 Sept 2009