Rural producers promote alternatives to forest management in Argentina

May 22, 2013


Most indigenous people from Formosa province are subsistance farmers.

Gran Chaco Foundation

  • Over 130 projects incorporate sustainable forestry practices and also conserve biodiversity
  • They aim to generate economic and environmental benefits to 3,200 farmers
  • In addition, the habits and traditions of indigenous people are valued.

Excessive logging, overgrazing, and deforestation for agricultural expansion have been affecting many rural argentine communities living in forested areas, including indigenous people.

In order to reverse this trend, farmers groups are receiving technical and financial support to carry out forestry projects linked to sustainable silviculture, timber production and marketing , the management of products such as honey, seeds and fruits, and biodiversity conservation.

This initiative is part of two projects aimed at achieving sustainable management of productive forestry landscapes, led by the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries and supported by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility.

The selected 133 projects are developed in areas prioritized by their environmental and productive characteristics, such as the Mesopotamian area, the delta of the Parana River, the Northwest region (Salta, Jujuy and Tucuman), the Chaco (Chaco, Santiago del Estero and Formosa) and the Patagonia. In total, 3,200 small and medium producers will benefit.

"In Santiago del Estero, the problem to solve is the environmental degradation caused by the loss of the carob tree. Overgrazing was very important and the soils are bare, unproductive, " explains Martín Simón, from the Foundation for the Development in Justice and Peace (Fundapaz).

In this province, the NGO will begin to implement two projects: one will benefit 21 families living in Km 25 of the Department of San Martín and the other project will help 27 families from the village of Garza to achieve greater productivity in managing honey from the white carob tree, one of the most coveted.

"The recovery of the forest, the understory, the natural grassland and the soil is a slow process. We will begin to see the economic benefits after several years," believes Simon. It is estimated that the carob planting will be ready to coexist with the cattle in 4 years, it will bear fruit and flowers (so that the bees can sip) in 7 years, and will produce wood in over 30 years.

A nursery to enrich the forest

In Misiones, improving  forest quality and meeting  community’s needs also go hand in hand. In this case, the Union of Cooperative Work, Production and Services (UmisCoop) will work with 10 families in the Mbya Guaraní Perutí Village, of the municipality of El Alcazar.

" The recovery of the forest, the understory, the natural grassland and the soil is a slow process. We will begin to see the economic benefits after several years "

Martín Simón

Foundation for the Development in Justice and Peace (Fundapaz).

"The goal is to install a nursery to produce seedlings of native trees, fruit trees and medicinal plants, orchids and bamboo , which serve to enrich the forest and for the supply of the community," says Ramon Zaldívar, technical manager of the project.

Currently, the lack of raw materials is affecting one of its main economic activities, the production of basketry and wood crafts, which used tacuaras, tacuarembó, tacuaruzú, Guembé tacuapí and roots.

"Another problem is the lack of firewood, so we will create an artificial forest with eucalyptus that will be positive for the conservation of the neighboring forest," says Zaldivar.

Carob tree is the star

In the west of the province of Formosa, most are subsistence farmers, between natives and members of indigenous communities as wichi and qomle'ec. There, the Gran Chaco Foundation plans to develop four projects related to water and forest management.

"We seek ad hoc solutions for each area, complementing local knowledge, diversity of land and the most innovative technologies. In some cases, rainwater catchment might be improved, in other cases, drilling or conservation strategies of the collected water might be needed, "says Fabiana Menna, Fundación Gran Chaco, referring to the rational use of water resources.

The initiatives involve 600 farmers of the departments of Ramón Lista, Matacos and Bermejo, where there are large areas of natural carob. The aim is to exploit non-timber resources, that is, the fruit of the carob.

"The collection of wild fruit is traditionally an activity for indigenous women and therefore they are the protagonists of technological development that will enable the production of a higher value-added food for the domestic market," says Menna. In the village of Santa Teresa, for example, a system of grinding the carob flour will be installed.

The challenge is about to begin. For 1 or 2 years, producer groups and local non-profit organizations will work together with a common goal: the inclusion of biodiversity-responsible practices in production landscapes to add value in different chains: forestry, beekeeping, craft and livestock.