Native Forests: Fell Less to Live Better

February 18, 2016


90% of wood protects made in Argentina come from the north of the country 

World Bank

Argentina, along with the communities most dependent on the forests, seeks answers to deforestation.

Approximately 11% of Argentine territory is covered in native forests, equivalent to some 31 million hectares. Of these, two thirds are found in the Chaco ecoregion.

However, deforestation in the area is threatening the rich biodiversity and the sustainability of the woodlands which the local communities depend on for their livelihoods.

As a result, the “Native forests and communities” project will support the implementation of sustainable forest management programmes and the development of productive projects which will benefit up to 150,000 small producers and their families.

Peter Jipp, forest engineer at the World Bank, explains more about the importance of this initiative.

Question: What is the objective of the native forests and communities project?

Answer: In the provinces of Salta, Chaco and Santiago del Estero, 70% of rural communities live below the poverty line and the forests are their source of income. In fact, 90% of wood products produced in Argentina come from this area.

This project looks to protect both the woodlands and the communities which depend on them. So, as well as improving management of the natural resources to promote sustainable use, the initiative will increase producers’ access to markets and basic services to improve quality of life.

Question: What will the environmental impact be?

Answer: Between 2006 and 2011, 1.5 million hectares of native forests were felled due to the expansion of the agricultural sector and illegal exploitation of the forests. It’s expected that this project will help to minimise this degradation and deforestation, replacing them with sustainable management. This will have a positive impact on biodiversity conservation, reducing soil erosion and improving hydrology in the area.

Slash and burn is the most popular method for felling the forest in this region. Stopping this from continuing will bring with it reductions in carbon emissions and improvements in the woods’ capacity to store carbon. Reducing the consumption of firewood at a household level through the introduction of clean cook stoves will also have a positive impact by reducing pressure in critical areas of the forests as well as improving the environment within the home. 

" It’s expected that 50 thousand people from communities adjacent to and within the forests will benefit from increased income and other non-monetary benefits "

Peter Jipp

Forest engineer for the World Bank

Question: What tools will be used to make this a reality?

Increasing local community participation in managing the forests is key and to achieve this we will expand access to the Forest Fund which the Argentine government established to support the implementation of improvements to the protection of the forests and their exploitation.

What’s more, the introduction of clean cook stoves will increase efficiency is private kitchens and will reduce firewood consumption at a household level. New systems to monitor and control the woodland will provide early alerts and will improve controlling illegal felling and the transport of wood.

Question: The Chaco is one of the poorest regions in Argentina, how will this project improve quality of life for local communities?

It’s expected that 50 thousand people from communities adjacent to and within the forests will benefit from increased income and other non-monetary benefits. More efficient use of the natural resources will boost productivity as well as making them more valuable, and improvements to market access will bring income increases with it.

Question: Which behaviours and attitudes will this project focus on?

Answer: Through this project we want to increase understanding about the woodlands and investments available to protect and manage them. Once the initiative comes to a close, we’re looking to have doubled access for the small communities who depend on the woodlands to resources made available by Argentina through the National Fund for the Enrichment and Conservation of Native Forests.

Today in the region, firewood is still used to cook, which can cause chronic diseases in women and children by breathing in smoke, as well as heavily impacting the environment by felling the forest. So, as an integral part of promoting sustainability, this project will work to increase the use of improved cook stoves to increase efficiency, reduce firewood consumption and improve air quality inside the house.

Question: How is the project related to other environmental topics in Argentina today?

Answer: In Paris, Argentina committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This project will help the country to reach these Intended Nationally Determined Contributions. The environmental region of the Chaco have suffered tremendous losses in forest cover and biodiversity in the past few years and this project looks to reduce this trend.

Furthermore, there is more awareness on the part of global consumers who want to avoid buying commodities which cause deforestation. So, this project will help Argentina to maintain access to international markets by implementing local laws to protect the forests.

Question: Can this project be replicated in other regions in Argentina or even in other Latin American countries?

Answer: Of course, in the medium term we will be implementing this initiative in the provinces of Misiones and Jujuy, but if the model gains wider support it can also be implemented more extensively within the Chaco, including in Paraguay and Bolivia.