Archive for the ‘World Agroforestry Center’ Category

DPRK looking to solve problems with trees

Wednesday, December 15th, 2010

According to Voice of America:

Deforestation has contributed to major floods while also worsening chronic hunger problems in North Korea, but now the communist-led government is supporting a small but growing effort to recover the hillsides with fruit and nut trees.

For more than four decades after its creation in the wake of the Second World War, North Korea relied on its communist ally, the Soviet Union, to provide fertilizer for its farms. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1989, food production in North Korea plummeted.

Environmental mess

Deputy Director Marcus Noland of the Washington-based Peterson Institute for International Economics has studied North Korea since 1995. He says as food production fell, forests in mountainous areas were cleared to grow more crops.

“And as trees were cut down on the hillsides, that contributed to soil erosion, river silting, which exacerbated the seasonal flooding problems,” says Noland. “So, the North Koreans have ended up with a real environmental mess on their hands.”

Major floods hit North Korea in 2007 and again this summer. But the environmental issues first got the government’s attention in 1995, when catastrophic floods damaged about 40 percent of the country’s rice paddies and contributed to a famine that killed an estimated two million people.

“Then the government said, ‘Okay, we need to do something,’” says Xu Jianchu, a senior scientist at the World Agroforestry Center, a global research institution.

According to Xu, different government ministries had different ideas concerning what to do about the floods. In many places, people had cut down trees to grow their own food. Xu says the agriculture ministry wanted trees back on the mountainsides and people’s crops off them.

Trees and crops together

But the environment ministry took a different view. Working with the Swiss aid agency, it started a small pilot project in 2002 to plant fruit and nut trees and medicinal bushes on the sloping hillsides, alongside people’s crops.

“We get the tree cover back, and, second, also, we do provide the needs of the local people for food,” says Jianchu.

The World Agroforestry Center joined the project in 2008. Earlier in the decade, Pyongyang had begun loosening its tight controls over the country’s food production. Xu says the government organized households into user groups which were given autonomy to choose what kinds of trees to grow. That was important, Xu says, because for one thing, the government had been offering only pine, poplar and larch trees for hillside planting – three species the farmers didn’t want really don’t want because they were not related to their food security.

The user groups were allowed to establish their own fruit-tree nurseries to expand production. With help terracing the steep hills and improving their farming practices, Xu says food production has increased, and farmers are even selling their surplus in local markets.

However, it is difficult to get an accurate picture of how much they are producing. According to Xu, people tend to say they grew less than they did because they believe the government will take away their surplus.

“They try to always under-report what they harvest because sometimes they are still afraid the government will take away if they produce too much,” he says.

A good start

While the policy remains controversial, Xu says it’s gaining support in the government. He says the best indication that the project is working is that it’s growing.

What started with just three groups is now up to about 60, covering several hundred hectares of land.

That’s a small fraction of the more than one million acres of deforested hillside being farmed, according to a report Xu co-wrote on the subject.

But it’s a good start, says the Peterson Institute’s Marcus Noland.

“I’m not sure whether the policies they’re now pursuing on these projects are the most optimal, but the idea that at least they’re trying to plant trees and reverse some of this process is a good sign.”

But Noland adds that deforestation is just one of the major food production problems North Korea faces. He says it will take a revival of the country’s overall economy to end the country’s chronic problems with hunger.

The Taedonggang Fruit Farm and Kosan Fruit Farm have received heavy attention in the DPRK media recently.  Although the North Koreans have never admitted to receiving assistance to set up all of their new fruit farms, I am willing to bet that some of these international organizations played a role.

Read the full story here:
Trees are North Korea Latest Weapons Against Hunger, Floods
Voice of America
12/14/2010

Share

Agroforestry a success in DPRK

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

According to Medical News Today:

In a country where good news is scarce, a pioneering agroforestry project in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is restoring heavily degraded landscapes and providing much-needed food for communities living on the sloping lands.

Jianchu Xu, East-Asia Coordinator for the World Agroforestry Centre, which has been providing technical expertise and training for the project since 2008, said agroforestry – in this case the growing of trees on sloping land – is uniquely suited to DPR Korea for addressing food security and protecting the environment.

“What we have managed to achieve so far has had a dramatic impact on people’s lives and the local environment,” Jianchu explains.

“Previously malnourished communities are now producing their own trees and growing chestnut, walnut, peaches, pears and other fruits and berries as well as medicinal bushes,” Jianchu explains. “They have more food and vitamins and are earning income through trading”.

Following the collapse of the socialist bloc in 1989 and a lack of subsidies for agriculture in DPR Korea, famine and malnutrition became widespread in rural areas.

DPR Korea is a harsh mountainous country where only 16% of the land area is suitable for cultivation. In desperation in the 1990s, people turned to the marginal sloping lands but this had a price: deforestation for cropping land and fuelwood left entire landscapes denuded and depleted of nutrients.

In an effort to reverse the situation, an innovative and pioneering project began in 2002 involving the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Korea’s Ministry of Land and Environmental Protection. The World Agroforestry Centre was later brought in to provide technical advice.

Suan County has since expanded to 65 user groups in seven counties, with several hundred hectares of sloping land now under sustainable management. And the project is still growing.

A system of establishing user groups with one representative from each family has enabled demonstration plots to be set up and a large number of households to benefit from knowledge about growing multi-purpose trees. Such trees can improve and stabilize soils as well as provide fertilizer, fodder or fruits.

Most of the people farming the sloping lands are pension workers with little agricultural experience. The agroforestry systems they are now implementing and the techniques they have learnt are significantly increasing tree cover on the slopes as well giving them a diversity of crops.

Several of the user groups have started their own nurseries so that they can be self-sufficient and produce their own planting materials.

Initially a European consultant was engaged to provide advice on sloping land management, but in 2008 SDC brought the World Agroforestry Centre’s China office into the project.

“With similar experiences and history, our Chinese staff were well-placed to work in DPR Korea,” explains Jianchu. “It was important to have people with an understanding of the technical, institutional and socio-political context.”

There are very few international organizations operating in DPR Korea, and most of these are providing emergency relief. “With our strong focus on capacity development, we have established a good reputation,” adds Jianchu. So much so that the Centre is now negotiating a memorandum of understanding with the government and there are plans to establish an office in the country.

According to Jianchu, one of the most important aspects to ensuring the project is sustained is capacity development at all levels.

“As well as the user groups, we are providing training to multi-disciplinary working groups comprising representatives from the national academy, agricultural universities, forestry research and planning institutes, and staff of the Ministry.”

“There is an enormous need to improve knowledge and skills in DPR Korea in the area of natural resource management and to nurture young scientists,” says Jianchu. SDC is now investing in this area. Each year over the past few years, a handful of students from DPR Korea have undertaken studies with the Center for Mountain Ecosystem Studies, jointly run by the World Agroforestry Centre and the Chinese Academy of Sciences and hosted by the Kunming Institute of Botany in China. Some could be considered for a doctoral program in the future.

To further support the up-skilling of DPR Korea scientists and the up-scaling of agroforestry, the Centre will soon publish an agroforestry manual. Work is also underway on an agroforestry policy for sloping lands management and an agroforestry inventory.

Read the full story here:
Agroforestry A Success In North Korea
Medical News Today
Kate Langford
8/31/2010

Share