We enjoyed reading CIFOR director Peter Holmgren’s call for a new focus on sustainable forestry. One of the first things he states is that “Fair, affordable and accessible private finance that promotes sustainable land use, particularly for rural smallholders, is needed.”
Driving capital towards sustainable agroforestry projects is something that Planting Empowerment has been working on since we started developing our Equitable Forestry model back in 2006. Using private sector finance for community and smallholder forestry is all too much of a niche. We need more capital at work for programs that facilitate sustainable land use by forest-dependent communities. Where we work in Panama for example, our community forestry partners can receive subsidized financing for cattle ranching, but no financing for agroforestry projects because they are a longer term proposition.
Holmgren also mentions the need to understand the food security dynamic tied to forestry. While many countries are deforesting in the name of food security, there needs to be a better understanding of how forests provide food and increased focus on how agroforestry systems can strengthen food security. Towards that goal, Planting Empowerment is currently scaling the production of plantains in our agroforestry system. Plantains are a food staple in Panama and their price increased substantially over the last two years. We also think there is the opportunity to plant guandules, or pidgeon peas, which is a local favorite and fixes nitrogen into the soil during its growth.
We're glad to see Holmgren drawing attention to these issues, and hope that he continues to highlight them during his tenure. Increased research and resources need to be directed to promoting food security and sustainable forestry, for the sake of both those living in forests and the world at large.