In the Context of High Human Density and Scarcity of Farm Land, how can we address Sustainable Management of Forests?

More Humans implies: more trees cutting, more fossil fuel burning, more waste creation, more hungry mouths, and just more of everything that degrades the environment. Deforestation has been an environmental subject over the past decades, nevertheless, overpopulation has been a topic too. Most developing countries are wholly dependent on fossil fuels for electricity, cooking, and many more for their satisfaction and survival. Humans, animals, and trees fossils that took years to evolve are been used at an enormous rate. “We are running a Ponzi system: by using the earth’s future resources to operate our economies in the present”-Mathis Wackernagel, CEO and co-founder of Global Footprint Network, said. David Attenborough notes: “One of the reasons population has increased as fast as it has, is that people like me are living longer than we did, so there are more and more people just because the expectancy of life has increased.”[i] The Amazon basin, the largest rainforest on Earth is experiencing a higher rate of deforestation; these trees are been cut down to carry on agriculture practices, to create meadows and pastures for animals grazing; and much more casualties are been induced by these activities.

Population growth along with other factors like migration and urbanization have affected the availability of renewable resources worldwide. It is also influenced by major demographic parameters and rural female high illiteracy rate. The forest being a habitat for several life forms and the primary producer in the food chain, plays so many important roles in human livelihood and welfare. Increasing population size has affected the quantity of forest trees, which has impacted the ecosystem of flora and fauna. Zero hunger means: creating more food, more food equals: more survivability, more survivability equals: increase in population. Don’t get it twisted, I’m not saying zero hunger should not be address, am stressing the need to maintain the present population. If we are to reduce the numbers of those starving, we should know that more trees will be cut down to create agricultural lands, causing increased deforestation. The high birth rate is causing more harm and more impending effect. People are still reproducing (while staying in poor living conditions), even though they cannot provide for the ones they have now. 83 million people are added to the world population, annually[ii].

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Photo by Anthonette Quayee. Forest trees cut down to carry on agricultural activities in Charlotte Village, Sierra Leone

The increased amount of human fecundity is wholly discussed with the earth’s biological carrying capacity (the ‘k’ factor in logistics population growth). Many studies have already shown that demographic changes in conjunction with the other factors have impacted natural resources in general and forests in particular[iii]. As our density rises, and we tend to extract resources beyond our limit: the danger of overpopulation materializes. Woodland, forest on farms, plantations and closed forest can be used as tools in reducing poverty through the proper forest management strategies. The formulation of policies, creation, and operation of implementing frameworks, local and regional collaborations are key necessities in carrying on Forest Management. Agroforestry, reforestation, and afforestation are major practices that can enhance the protection of the trees and forests.

  • The concept of Agroforestry (system of Forest Gardening) is a sustainable measure that can be used to protect and maintain the Forest resources. Agroforestry incorporates shrubs, perennial vegetables, and fruit trees all in a single ecosystem. This age-old practice can foster biodiversity conservation, promote food production and create an aesthetic landscape. The practice of this concept can benefit both the forester and the agriculturist by creating a single environment with both trees and shrubs. This system of plant interaction will reduce the competition between individual species and create a more diverse habitat. Trees and shrubs can coexist to meet the alarming rate of overpopulation and reduce the complete clear-cutting of trees for agriculture purposes, worldwide.
  • Reducing deforestation and increase afforestation and reforestation can sustain the forest amidst the high population rate. A proposed strategy of “two for one” can reduce deforestation impacts from logging companies. This strategy entails that for any single tree that is cut, two trees are to be replanted. With this sustainable routine, logging companies can make more yields while practicing reforestation. The technique will improve forest management and increase the harvesting of timber crops annually. As the need for forest products rise to meet human services, planting more trees can balance the system.

Forest protection and management can be achieved through the joint corporation of local farmers, foresters, NGOs, and government agencies. Natural and human-induced disturbances will always be a threat to the forest. Sustainable forest management with the ongoing human density aim at creating a resilient forest ecosystem that can endure, recover from any form of hazard, and adapt to environmental changes. Sustaining Forest amid high population growth must include an alliance of environmentalists, conservationists, health practitioners, researchers, and other social scientists. Each of these fields play an essential role in maintaining the birth rate and reducing deforestation. Application of management policies should first be tested on a sample of a targeted population, and hence, the rest of the whole. The management procedures are based on the function of the forest, balancing the interest of all stakeholders and placing community people at the center. Medicinal, aesthetical, commercial, and cultural activities are multipurpose values that forest can meet, but these can only be accomplished through a welled management scheme that fosters tree species ability to regenerate.

[i] Whiting K., 2018. David Attenborough: The planet can’t cope with overpopulation. World Economic Forum.

[ii] https://www.un.org/development/desa/en/news/population/world-population-prospects-2017.html

[iii] Outlaw and Engleman, 1999; Hunter, 2000; FAO 2007a

  1. FOA. Natural Forest Management. Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/forestry/sfm/85084/en/

Featured Image by Anthonette Quayee. Location: Kokoyah, Liberia.

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