This week, the human population reached a new milestone – 7 billion. The exact time of birth of the 7-billionth baby was unknown but births in general around the world on Monday 31st October 2011 were celebrated.
Amid the celebrations however, are an increasing number of voices concerned with the strain that humanity’s growing population is placing on the environment and resources around us. These fears are particularly relevant for poorer, developing countries where people do not always have reliable access to the basic elements needed for survival e.g. water, food, fuel and shelter.
Communities in these countries that live in or around forests, have to make use of the resources in these habitats in order to survive. According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) half of the world’s original forests have been cleared for human land use. The majority of this clearance is due to commercial logging and agricultural interests.
A vicious cycle
As forest coverage dwindles and human populations around them expand, so the pressure on forest resources continues to increase. This can lead to a vicious cycle between poverty and deforestation. Communities around a forest fell trees for fuel, timber or land to provide an income for their families or simply for subsistance. This reduces forest coverage, often leading to additional problems such as desertification. As time goes on it becomes harder to survive from this land. Poverty increases and deforestation spreads outward.
Breaking the cycle
Severing the link between poverty and deforestation starts with an understanding of the importance of trees as long-term sustainable resources. With an appreciation of the effects of deforestation and the need to conserve and manage forest stocks, forest communities are more able to make informed decisions on how best to use the resources at their disposal.
Following this up with practical action and support including training and tree nursery planting helps these communities to replenish lost forest coverage and use cultivated trees for food and fuel rather than original forest.
ITF works with in-country partners to develop projects that help to train and educate members of forest communities on the best ways to use local resources so that both their livelihoods and local biodiversity can flourish. As the global population rises, these tools will become ever more important. You can help us to develop more of these initiatives by getting involved with our work and donating today.