Forests Asia Summit: Agriculture and Forestry Shouldn’t Become An Enemy

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Ekuatorial, Jakarta, Indonesia

In recent decades, Southeast Asia is an area that is constantly working to strengthen food security and reduce poverty. But to improve food security, the expansion of agriculture at the expense of forests and biodiversity continues to occur.

Dietrich Schmidt Vogt senior researchers of World Agroforestry Centre in one of the Forests of Asia Summit discussions in Jakarta (5/5) explained about the change of rotating field system become a monoculture plantations in Southeast Asia especially in the Greater Mekong area. “First Southeast Asian societies apply rotating field. But now happens a decrease and changed into monoculture,” he said.

Vogt explained that land clearing by cutting down and burning by traditional society in rotating field does look bad. But the condition is actually made a dynamic balance that can maintain and even increasing forest cover. “Thus, economic growth and biodiversity can be developed in same time,” he said.

Next Vogt gave examples of areas that apply monoculture systems. “Now the province of Son La in Vietnam is dominated by corn, in Thailand is dominated by the cabbage, as well as in Xishuangbanna in Yunnan province of China changed from producing food crops with rubber plantations.”

According to him monoculture system gives a positive impact on the economy, but on the other hand threatens biodiversity and ecosystems. Besides monoculture system has many negative impact like decline in biological diversity and more vulnerable to pests. Even at the other hand monoculture system contribution to food security is getting smaller.

At the same event, Xie Chen from the People’s Republic of China Forestry Administration of the talked about Chinese Government’s program in restoration agricultural land and plantation reforestation. Conversion of Cropland to Forest Program (CCFP) policy that have been conducted since 1999 it claimed to have successfully reforesting 27,55 million Ha.

“CCFP is one of the largest programs widespread in rural areas in China to restore the forests due to deforestation for the balance between agriculture and forestry,” he said.

Until the year 2013 the Chinese Government has provided more than 42 billion USD to 32 million rural people to convert land in 25 provinces. It makes CCFP as the world’s largest reforestation program with the world’s largest incentive value. Furthermore, there are about 27 million ha of land consisting of agricultural land and infertile woodland will be reforested.

According to Chen, CCFP initially aims to improve forest cover on sloping land for disaster prevention of flooding and landslides. CCFP program, however, turned out to give a negative impact on food security and the loss of livelihood of the farmers in China. Therefore, the program is then updated with the cultivation of the inter-cropping system so that the production of the agricultural crops and plant trees can be done together.

“CCFP is able to improve the food security of rural communities by providing their basic needs,” said Chen. Besides, the impact of CCFP application are increasing the supply of fruits and also non wood forest product from CCFP land, the decrease in agricultural land in forest area, the intensification of agricultural production and the increasing of the production per unit area. CCFP also claimed able to against the impact of deforestation and forest degradation in China.

Chen explained that CCFP policy already performed in China illustrate that developing countries such as Indonesia able to balance the land use for forestry and agriculture as well. With the program, rural economic development, food security and the preservation of natural forests can be done simultaneously.