Monday, November 26, 2012

Does Cuba Promote Deforestation?

Does Cuba Promote Deforestation?
November 26, 2012
Isbel Diaz Torres

HAVANA TIMES — After reading a brief article in the national press, I
became suspicious about Cuban policy regarding forestry. What some Cuban
journalists have managed to achieve is making it seem like it's possible
to promote reforestation and deforestation at the same time.

The article in question (published in Spanish in the Granma newspaper on
November 20), announced the reforestation of more than 11,000 acres in
the western province of Pinar del Rio, immediately noting that this area
is "twice the size of those areas where timber is being cut down for
industrial purposes."

This might seem reasonable in the eyes of a less informed reader, since
the principle of planting more than what is cut down seems to make sense.

However, if we analyze the current situation on the island by
referencing the report "Forestry in Cuba: 2007-2011," issued by the
Office of Agricultural Statistics of the National Bureau of Statistics
and Information (ONEI), things begin to look different.

That document states that "the total number of saplings of timber and
fruit trees planted during the period 2007 to 2011 (…) experienced an
average annual rate of decline of 4.30 percent."

In 2011 this document reveals a significant decrease in forested areas
compared to the preceding four years, so there must have been a sweeping
change in strategy in 2012 for that negative trend to have been reversed.

As for those seedlings, the area planted in the period analyzed
underwent an annual rate of decline 5.65 percent, with decline also
experienced in 2011 – the year of lowest index in this activity.

Illegal logging.

The headline in Granma proudly announces the number of 11,000 acres
planted in Pinar de Rio, but if we look at the ONEI report, it's clear
that they need to reforest much more than this, given that in 2011 (the
worst year in the five-year period) more than 12,000 acres were planted
in that province. It's visible that the actual figure falls short of this.

When we discuss Pinar del Rio, we're not talking about just any
province, but the most reforested one on the island and the one that
contributes most of the country's lumber, according to that same Granma
article. So what's happening in the rest of the provinces?

The same applies to "reconstruction work" (improving the biodiversity
and economic value of natural forests by adding more valuable species),
where there was observed an annual downward trend of 3.70 percent.

Similar behavior was shown over that same period by other indicators,
such as "maintenance work" and the "planting of green belts," which
demonstrated average annual decreases of 2.80 percent and 0.85 percent

Did the journalist and the optimistic official interviewed take this
information into account? Apparently not, but as we continue reading
that Granma article we come to understand what all of this involves:
publicized commitments, numbers games and quotas.

"Pedro Ramirez Lara, head of the State Forestry Service (SEF), said that
this number will allow Pinar del Rio Province to reach 2015 with a rate
of forestation above 44.02 percent. Achieving that provincial objective
would allow the country to reach its national goal of 29.3 percent
forestation and thus fulfill its commitment made at the Earth Summit in
Rio de Janeiro in 1992, says the article in Granma.

I know that many people put a lot of effort into reforestation; however,
it seems that despite this, the country is continuing to experience a
declining rate of reforestation, yet by 2015 it is made to appear that
the nation will achieve the percentage agreed upon.

This is a strange reforestation policy, and what's stranger still is
that if we know that these trees are destined to future felling, though
I imagine that in 2013 and 2014 they can hold back the chainsaws a
little and still achieve respectable statistics for international forums.

As you can see, what remains visible in Cuba is the lack of the
slightest bit of investigative journalism, which would at least be able
to diversify its sources and compare information.

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