Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Next Steps for Improved Forestry and Water Quality in the DR

The Dominican Republic has made significant progress in reversing the trend of slash and burn agriculture over the past 30 years. Numerous projects such as mini-greenhouse construction, mini-hydroelectric generator plants, and reforestation of previously farmed land on steep slopes are also allowing individuals and communities to improve their lives and health while reducing the impact on the environment. In the area of agroforestry, the Dominican Republic government is encouraging private landowners to reforest their land by ensuring that they will be able to harvest the trees at a later date. This has led to an increased amount of forested land in the country, and many of these plantations now have trees large enough for commercial harvest operations. However, as these plantations get older, the trees grow closer together and wood growth begins to slow. In order to maintain forest health, optimize growth, and increase carbon storage (to reduce greenhouse gases), trees with slower growth and poor form need to be harvested to allow the healthier, higher quality trees to grow faster and store more carbon.
Yaque del Norte watershed

In September 2014, Partners of the Americas sent three Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers - Glen Juergens, Dave Lombardo, and Bill Ryburn - to the Dominican Republic to assess the current agroforestry systems in the Rio Yaque del Norte watershed. The F2F volunteer team also worked with host organization, Plan Yaque, to develop plans for forest management and trained farmers in watershed protection and forest management.  They assisted 34 individuals during their 18-day assignment and made a variety of recommendations on:

  • Water quality monitoring
  • Land use planning
  • Pine silviculture and reforestation
  • Forest management/best management practices
  • Payment for environmental services
  • Sawmills and lumber harvesting

Below are excerpts from Dave, Glen, and Bill's trip reports that summarize observations, findings, and potential next steps for the Farmer-to-Farmer program: 

Water Quality Monitoring

Dave, Glen, Bill, and the F2F staff visit tree nursery
Plan Yaque has a very comprehensive water quality monitoring program. They presently are taking 11 different data measurements for water quality and quantity: pH, ammonia, nitrates/nitrogen, E-coli, temperature, electrical conductivity, dissolved oxygen in ml/L and %, turbidity, volume of water flow, depth of stream, and depth Secchi. Water monitoring is conducted twice a month at 46 permanent sampling points in different bodies of water within the Río del Yaque Norte watershed. In addition, there is a monitoring system developed to measure the amount of plastics put into the rivers. The next step is for Plan Yaque to develop target numbers and establish measured goals for the reduction of contaminants.

Land Use Planning

Due to climate change, it is anticipated that rainfall as well as droughts will be more intense and of longer duration, which will result in increased flooding of rivers. Therefore, the team strongly recommends that a long term management plan be in place before reforestation projects are implemented. The plans need to be comprehensive and should address erosion and sedimentation issues, water quality, timber production potential, agroforestry, pre- and post-harvest silviculture treatments, wildlife habitat improvement, and any other critical environmental concerns

Pine Silviculture and Reforestation

Dave, Glen, and Bill on the log haul tractor
There are three species of pine planted in the Dominican Republic. Plan Yaque, the National Environmental School in Jarabacoa, agricultural universities in Santiago, and other higher education institutions in the Río del Yaque Norte watershed should develop guidelines of what species to plant. If to be utilized for timber in rich soils at lower elevations (from 0 to 600 meters above sea level) they may want to utilize P. caribaea, but if for non-timber production, for soil protection in poorer soils, or at higher elevations, they may want to utilize P. occidentalis. The wood of P. occidentalis is considered to be of higher quality due to its slower growth. In addition, valuable hardwood species such as mahogany (Swietenia spp.), Spanish-cedar (Cedrela odorata), guama (Inga vera), etc. and fruit trees such as avocado (Persea americana) should be considered where appropriate, including using them as shade trees in coffee plantations.

Partners' Farmer-to-Farmer program looks forward to following up on these findings and continuing to help host organizations protect the Yaque del Norte watershed!

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