Deforestation and its social impacts

Deforestation is clearly linked with global warming and climate change. Trees have many benefits that is useful to sustain life as we know it, to protect the soils in various ways and they produce the oxygen we need to breathe. Beside this, there are also many people living in and from the forests. Tribes inthe Amazon in South America for example, and in the Indonesian rain forests as well. It is not only people living in the forests; it is the home to many different animals as well as plants and other flora and fauna.

The general concept of deforestation is clear. When we cut down trees, for various reasons, we get bare lands. Consequently, there are no roots holding the soil together, there is no shadow from the leaves to protect the soil, thus, the water in it evaporates and the fertile soil turns into sand. When there are heavy rains, water is flushed away and takes all the nutrients with it. The soils get saturated very fast and on hills landslides occur quite fast, damaging nature and livelihoods. The CO2 it should store won’t happen and this contributes to the increase of global warming and climate change.

It is not only a human and an environmental loss that is happening. It is threatening many endangered animals too. Tigers, orangutan, and other species’ homes are disappearing as well. The same number of animals have to share a smaller space to live, causing a lot of stress and the numbers of these animals drop significantly.

The easiest way to stop deforestation is simply to stop cutting trees. This, however, is not so likely to happen as there are many financial ties between big corporations and governments. There are many organizations such as Greenpeace, the WWF, and many local organizations who give nature and the people a voice against deforestation for profit.

There are several reasons that people cut the forest.

In rural Africa the farmers use an old fashioned technique, which is called ‘slash and burn’. Farmers who want to clear the lands after the dry season set the land on fire and burning all that is on it. Also when farmers need more land they cut down and simply burn the area and use the land for agriculture.

In Indonesia, particularly on the island of Sumatra, huge parts of the tropical rain forests are cut down and converted into plantations for palm oil production or acacia plantations. Often multinational companies use ‘land grab’ and corruption in the governments to push their will through. Consequently many communities who live for hundreds of generations in and with the forest are forced to move. Besides this moving, the communities lose their livelihoods and income from the forest and are indirectly forced to work on the plantations.

A big part of the population in Zambia, a sub-Saharan African country, is depending on charcoal to cook and as a general energy resource. Because of this need many trees are cut and converted in the charcoal. The rate of deforestation is one of the highest in the world. USAID is working together with a local organization and sets aside huge pieces of land for forest regeneration by planting new trees and let the forest come to live again in natural ways as well.

Planting trees in affected areas is a good part of the solution to regenerate tropical rain forest so we can enjoy them once again in the future.

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