Ten of the hottest years ever recorded were
in the past 14 years, including 2005, the hottest year ever recorded,
according to NASA. Scientists attribute this rise in global temperatures
to a correlated rise in carbon dioxide levels in the air. Trees
and plants recycle carbon dioxide into oxygen for animals to breathe,
but many forests are being cleared at an unsustainable rate, causing
an unnaturally high ratio of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Moreover,
many of the forests being depleted are of the most plant-rich tropical
regions of Asia, Africa, South America, and right here in Central
Millions of people around the world depend on
resources from forests to survive. Many people make a living off
agriculture, and some of them resort to effective, yet unsustainable
slash-and-burn clearing of the forests to make way for growing crops
or raising livestock. Agriculture is important - all six billion
people on Earth rely on it for food. But, forests are even more
critical - they create oxygen and regulate climate for the survival
of all life on Earth.
Agro-forestry - integrating agriculture with
the forest - may be the best solution to the environmental crisis
of deforestation, and it can at least slow the effects of global
warming. It is a sustainable method of farming, easing the need
to clear forest.
In April, 2003, activists started a project
in Belize to promote agro-forestry. It currently receives funding
- which will continue until November 2007 - from the Organization
of American States. This "OAS Agro-Forestry Research Project"
aims to develop transferable strategies for sustainable land use
in the tropics on degraded pastures, including activities for higher
education, socio-economic development and research.
Successful agro-forestry requires an understanding
of the complex relationship between trees, crops and soil interaction.
Only few plants species seem to be responsible for ecosystem stability.
The use of such key species in planted areas can enhance ecosystem
stability and improve soil quality by increasing pools of organic
matter and nutrients in the soil. Current knowledge about these
relationships is limited, especially in tropical regions. But, full
comprehension is necessary in order to develop long-term, sustainable
reforestation strategies and programs to rehabilitate degraded pastures
and to develop alternative concepts to slash-and-burn. These strategies
and programs also have to be economically attractive to the local
population - most people need to meet their own basic needs before
they can fully grasp the bigger picture.
The OAS Agro-Forestry Research Project delivers
practical information on how to rehabilitate degraded tropical land,
how to increase biodiversity and carbon sequestration through the
development of sustainable land use systems, and ultimately, how
agro-forestry is working in Belize as a model for the region.
One example of research: Jathropha curcas (Physic
nut), as an efficient renewable energy plant, might perform well
as a shade providing shrubbery for habanero hot pepper production.
The project is generating practical experience about the legume
plant (Arachis pintoy) as a cover crop and green manure known to
have a wide range of growing conditions, including tolerance to
shading. Arachis pintoy will provide soil cover and Nitrogen fixation
in order to reduce soil erosion and increase soil fertility, respectively.
Agro-forestry research project aims to develop following outputs:
Development of three different agro-forestry plots and one monoculture
area for commercial hot pepper cultivation
- Papaya (Carica
- Cover Crop (Arachis pintoy)
- Hot Pepper (Capsicum spp.)
- Physic Nut (Jatropha
- Cover Crop (Arachis pintoy)
- Hot Pepper (Capsicum spp.)
Plot III: five different forest tree
- (a) Black cabbage bark (Lonchocarpus castilloi)
- (b) Cedar (Cedrela odorata)
- (c) Billy web (Sweetia panamensis)
- (d) Mahogany (Swietenia macrophylla)
- (e) Teak (Tectona grandis)
- Cover Crop (Arachis
- Hot Pepper (Capsicum spp.)
Plot IV: Hot Pepper (Capsicum spp.)
- Information network and information service
- Development of information material and fact sheets
- Network and outreach
- Development of course material for students
- Training courses in the area of photosynthesis, nitrogen nutrition
and water status
- Fieldtrip opportunities
- Assessment of species diversity
- Quantification of crop yield and the growth of trees
- Performance of photosynthesis of the species
- Water status of the species from C- and O-isotope analysis using
Stable Isotope Ratio Monitoring Spectrometer
- Nitrogen nutrition of the species from N-isotope analysis and
total N-determination of plant samples
Agro-forestry demonstration plots for production,
research and training have been established to improve existing
agro-forestry practice in Belize. A network of local farmers, rural
villagers and non-governmental organizations is in place to continue
the project's execution. Every project year, research training courses
are developed for students at different education levels. The OAS
Agro-Forestry Research Project is recognized by the government and
other key organizations in Belize and in the region to deliver important
assignments and ground work for the agriculture and agro-forestry
sector. For this reason, newsletters and other information materials
are published regularly for environmental education and to inform
readers about project activities and achievements.
OF THE AMERICAN STATES
What is OAS?
The Organization of American States (OAS) brings together the countries
of the Western Hemisphere to strengthen cooperation and advance
common interests. It is the region's premier forum for multilateral
dialogue and concerted action. At the core of the OAS mission is
an unequivocal commitment to democracy, as expressed in the Inter-American
Democratic Charter: "The peoples of the Americas have a right
to democracy and their governments have an obligation to promote
and defend it." Building on this foundation, the OAS works
to promote good governance, strengthen human rights, foster peace
and security, expand trade, and address the complex problems caused
by poverty, drugs and corruption. Through decisions made by its
political bodies and programs carried out by its General Secretariat,
the OAS promotes greater inter-American cooperation and understanding.
What is IACD?
As part of the ongoing process of modernization of the Organization
of American States, the Inter-American Agency for Cooperation and
Development (IACD) was established at the beginning of 2000 to promote
new and more effective forms of cooperation between its member states
and to enhance partnerships with the private sector and civil society.
Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Agency is governed by a nine-member
Management Board of officials selected from among the member states,
as well as an administrative arm-the Executive Secretariat for Integral
Development-which together manage all of the OAS' technical cooperation
and training activities.
Mission of IACD
The IACD's mission is to tap the considerable capabilities of the
member and observer states of the Organization of American States
(OAS) and forge new private/public-sector partnerships to help the
people of the Americas overcome poverty, benefit from the digital
revolution and advance their economic and social development. One
instrument is the FEMCIDI.
The acronym "FEMCIDI" stands for the Special Multilateral
Fund of CIDI. FEMCIDI, as its name implies, is a fund that was established
to finance cooperation projects presented by the member states.
Links for more information:
From the third project year on, the Mayan Reserve
Foundation (MRF) is providing the required project infrastructure,
including office space, cantina and education centre for the planned
project activities, as well as the area where the agro-forestry
research demonstration plots have been established. The MRF is responsible
for the cultivation of plant material and maintenance and providing
water and electricity. Additionally, the MRF is providing an excellent
infrastructure including guesthouses to conduct educational and
research programs, such as field trips for students and researchers.
There are plans for opening a restaurant and swimming pool.
The Mayan Reserve Foundation is a Non-Governmental organization
that promotes Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection
in Belize by conducting research, training and higher education
programs in collaboration with relevant national and international
partners and universities.
CONSULTANT & COORDINATOR
Mrs. Baumgart Laasner was born in Germany and has been a permanent
resident of Belize since 1995. She is currently working as the project
consultant for the OAS Agro-Forestry Research Project to rehabilitate
degraded tropical soil. Mrs. Baumgart Laasner got her Diploma as
a certified civil engineer at the Technical University Leipzig,
Germany in 1981, and she has served as a planner for urban and social
development, Regional Development Company (LEG) Brandenburg, Potsdam,
as well as Director of Building and Construction Division Municipality
When Mrs. Baumgart Laasner came to Belize, she
changed her focus to support sustainable development in Belize with
great dedication and commitment. Since this time, she established
herself as a motivated and enthusiastic project developer, coordinator
and fundraiser. She initiated projects in cooperation with multiple
funding agencies, such as International Cooperation for Sustainable
Development in Germany and Switzerland and other private donors.
Mrs. Baumgart Laasner was also working as a
scientific coordinator with the Albert-Ludwig's-University Freiburg,
Institute for Forest Botany and Tree Physiology in the field of
Tropical Forest Botany, conducting research activities and programs
for reforestation strategies to rehabilitate degraded tropical landscapes.
Moreover, she is founding member of EFTEC (Environmental
Friendly TECnologies), a private company incorporated in 2005 to
promote and provide environmental friendly technology and products
in Belize. EFTEC is a result of experienced and committed experts
working for 10 years to promote and initiate renewable energy systems
including Jatropha curcas. Currently Mrs. Baumgart Laasner is working
to initiate a national program for producing biodiesel made from
Jatropha curca in close collaboration with the Government of Belize
and Biocombustibles Guatemala.
Please visit Sylvia Baumgart Laasner's Resume
here for more information.