By Daniel Girón and Gabriela Gavarrete
Planning a restoration process is not an easy job. We must find a method that meets the needs of the ecosystem, considering the human activities that take place there. In this interview, we discussed the topic of agroforestry systems with biologist Daniel Girón to answer some questions that arose as we evaluated our strategy to implement an agroforestry system in Cerro Tecana, El Salvador, together with his community, Lomas del Tecana.
What is an agroforestry system?
Agroforestry systems are a form of land use in which forest trees interact biologically in an area with crops and/or animals; the fundamental purpose is to diversify and optimize production while respecting sustainability in principle. This system is considered as the multidisciplinary combination of several effective ecological techniques, which involve knowing the management of trees and small shrubs, and food crops so that, simultaneously and sequentially, productivity is guaranteed through management that is compatible with the economic activities of the local population.
Why are agroforestry systems a good restoration strategy?
It plays an essential role in conserving biological diversity in deforested and fragmented areas, providing favorable spaces for the growth, transfer, connection, pollination, feeding, and protection of different species.
Trees serve as barriers against wind and storms, prevent the loss of soil nutrients, and are responsible for water recharge. The species used in an agroforestry system strategy should not compete for the same resource. It is necessary to ensure a positive relationship between the species considered since they can protect against diverse climatic conditions and diversification of biological controllers, among others.
In the economic sphere, an agroforestry system allows the population to simultaneously take advantage of the resources that serve subsistence and trade the products obtained from the system.
How is the agroforestry system being implemented in Cerro Tecana?
We are taking advantage of and combining the technical and empirical knowledge of the communities to create a strategy that maximizes the potential of the communities’ soils. We restore ecosystems by planting agroforestry systems, which facilitate the establishment of a line of native forest species and using the soil. Thus, the planting of agricultural species generates advantages.
Farmers in the area have been very open to collaborating with the organization Un Pulmón Más through the Suma un Bosque project. Volunteers have focused on assessing the appropriate conditions to establish the system according to the farmer’s needs and educating the inhabitants on the maintenance and monitoring of the plantation.
Why is it essential to synergize with local farmers?
Collaborative work is crucial in this type of project. It allows us to visualize and experience first-hand the advantages of this type of strategy, with a view to constant crop production.
Encouraging farmers to take action and to understand the benefits of working for conservation and restoration in their community contributes to agroforestry strategies generating different ecosystem benefits. These projects positively impact farmers and their families, increasing and diversifying their economic income and, in turn, restoring the forest.