The report published online on 24 March, notes that in DPR Korea, a bottom-up participatory process of developing locally appropriate agroforestry has been a revelation to many and is helping to reverse the chronic food shortages and land degradation of the 1990s.
Xu Jian Chu, lead author of the report and head of the East Asia Node of the World Agroforestry Centre says that, “The emergence of agroforestry as a way of managing sloping land highlights how food technology innovations can take root once social and institutional constraints to land access have been reduced.”
In the 1990s, DPR Korea suffered from food and energy shortages and large-scale deforestation, triggered by a combination of the withdrawal of favourable trade conditions with the former Soviet Union and the conversion of forested sloping land to agricultural uses, leading to widespread soil erosion and landslides.
Additionally, DPR Korea faces the challenge of extreme weather conditions: it experiences one or two typhoons each year leading to flash floods all of which compromised the government’s ability to supply food for rural people. Despite the government implementation of more forest policy restrictions to reduce the illegal cutting and steep slope farming, the country’s forest cover reduced by 25%. (DPR Korea’s forest cover decreased from 8.20 million hectare in 1990 to 6.19 million hectare in 2005).
Participatory approaches in agroforestry technologies
In order to reverse degradation, increases yields and generate more income from mountains and hills, in the early 2000s, the Ministry of Land and Environmental Protection introduced the Sloping Land Management project.
The project aimed to use innovative agroforestry technologies to provide food, fodder and other products for farmers while restoring degraded land. Working through partners, the project helped establish user groups, design agroforestry systems and implement agroforestry trials with monitoring and evaluation occurring at all levels.
By 2011, several hundred sloping-land user groups—made up primarily of retirees and housewives who were mostly affected by the lack of access to public food distribution —were operating throughout the country. The user groups obtained rights-to-use, rights-to-harvest and rights-to-plan or access to sloping lands for tree products and food. All three rights were novel in DPR Korea and jointly contributed to the success of the programme, together with active research support from agricultural and forestry scientists.
The user groups jointly participated with scientists in matrix scoring-selection of agroforestry species and designing of agroforestry trials. Worthy of note is that the user groups implemented these trials with no financial assistance from their labour.
“We wanted the groups to continue to be self-supporting if trials proved successful. We only provided technical support on a regular basis,” says Xu Jian Chu. The results were that the tree cover on the lands controlled by the user groups increased and land productivity is now substantially higher.
“Despite these improvements, this participatory agroforestry approach had never been analysed,” said Xu.
However in 2011, a national workshop was held to look at the lessons learned from the project. During the event, participants recommended nine practices that were beneficial to the Sloping Land Management project. These include country-level agroforestry demonstration, innovations in double cropping annual food crops with non-competitive annual foods or high timber, use of geographic information technology and agroforestry education.
Participants at the workshop concluded that transformation of lives and landscapes through agroforestry was only possible where ecological, economic, social and institutional policies combine to support innovations. And indeed in DPR Korea, agroforestry is influencing policy planning through policy feedback from the Sloping Land Management pilots and summaries from national workshops such as the 2011 workshop.
Broad support for agroforestry practices has now emerged within the Ministry of Land and Environmental Protection as well as a number of universities and research centres. Agroforestry is now increasingly recognized in DPR Korea as a viable alternative for sloping land management. Agroforestry supports the country’s priorities in environmental protection, food security and livelihoods.
The paper recommends that in the future, agroforestry could also be applied to certain land degradation problems on flatland cooperative farms. However, expanding successful programmes will depend on the continued opening of land-use rights beyond sloping land for local people.
It is critical that information and knowledge of best practices continue to reach policymakers so that they can understand the issues and create more effective policies. Further development will require increased engagement with agricultural and horticultural agencies, while the social dimensions of participatory agroforestry continue to provide rich learning.
You can access the document here: DOI 10.1007/s10457-012-9501-0.
The Sloping Land Management project together with agroforestry development activities was financially supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Swiss Cooperation Office, DPR Korea. Additional support came from the CGIAR Research Programme, ‘Forests, Trees and Agroforestry: Livelihoods, Landscapes and Governance’. The programme aims to enhance management and use of forests, agroforestry and tree genetic resources across the landscape from forests to farms. The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) leads the collaborative programme in partnership with Bioversity International, the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) and the World Agroforestry Centre.
|World Agroforestry Centre. All Rights Reserved. Copyright & Disclaimer|