“If a Tree Falls: The Mozambican forest at risk” is a documentary film produced and directed by Mike and Sam Goldwater. The project was commissioned by IIED – the International Institute for Environment and Development exploring the validity and application of the United Nations Collaborative Program on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries abbreviated as REDD.
The documentary was shot in the Northern Mozambican province of Nampula. The film portrays an example for the tragedy of the commons where heavy Human pressure in the form of charcoal production and international commercial logging operations take toll on regions forests. The documentary gives snapshots from every stage of laborious forest exploitation from extraction to charcoal making and transportation. There are interviews from major stakeholders embedded in between stages.
The opening scenes show logging of cashew trees (Anacardium occidentale) native to northeastern Brazil. The Human pressure is so intense that even valuable food trees providing monetary income are harvested. Locals use forests for food, construction, fuel and medicine. Small local loggers are given permits that expire within a year providing no incentives to reforest. Extraction of the wood from the field causes more destruction. Hundreds of trees needed to be cut to open roads for heavy machinery causing soil compaction and erosion.
Trees are resilient to weather fluctuations and can withstand multi-year extremes which can be devastating for annual crop agriculture. Trees therefore are extremely important for food security. The following video shows an example for such resiliency through Moringa spp. (Brassicaceae), Baobap (Adansonia – Malvaceae) and Safou trees (Dacryodes edulis – Burseraceae).
There are a few local (Terra Forum of Nampula) and international non-governmental organizations working to bring change and stop destruction. One UK-based group is TreeAid. Another international group is PARTNERS which promotes sustainable landscaping and reduction of carbon emissions across many tropical countries in Central and South America, Africa and Asia. Globally carbon emissions from loss of forests forms a fifth of the total caused by Humans. Changing climate due to Human activities leads to large perturbations in weather events lowering agricultural yields.
One great example of a working conservation model is traditional community forests like the 48 Cantones of the Totonicapán, province in Guatemala where indigenous Maya Q’uiché government maintains a large protected area. A FAO document provides a good collection of examples of community interactions with protected areas around the world. Satisfying humans’ basic need for food puts enormous pressure on the environment. As of 2014, about one in nine people still suffers from chronic hunger, and about 162 million children under the age of five are stunted due to chronic malnutrition. Protected areas have an important role to play in rising to this challenge. At a global level, millions of people depend on protected areas as a means of subsistence. In some cases they benefit directly, through the consumption of food produced or obtained in or around protected areas. In others, employment and income provide indirect benefits which contribute to sustaining livelihoods.
In 2014, Brazil was able to reduce it’s deforestation rates by 70% below it’s 10 year average by incentives that started in year 2006. Farmers who reside in counties with high deforestation rates were denied credit by government. Soybean and beef buyers stopped buying products grown on land cleared after 2006. This incentive made a positive impact and deforesters were exluded from profiting. Brazil thus became the world leader in reducing CO2 emissions causing global warming by greenhouse effect.
Charcoal has been an extremely inefficient and destructive type of fuel. A rise in demand amplifies into a catastrophic exploitation of forests as demonstrated very vividly in this documentary. After the infamous introduction of Nile Perch for sport fishing in 1950s there was a rapid deforestation around the Lake Victoria. While native Cichlid fishes could be stored by sun drying, this oily fish required smoking in charcoal fire for storage.