By Lin Smith AIR: A Leader in Creating Renewable Resources
December 28, 2013—- In November, AIR, the Alliance for International Reforestation was chosen, along with 17 others, by the United Nations, as a project that is a “beacon of hope” for our planet, (also see, The Bamboo Bike, December 16). These activities, known as the Lighthouse Activities, “Shine a light on the work being done throughout the world to build a low-carbon, resource efficient world,” stated Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the U.N. Convention on Climate Change. Not only are these activities tackling climate change, they are also generating health, financial and social benefits in the communities where they take place. “They are true beacons of hope–addressing the biggest challenge of our time.” UN Secretary-General Ban-Ke Moon said, ” These activities are helping people around the world respond to climate change.” AIR was founded in 1992 by Political Science Professor, Anne Hallum, after a visit to Guatemala where she witnessed the far-reaching effects of the loss of forest. AIR’s basic model, used since 1993, is a 5 year training program in agriculture and forestry for farmers and their children, creating tree nurseries and providing fuel-efficient wood stoves. The belief is that training local people in the community is the key to success. AIR has trained over 2,000 farmers, constructed over 800 fuel-efficient stoves, established hundreds of tree nurseries and planted over 3.7 million trees! Preventing Mud Slides Besides tackling climate change, the AIR program works to prevent mudslides. Trees have been cut down, not only for firewood, but to make room for crops, “And without realizing it, they’ve taken away their protection. Where the rainforest use to be, it is now an open space for the mud to come right on through,” said Hallum, “The farms that resulted from the clearing of the rainforest were not sustainable, because rainfall on the deforested slopes caused erosion.” Mudslides have wiped out villages and have caused many deaths in Central America. When Hallum studied the area in 1993, she discovered tree varieties that could be sustained in the environment, helping to combat poverty and cutting down on erosion. The trees replanted could provide fruit, coffee, food and medicinal herbs. Pine trees replanted on the high, steep slopes have helped to prevent mudslides, as they have long tap roots that can extend 20 feet below the surface of the land. A farmer, Jose Avelino Boc, stated, ” We learned the hard way that without trees, we are at risk, and our land is at risk.” AIR has replaced approximately 800 household open fires used for cooking, with fuel efficient stoves. The traditional household fires were inefficient and wasted large quantities of wood, plus emitted smoke throughout the houses, which have had severe health consequences for the people of Guatemala. The fuel efficient stoves are conserving 750 tons of wood a year and use bricks, cement, chimney stacks, cast iron and concrete blocks that are constructed in Central America, providing jobs as a secondary benefit to reforestation and using less wood. Reforestation and the use of less wood gives the land of Guatemala a chance to recover from the devastation of cutting down so many acres of trees for farmland and firewood. Do All You Can The Alliance for International Reforestation has created a positive change for the environment of Guatemala and our planet. It’s another force working towards ending global warming, one step at a time! “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can”… Some attribute this quote to John Wesley, others say it has never been found in his writings. The important fact is, it applies to today’s world and what needs to happen to save our planet. It’s the mantra for groups such as AIR!
- Kids Star in YouTube Video on Deforestation – Young Adults Produce Video for GigatonGifts (newscanada-plus.com)
- DENR: Striking a balance in the face of climate change (businessmirror.com.ph)
- M&S Funding Clean Cook Stoves in Bangladesh as Part of UNICEF’s New Carbon Offset Project (sustainablelifemedia.com)
- Spreading the seeds of conservation (businessmirror.com.ph)
- Ban Ki-moon Visits Reforestation Project in Lima (peruviantimes.com)