The agricultural practices used within protected areas and buffer zones have varying degrees of impact upon the environmental quality which influences the ability of these areas to serve as quality habitat or important migration and dispersal pathways. The case studies below illustrate how conversion to ecological management in these areas may serve to:
Biodiversity features. The small Turkish town of Altintas (western Anatolia) harboured a marshy water body, Lake Aksaz, which supported thousands of resident and migratory birds, including the Great Bustard (Otis tarda), a bird locally called "Toy". As almost everywhere else in Europe, Toy is on the verge of extinction due to over-hunting, destruction of its natural habitat, disturbance of its breeding areas and poisoning from pesticides. The Toys' breeding biology is strictly dependent upon cereal agriculture areas, which it uses for nesting and feeding.
The problem. In 1956-1957, the lake was drained in order to expand the lands available for farming. A mass exodus of most of its birds followed, with only a few remaining, most notably the Toys. After the draining of the lake, local villagers (who traditionally relied on natural inputs for their integrated crop/livestock systems), started using synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. As a result, local wild animals, including the Toy, suffered drastic population decline.
Project interventions. In the early 1980s, Ibrahim Aksaz, a Kütahya municipality civil servant, farmer and then president of the Kütahya Hunters' Association, realized that the excessive hunting of Toys was threatening the birds' survival and so decided to take the initiative to protect it. For many years, Ibrahim travelled locally to speak to the area residents, along with government officials, municipalities, wildlife protection associations and NGOs, in order to make them aware of the problem. He steered clear of the press and reporters, however, fearing media attention could alert poachers to the Toys existence and lead to illegal hunting. He would show the birds only to those sincerely interested and whom he could trust would do the Toys no harm. Even today, the wildlife rangers do not show the Toys' nesting areas to visitors from outside the area or other persons unknown to them. Finally in 1993, with the help of various individuals, institutions and associations who were mobilized to the cause, particularly the Foundation to Promote and Develop Hunting and Wildlife, Ibrahim managed to convince the authorities to declare the area a "Protected Wildlife Refuge".
After succeeding in getting hunting banned in the area, Ibrahim's next major challenge was to translate this legal prohibition into a reality on the ground. In each of the small area villages, he selected one volunteer willing to help protect the birds. Known as wildlife rangers, these persons took on the responsibility for monitoring a given area and alerting the local police to any illegal hunters. To this end, Ibrahim gave each of the volunteers monetary support as well as a pair of binoculars and a ranger uniform, paid for out of his own money, with some help from the Foundation. In response to complaints from some area farmers that Toys were eating their crops, particularly chickpeas, Ibrahim compensated them for their losses, again from his own money.
In 2002, Ibrahim received a small grant from the Global Environmental Facility/Small Grants Programme to help support key activities such as: educating children, farmers and hunters; conducting ground-level studies of Toys; holding meetings with local officials; promoting bird-friendly organic farming methods, and creating small water resources in the area to help protect the Toys. The Turkish Bird Research Society (KAD) which is a research and conservation-oriented society established in 1998, got involved in the project. KAD was responsible for baseline Toy survey and assessing organic agriculture practices based on conservation biology principles, mainly with regards to impact on Toy.
Results. At present, the population of Toys in the Altintas area has risen to about 50 individuals. As no scientific headcount of the Toys has ever really been done, it is difficult to accurately gauge the success of the local protection campaign. But what can be stated with confidence is that, just 30 years ago, populations of Toys were widespread throughout Turkey. Now, as illegal hunting has been reduced to limited and isolated cases, just a few small-scale colonies of Toys remain. As the fight against hunting has largely succeeded, today the deaths of birds (and other animals) are mainly caused by local farmers' intensive use of pesticides and other chemicals as well as a lack of adequate water resources within the wildlife protection area. It should be noted that this territory includes agricultural areas as well as wild upland steppes. During the course of each year, nearly half of the agricultural areas lie fallow. Recently, and to exacerbate the problem, other small wetlands inside the Wildlife Refuge have been drained. This has forced the Toys to search for drinking water outside the protected area thus, exposing themselves to great danger. Unfortunately, the declaration of the protected wildlife refuge alone has not proved fully up to the task of conserving and protecting this endangered bird species.
In October 2002, cancer took Ibrahim to an untimely grave but since then, we who write this letter, his wife and children, have worked to faithfully carry on his fight to protect the birds he so loved. We, Ibrahim's family, believe that the farms bordering the refuge should cease their use of pesticides. We consider crucial both the protection of the Toy natural habitat and the conversion of agricultural lands to organic management, in order to stop pollution and prevent further destruction of wildlife in Altintas. On behalf of our late father Ibrahim, we issue a call to the international community to build on his long personal efforts by preserving Altintas' natural habitats and helping local farmers to convert to organic farming methods.
Biodiversity features. The Ebro delta is the second most important bird area in Spain and one of the most important wetlands in all of Europe with 7 700 ha currently protected as Natural Park, Special Protection Area (SPA) and a designated Ramsar site. A total of 11 000 ha, including the Natural Park, other wetlands and rice fields, will be included in the Natura 2000 Network of the European Union. Rice cultivation plays an important role in the ecology and the economy of most wetland areas and most of the ornithologic studies which have focused on rice fields deal with their role as foraging bird areas. The rice fields within the delta occupy 21 000 ha (65 percent of the surface area). These artificial wetlands which are not currently included in the SPA are the primary habitat supporting the biodiversity of this important area. Among the most important species are Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio porphyrio), the Purple Heron (Ardea purpurea), Whiskered Tern (Chldonias hybrida) and the Fartet (Lebias ibera), an endemic fish of the Western Mediterranean threatened of extinction. Favoured habitats are the coastal lagoons and its associated vegetation and the Mediterranean pastures, both considered priority in the Habitats Directive. A total of 330 species of birds have been observed in the delta, including 81 species that breed regularly within the delta and another 28 species which occasionally breed on site. Among breeding species, 50 are aquatic birds with 40 000 breeding pairs. In January of each year, a mean population of 180 000 birds may be found in the Ebro delta. The Ebro delta has international importance for breeding of at least 24 species and for migration and wintering of 13 species, and occasionally for 14 additional species (SEO/Birdlife, 1997).
Problems. Environmental monitoring of the Ebro delta has raised a number of concerns over the use of pesticides and synthetic fertilizers on the environmental quality of the area. At particular times of the year, pesticide concentration in the water is known to reach high enough levels to produce harmful effects on the flora and fauna of the drainage channels, lagoons, rivers and bays (Manosa, 1997). In addition the release of rice field drainage water into the surrounding wetlands has periodically resulted in the eutrophication of the lagoons in the Ebro delta.
Project interventions. In 1997, a SEO/BirdLife project entitled "Improvement of Habitat Management in the Special Protection Area of the Ebro Delta" was initiated in order to improve the conservation status of the system of rice fields, wetlands and lagoons of the Ebro delta. The project was designed to have both an experimental and demonstration elements intended to quantify the environmental advantages of the application of new cultivation practices in the rice fields of the delta, as well as to define habitat management models that enhance the conservation of the natural values of this Special Protection Area. The new models tested in the study were organic farming techniques and the application of the agri-environmental measures of the European Union. These two techniques were compared to the commonly used rice production techniques of the region which included the use of both compounded organophosphate herbicides and synthetic fertilizers. A total of 35 ha were devoted to the study in which data was gathered on the following: bird populations (i.e. abundance, position and activity); abundance of aquatic fauna populations including fish, amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates; vegetation dynamics, and changes to water quality, including measurements of nutrient and presence of pesticides. The economics of the application of the alternative cultivation practices were also analysed to determine economic feasibility of the adoption of such practices.
Results. The findings of the first two years of the study indicated that organic agriculture had the best environmental performance of the three systems, followed by the agri-environmental plots and the conventional plots. Over the two years of study, bird biomass in the organic plots (9.75 birds/10 ha) was consistently higher than both the agri-environmental plots (6.27) and conventional plots (3.35). Higher densities of several species (Egretta garzetta, Ardea cinerea, Bulbulcus ibis) were observed in the organic crop, with the exception of one species (Himantopus himantopus), probably due to lowest water level. Densities of invertebrates and fish were double those existing in the agri-environmental and control plots and water quality was higher in terms of lower levels of dissolved nutrients and the presence and concentration of residual pesticides.
Equally important is the project in demonstrating that the organic rice farming is technically and economically feasible. Though production cost was determined to be 20 percent greater than the conventional production costs due to labour inputs and lower yields, the transitional and organic rice sold at a price double of that of the conventional rice (Ibanez, 1999). As a consequence of the project success, SEO/BirdLife decided to create a company with the objective of producing and marketing organic rice, as well as to promote education and research activities. The project has also purschased 60 ha of rice fields (16 ha of which have been reverted to natural wetlands and the rest are being devoted to organic rice farming), which are now Ornithological Reserves of SEO/BirdLife, and which are included in the Special Protection Area of the Ebro delta by the Catalan Government.
Biodiversity features. The Talamanca-Caribbean Biological Corridor, founded in 1992, covers 2 800 km2 of southeastern Costa Rica and is part of the greater Meso-American Biological Corridor. This area contains over 90 percent of the Costa Rican floral diversity with: more than 10 000 species of flowering plants (including roughly 1 000 orchid species); over 4 000 species on non-vascular plants (including nearly 1 000 of the 1 300 species of ferns); 350 species of birds (including 15 endemic species); 59 mammal species (13 endemic); 51 reptiles (10 endemic) and 43 species of amphibians (Nature Conservancy, 1997). Although 11 percent of land area in Costa Rica is currently under protection, it is estimated that the rate of biodiversity loss is 3.2 percent per year (Reitsma et al., 2001).
Cacao (Theobroma cacao) in Costa Rica is one of the most important crops. It covers more than 4 000 ha, of which 3 000 ha are grown under a shade canopy. Since the majority of the mid- and over-stories of the forest are left untouched except for some thinning, the rustic cacao farm is structurally diverse and expected to harbour a vast array of secondary plant and animal diversity such lianas, epiphytes, mosses, lichens, insects, herpetofauna and birds. Examples of natural rainforest trees that are left standing include: cachà (Pithecelobium pseudotamarindus), gavilàn (Pentaclethra macroloba), caobilla (Guarea spp.), cedro amargo (Cedrela odorata), higuera (Ficus spp.), guácimo colorado (Luehea seemannii) and ceiba (Ceiba pentandra) (Parrish et al., 1999).
The problem. The Talamanca corridor area boasts three national parks, a large wildlife management reserve and five indigenous reserves throughout its range, which are relatively isolated from each other due to exploitive agricultural lands in between them. Over 25 000 people live in and around the Corridor region, living off commercial and subsistence agriculture. In the 1970s, the decline of the world prices for cacao and the spread of a fungal disease (moniliasis) severely affected much of the small holder's cacao farms. As a result of the collapse of the cacao industry, the region's economy has declined, leaving the rapidly growing and largely indigenous population of Talamanca with some of the highest rates of poverty in the country. As a result, shade cacao plantations were abandoned, farms were sold to large developers, more forests was cleared to grow plantains and remnant forest trees were extracted for tropical hardwood lumber. The intensive use of pesticides in the commercial banana monocultures and more recently, in many subsistence production systems, has made Costa Rica one of the world highest pesticide's consumer. This intensive use of pesticides in Costa Rica has led to very high rates of pesticide poisoning among its population and poses a significant risk to the conservation of ecological diversity (Damiani, 2001).
Project interventions. In recognition of the fact that improved management of structurally complex cacao agroforestry systems can greatly enhance biodiversity in the Corridor and that organic management has the potential to meet economic needs while preserving forest remnants, a number of projects have been initiated. In 1997, Nature Conservancy and Asociaciòn (ANAI) started promoting shaded crop agro-ecosystems as a conservation management tool to protect the Corridor. ANAI supports educational farms where "campesinos" are trained to train native Indian communities on crop and biodiversity management in the tropical forest (Borrini-Feyerabend, 1997). ANAI also provided new varieties of cacao that were more resistant to the Moniglia fungus as well as advice on some additional shade and intercropped trees (e.g. Brasilian arazà fruit (Eugenia stipitata) and guanabana (Annona muricata) (Parrish et al., 1999). The Talamanca Small Farmers' Association (APPTA) was created in order to promote collective marketing of small organic farmers and to attract international donors. In 1998, the GEF-funded project "Biodiversity conservation in Cocoa Agroforestry" was carried in the buffer zones surrounding several protected areas in the Talamanca, Cahuita and Squirres cantons in order to improve biodiversity conservation and indigenous people livelihoods through changes in the design, management and use of cacao agroforestry farms (900 farms covering 1 500 ha), following organic principles for production and marketing (GEF, 2002).
Through contacts with foreign buyers, APPTA revived cacao production using traditional understory cropping patterns and organic agriculture practices, collective marketing, training and organizing an internal monitoring system. In addition to cacao, the organic agriculture programme is also helping farmers diversifying their production systems to include planting of coffee, blackberries, nutmeg, cinnamon, vegetables, ginger and chiefly bananas for home consumption and sale (Damiani, 2001). Additional incentives for farmers to grow biodiversity-friendly cacao include ecotourism, especially avitourism in cacao plantations: local communities are trained to identify birds and ecotourism packages include bird-watching, cacao harest experiences, local food and culture, raptor migration and forest reserve visits. In particular, farmers who committed themselves to biodiversity-friendly cacao criteria were added (by the ecotourism entity of the Corridor Commission) on the list of priority farms that could gain the benefit of avitourism visits to the region (Parrish et al., 1999).
Results. Studies evaluating the cropping patterns and soil fertility management strategies used by APPTA's farmers concluded that the use of complex polycultural cropping patterns has resulted in reduced rates of soil erosion, nutrient and pesticides leaching and incidence of pest and diseases. In 2000, over 1 000 APPTA members had obtained organic certification, which accounted for more that 2 000 ha of cacao and banana farms in the region. The region is now the largest supplier of certified organic cacao to North America. As a result of the price premium paid for certified organic products, incomes have raised and farmers are clearing much less forest in the higher elevations, leading to a reduction in habitat loss (Parrish et al., 1999; Reitsma et al, 2001).
Biotic surveys showed that shaded cacao agro-ecosystems contain structural characteristics of both forest and early successional habitats which harbour high species richness, surpassing that of forest. Surveys of bird communities found greater species diversity in managed cacao (144) than in forests (130) or than in abandoned cacao fields (131), likely due to the propensity of most migratory birds to utilize secondary habitats during the non-breeding period (Reitsma, 2001). The value of managed cacao habitats is also due to the fact that they are home to a number of at-risk bird species: of the 63 bird species of conservation concern encountered in the Talamanca habitats, 44, 41, 34 and 28 species are found in forest, managed cacao, abandoned cacao and wooded field, respectively. Data suggest that cacao has its greatest value when located near forest patches and that it may help enhance the size and health of protected areas when used as a buffer zone crop (Parrish et al., 1999). This suggests that organic cacao agro-forestry help to enhance the integrity of protected areas and the functional size of the narrow Talamanca Corridor.
APPTA has been a catalyzing element for community-based efforts, establishing a forum for debate that allows member organizations to voice their concerns, exchange experience and work together to find alternatives and solutions to their natural resources challenges. For example, the Association's Biodiversity Conservation Programme includes supporting local communities' efforts to secure payment for environmental services, promoting alternative approaches to environmental education in schools and supporting biodiversity protection activities (Solis Rivera et al., 2002).
Biodiversity characteristics. El Salvador is part of the Neotropical realm, with serious environmental degradation: only 2 percent of the original natural forest is still intact. The few patches of remaining natural areas (including Montane Forest, Pacific Dry Forest, Sierra Madre Moist Forest, Pine-Oak Forest) present high levels of biodiversity and a high degree of endemism, such as birds, beetles, salamanders, bats and orchids. A total of 509 species of birds are found in the country, of which 310 are Neotropical residents and 128 species are restricted to forest habitats. Of these, two species are considered threatened and 24 vulnerable at the global level. In addition, there are over 420 species of birds migrating from North America, many of which are considered at risk because of rapid disappearance of habitats in breeding and non-breeding areas: approximately 40 species of migratory birds that visit El Salvador are species of global concern.
Much of the El Salvador's remaining natural forests known to be critical to the conservation of biological diversity lie adjacent to coffee plantations, many of which maintain a diverse mixture of both cultivated trees and remnant forest species. Coffee is traditionally grown under a canopy of shade trees, which structural and floristic complexity confers local species biodiversity within the same (or higher) order of magnitude as undisturbed natural forests (Perfecto et al., 1996). Currently, 25 percent of the 196 000 ha of coffee plantations are shade coffee systems with a positive impact on biodiversity. These include traditional polycultures, whereby forest understory is replaced by coffee shrubs but the native forest canopy remains intact and commercial polycultures, whereby canopy shade trees are planted rather than remaining from the original forest. Surveys of coffee plantations and adjacent forests have shown the presence of: over 300 bird species, with many endemic and threatened birds (e.g. black hawk eagle, Spizaetus tyrannus); 31 mammal species, some of which being endangered (e.g. ocelot, cacomistle and Mexican porcupine); 26 reptile species; and 326 tree and bush species. Due to the species diversity supported by these shaded coffee plantations, such production systems effectively serve as both buffer zones and corridors linking two of the most biologically rich National Parks of the country: El Imposible and Los Volcanos. This corridor area (75 000 ha) is a strategic link in the regional Meso-American Biological Corridor (GEF, 2002b).
Problem. El Salvador has a limited natural resource base, is densely populated and coffee generates 30-50 percent of agricultural export earnings: 75 percent of the 20 000 coffee producers are small holders, working farms of less than 3 ha. In the late 1970s, the appearance of coffee leaf rust (Hamileia vastatrix) has led to replacing traditional coffee varieties (such as típica or bourbón) with varieties that responde well to synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. As a result, shade covers in coffee plantations were drastically reduced to a minimal diversity and density of canopy cover (30 percent of plantations) and to sun-tolerant coffee monocultures (40 percent of plantations). Forest clearing, coffee ecosystem simplification and intensive agricultural input use have inevitably resulted in decreased habitat quality and decreased species abundance and diversity. Given the small amount of land currently under protection, the extent of habitat fragmentation and the trend in shifting from shade to sun coffee plantations in El Salvador, the establishment of protected areas is not sufficient for conserving biological diversity. Restoring degraded lands and enhancing the habitat value of productive landscapes within the biological corridor are steps necessary for the preservation and enhancement of habitats important to both El Salvador's natural heritage and biodiversity of global significance.
Project interventions. A GEF project entitled "Promotion of Biodiversity Conservation within Coffee Landscapes" was initiated in 1998 to promote the maintain and enhance habitats within shade-coffee plantations in the biological corridor linking El Imposible and Los Volcanes protected areas. The project promotes organic and biodiversity-friendly coffee and is exploring opportunities for ecotourism, with a view to enhance rural livelihoods in the Apaneca mountain range.
Results: In 1996, there were some 4 900 hectares of certified organic coffee (Rice and Ward, 1996). However, not all organic coffee plantations have enough shade trees and organic standards do not contain measurable criteria for diversified shade cover. With GEF assistance, Salvanatura and the Rainforest Alliance are leading certification of ECO-OK coffee products, following specific biodiversity standards. Assessments of international markets indicate good opportunities for both certified organic and "biodiversity-friendly" coffees: several organic coffee companies offer "bird-friendly" coffee in USA. El Salvador having established infrastructure for extension and certification of organic coffee, the establishment of criteria for the creation of "bird-friendly" or "biodiversity-friendly" coffee has a good potential to build upon existing efforts.
Due to the reduced applications of agro-chemicals and the preservation of the forest canopy, there is a great potential for biodiversity conservation through the protection of wildlife habitats in the corridor dividing the two national parks. Although shade coffee yields are lower than in sun cultivated coffee, certified shade coffee is more profitable to farmers as it secures additional employment (due to greater labour demand), reduces incidence of pest and disease outbreak, and provides commodities such as firewood, fence posts, construction materials, fruits and medicinal plants. The development of ecotourism is expected to offer additional income and provides insurance against variations in coffee production and world prices (GEF, 2002b). With record declines in coffee prices at the farm gate, certified coffee increased income to small holders and local communities, demonstrating that owners of qualifying shade coffee plantations can be rewarded for the environmental services they provide (Rainforest Alliance, 2000).
Biodiversity characteristics. The Ba Be National Park (Bac Kan Province) and the Na Hang Nature Reserve (Tuyen Quang Province) contain some of the best examples of protected tropical limestone forests in Vietnam. At their closest point, these two protected areas are only a few kilometres apart, and they are ecologically very similar. These forests are known to shelter a large part of the least known population of the endemic and highly endangered Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey (Rhinopithecus avunculus), which was considered extinct until 1992. The Tainguen Civet (Viverra tainguensis), first described in 1997, and the little-known Owston's palm civet (Chrotogale owstoni) are other important species known to inhabit the forests of Ba Be and Na Hang. These forests also protect a large area of water catchment on the Gam river, which drains to the Red River and supplies water to thousands of people.
The problem. Although once widespread in Vietnam and Southeast China, the tropical limestone forest has been reduced to small and fragmented pockets, primarily due to the incidence of agriculture and land conversion. Other threats to biological diversity include timber exploitation, wildlife hunting, and the unsustainable harvest of minor forest products. Forest degradation depletes natural resources of great importance to local communities, including water quality and soil. Land-use planning for integrated nature conservation and socio-economic development is a relatively new concept in Vietnam. Closely associated with the objective of sustainable land use and biodiversity conservation is the need to harmonize community needs and expectations with the maintenance of local ecosystems.
Project interventions. In 1999, a Protected Area Resource Conservation project (PARC) was launched to reconcile socio-economic development and conservation needs in Ba Be and Na Hang. The strategy was based on four key programmes: conservation management; conservation awareness and ecotourism; community development; and resource use planning and forestry. The project identified a number of potential land uses on the basis of information collected through Participatory Rural Appraisals, Village Development Planning and agriculture and forestry experts and partners. This information was complemented with information generated by the project's Geographical Information System (GIS). Detailed land use and vegetation maps have been produced from digital data and stakeholder experiences, showing spatial links between human and natural land uses. In addition, common boundaries between lands used for agriculture, forestry and nature conservation have been defined to facilitate the enforcement of Government land-use policies and to support biodiversity conservation activities.
Results. Local community participation in protected area management, including involvement in the process of zoning core and buffer areas and increasing awareness of the rationale for conservation facilitated consensus on land management issues. It is hoped that this will lead to realistic decisions on the trade-offs between conservation and development. The GIS will assist in the decision-making process for conservation management interventions as well as in supporting long-term strategic planning for the protected areas and adjacent landscapes. In order to monitor project impact, and to assist protected area management, a biophysical, administrative, and socio-economic database is being put in place. For example, biological attributes such as forest cover are monitored to determine changes and opportunities for conservation. The impact of PARC project socio-economic development interventions is also being monitored, particularly in villages within and adjacent to the protected areas. An assessment of change against an established baseline is currently underway (summer 2002). The PARC Project is also collecting and updating biophysical, ecological, cultural and socio-economic data for collation within a specialized database monitoring system.
The problem. In the Solomon Islands, a dire national financial crisis has left timber by far the most important source of revenue and pressurized the Government to turn a blind eye to illegal logging. Besides natural resources degradation, indigenous forest owners were facing the threat of widespread industrial logging and the destruction of their communities.
Project interventions. In 1993, and at the request of indigenous forest owners, the Solomon Islands Development Trust, Greenpeace Australia-Pacific and the Imported Tropical Timber Group of New Zealand jointly launched an ecoforestry project. The project's objective was to strengthen the quality of village living through conservative and sustainable utilization of the nation's forest wealth. Since 1995, the ecoforestry programme has trained 56 land-owning groups and consistently provides extension support services and monitoring to eco-timber producers. The programme's marketing arm, Village Eco-Timber Exporters, links village producers to overseas customers and acts as a direct selling agent for trained eco-timber producers in the Solomon Islands. VETE was set up in 1996 to handle, grade, bundle and export the increasing volumes of eco-timbers. VETE has developed strong market relationships with New Zealand and Australian-based timber merchants who have agreed to pay a premium price on all eco-timbers sourced from well-managed indigenous forests. In its first three years of operation, VETE exported 1 800 cubic meters of freshly milled eco-timbers, which brought a total net profit of SBD$3.21 million (US$466 000) to the local communities.
Results. Although 1999-2002 was seen as the most difficult period in the nation's history due to the violent ethnic conflict on Guadalcanal, most eco-timber producers in other provinces increased their production volume by almost 80 percent and there was a steep increase in overall eco-timber production. Participating communities have been encouraged to build their own houses using timbers that do not meet export grade standards. This improves housing in their villages. Cash income from timber sales has also been used to develop other areas such as water supply and sanitation, transport, schools, health and home gardens, which is helping to raise the health and nutrition of villagers.
The most important benefit of the eco-forestry programme is the re-emergence of the traditional communal approach of villagers working together. "Better understanding and good relationships between members in the communities is increasingly harmonious," according to Geoffrey Dennis, of the Solomon Islands Development Trust Eco-forestry Unit. "This makes people to be more responsible for their own lives. Ecoforestry projects have been successful in providing an alternative solution to large-scale foreign-owned logging operations in the Solomon Islands and more people are becoming aware of the benefits ecoforestry provides."
The success of the Solomon Islands ecoforestry programme highlights the distinct advantages of small/medium-scale village enterprises that directly benefit the people, their community and their land. In contrast with large-scale industrial enterprises, small-scale enterprises tended to produce benefits for a majority of the people involved. While the immediate economic benefits are not always great, over a period of three to four years, families and villages are seeing an incremental and continuous trickle of benefits. With good management, they realize they can provide themselves with consistent income improvement. A major benefit reported by all people involved in these small-scale enterprises is a sense of advantage over people who sold their logging rights. They are highly aware of the need to retain their basic resources and what the loss of those resources might mean having seen the outcomes in logged villages.
At the consumer end of the market, the Solomon Islands eco-timber is of excellent quality (ideal for furniture and joinery) and has reputable "chain of custody" credentials. In fact, The Woodage is the first accredited Australian timber merchant to supply timber certified according to the Forest Stewardship Council guidelines. Eco-forestry certified products guarantee the authenticity of the original source of the timber and ensures that the timber comes from well-managed forests that meet agreed global standards.
In Italy, organic farmers in or near protected areas often supplement their income with ecotourism and environmental education activities. In the last ten years, 300 organic farms have been offering educational activities to school children or other groups. Three types of organic educational farms can be identified: open farms (where farmers offer on-farm tours to visitors, explaining the environmental rationale behind production activities); educational farms (visitors are involved in production and processing activities); school farms (green weeks are offered to engage visitors in educational activities, both on-farm and in neighbouring farms and education curricula cover agriculture, nature conservation and cultural issues). The national network of educational farms allows exchange of experience, common promotion, adherence to common basic requirements (a quality chart is signed by participating farmers) and development of common didactic tools (e.g. posters, leaflets)10. Two cases are presented below, describing the contribution of organic farm-related education and ecotourism to rural employment, maintenance of agricultural lands and threatened agricultural diversity and conservation of wildlife ecosystems.
Parco Rurale Alture di Polazzo. The Carso area is a peculiar calcareous mountain environment, surrounding the Trieste gulf and linking Italy to Slovenia. Historically, the area was devoted to pasture (cows and sheep). The Carso area was almost completely abandoned up to the 1970s because it was subjected to military use (the border to Yugoslavia, now Slovenia, is a few kilometres away). In the last 30 years, the area was further abandoned due to high economic competition of non-agricultural activities and management difficulties. Land abandonment allowed forest to occupy pasture areas, resulting in important losses of botanical species proper of pastures.
Now that military servitude has been removed, the area is gaining the interest of the tourism and agricultural sectors. For several decades, the Parco Rurale Alture di Polazzo was the only farm of the area. The farm is partially included in the Natural Reserve of Landa Carsica and there are several protected areas in the farm vicinity.
The farm of Parco Rurale manages 98 hectares of land, which include 18 km of hiking tracks. Walks inside the farm recall several historical memories, from the Venice Republic of the 1500s (that introduced sumac - Rhus L. - shrubs used for wool dying) to the first World War (pieces of weapons can be easily found).
The dry and bare Carsic land offers pasture to 20 cows (Pezzata Rossa breed), 96 sheep (Carsolina breed), 14 donkeys (including some Amiata breeds) and 15 beehives. All animals are reared together in order to optimize pasture use and keep weeds under control. In the past, different animal species grazed on the pasture in different times: cows, then sheep and lastly horses and donkeys. The now contemporary grazing creates more synergy. Furthermore, the organic extensive husbandry adopted allows animals to live much longer than in conventional systems: according to official records, the oldest Italian cow (20 years old) lives there.
Besides lamb and beef meat production, vegetables are grown in the valley for local consumption. The farm offers accommodation in eight rooms and a camping site: 10 000 tourists visit the farm annually, as well as 2 000 students that receive on-farm education, by the farmer's family. Didactic activities include farming operations (e.g. vegetable growing, honey production, animal keeping), nature observations (e.g. trekking to natural reserves, bird-watching) and history education (particularly on the World War I which locally implied long-lasting fighting). The kind of "informed" tourism offered by the farm appeals people sensitive to nature conservation and this, in turn, allows profitable farm activities.
The farm's positive contribution to the area biodiversity includes:
Organic Bergamot in the vicinity of Aspromonte National Park. The Bergamotto farm is located in Amendolea di Condofuri (Reggio Calabria Province), on the coastal hills bordering the Aspromonte National Park. This area is rich in history, including ancient Greek vestiges, and tourism activities strongly compete with agriculture, which is on the decline. Agricultural lands are replaced by unmanaged woodlands.
In the area, the main cultivations are olive trees and arable crops on steep slopes and vegetables and citrus groves on the flat valley bottom. The particularity of the citrus groves is bergamot: worldwide, only 2 000 hectares of Bergamot exist, all around the Reggio Calabria Province. Bergamot (Citrus aurantium var. bergamia) is a citrus of unclear origin: it may have come from the Middle East or have resulted from a mutation of oranges or lemons. Bergamot used to be important for essential oils extraction that was utilized in perfume production. In the last 20 years, however, essential oils have been replaced by synthetic substances, causing the substitution of many hectares of bergamot by other citrus crops (oranges or tangerines).
On the Bergamotto organic farm of 24 ha, almost 4 ha are devoted to bergamot growing, half of which have been renewed recently thanks to European Union (EU) funding. Currently, the produce is sold to the conventional perfume sector but a local group of organic bergamot producers intends to set up a specific processing facility in order to give a higher value to their products.
The re-valorization of bergamot and natural oils enhanced the role of organic agriculture in maintaining an ancient and disappearing crop and its protected area environment. The creation of trekking paths for tourists preserved these areas from becoming dumping sites and sustainable tourism-related activities enhanced rural people motivation for landscape quality and typical rural architecture.
The Bergamotto is also an eco-organic holiday farm and the farmer is involved in tourism activities. Acting as a guide, the farmer offers a wide range of opportunities that sensitize visitors to the local natural and cultural patrimony. Activities include trekking in the Aspromonte Park with accommodation in typical rural houses (masserie), testing and preparation of typical local food and participation to local cultural events. The Bergamotto farm induced, through its activities, the creation of a network of collaborating holiday farms, bed-and-breakfast and artisans. This is actively counter-balancing the trend of land and village abandonment.
6 Source: The Aksaz family, Altintas/Kutahya Turkey, pers. comm., 2003
7 Adapted from the Protected Area Resource Conservation project (PARC) of the Government of Vietnam/UNDP-Vietnam, 1999
8 Lawler, 2003
9 Information provided by Micheloni, Cristina, AIAB, 2003
10 A list of participating farms and more information on the activities can be found at: www.aiab.it/sitonuovo/