Sustainable Forest Plantations León
Nicaragua is one of the most deforested countries in Latin America. The project “Sustainable Forest Plantations” is located around the town of Leon, North-West of Nicaragua. Being the driest region of Nicaragua, Leon faces huge problems related to both deforestation and desertification. Due to a long history of intensified agriculture with cotton, sugarcane and peanut soil fertility is severely depleted. Combined with high inputs of pesticides, common to most monoculture cultivation, soil life is destroyed and water is polluted. Strong winds blow away the last fertile soil particles. This was one of the main reasons to start a smallholder reforestation program. The program is strongly supported by local governments, acknowledging the need to take action against desertification and temperature rise in the region.
The reforestation program started in 2011 with finance from the Municipality of Utrecht and LBSNN (Netherlands). Our local partner is Fundacion DIA, which is the implementing organization. Besides combatting desertification, the timber plantations will form an alternative source of income for the farmers. The project is linked to the carbon market; in 2014 the project obtained a GoldStandard certification.
Now the project is ready for upscaling. An additional 200 hectares has already been identified and mapped. To increase short term revenues for the farmer, an integration with been keeping (Apiculture) is made. The participating farmers will receive a number of hives which provide an additional source of income. The integrated approach of timber plantations with honey is a real competitor for the destructive monocultures in the region.
At present, 101 hectares of smallholder land has been reforested with 39 smallholder farmers. Another 67 ha. of conservation forest is planted in the national park ‘Cerro Negro’, contributing to the habitat connectivity of the volcano chain. The aim for the next years is an upscaling to at least 500 hectares.
Due to linkage with the carbon market, revenues will be generated by the sale of carbon credits. Average carbon sequestration is about 4.3 tCO2 ha-1 year-1 during the 30 years crediting period, generating an average of 3 salable carbon credits ha-1 year-1 . The timber species used in the project are high values species (e.g. Mahogany), which will generate considerable mid and long term revenues for the farmer (respectively 15 and 30 years). Farmer revenues from timber, discounted over 30 years, are conservatively estimated to be around USD 1,056 ha-1 year-1, which is considerably higher than current prices farmers fetch for cultivating cash crops such as cotton or peanut (at present only USD 250-300 ha-1 year-1). Honey production alters farmer income by another 300 USD year-1.
As such, timber-honey model an interesting and attractive socio-economic proposition to smallholder farmers in the region.