Deforestation is actively destroying about 13 million hectares (32 million acres) of forest every year. The biggest, most valuable trees are logged for timber. Often the smaller, less valuable trees are left remaining… for a while. Then farmers come along and clear the land for field crops such as soybeans, corn and cassava, because the remaining scrub forest doesn’t have much commercial value. But what if the deforestation process stopped after the large trees were cut? You could use the smaller remaining trees to help regrow a forest more valuable than timber – a food forest that continually produces abundant food indefinitely for generations to come without need for cultivation, chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.
For lack of a better term I’m calling this a ‘transition forest garden’ or ‘transition food forest’. Instead of starting with bare ground, the basic idea is to halt deforestation, save the remaining trees and use them to shade and protect new food producing trees. Gradually introduce fruit and nuts trees and other beneficial plants such as bamboo and medicinal trees. Land like this is abundant worldwide. In our area it’s cheap enough even poor people can afford it.
To help visualize what I’m talking about, take a look at our current forest garden. I believe a forest garden like this could be grown in 2-3 years with far less effort and less cost than the method we used. If you have suggestions for this project, please email me or leave a comment below.
Ideas under consideration for 1 hectare (108,000 sq. ft. = area 328’x328’): drill a well and build a pump house; plant a living fence around the perimeter to keep out neighbor’s cattle (build at least one gate for access); grind up some of the least desirable trees for wood chip mulch; save nitrogen fixing trees and any other useful trees; run pigs through the area to fertilize the soil; start a giant compost pile using local organic matter; make ‘hugelkulture swales’ to slow runoff; start planting some new fruit trees right before the rainy season and after the pigs are removed; cover the area with nitrogen fixing groundcovers and straw and wood chips to suppress the weeds; run drip irrigation to each new tree after the rainy season; add compost around new trees and make a new compost pile each year; gradually replace lesser value trees with more beneficial trees and plants over the next 2-3 years as time and finances allow.