Forest Development, top priority in Cuba
By: Mercy Ramos
Forests are the lungs of the earth. Therefore it is paramount for any country to preserve them properly. For this reason for several years Cuba has been running the Canada-Cuba project “Development of Forestry in Cuba” with funding from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Forest development is fundamental in Cuba, not only for its economic relevance, but also for its role in the environment, as well as its influence from the economic and social standpoint, pointed out the project’s National Coordinator Dr. Juan A. Herrero, during an interview with Cubaplus.
The project was designed to be in force until 2015 with a three million CAD budget and has been positively assessed by both the Cubans and Canadians for excellent results achieved and expected.
The project, through its three main components, ecological, economic and social, makes a modest but important contribution to Cuba’s National Forest Programme (NFP). One of the latter’s main goals is to have 29% of the island covered by forest and development and diversification of the forestry industry by 2015 - two of the 14 subprograms composing the NFP and which the project supports.
Dr. Herrero considered the role played by John Roper and Associates, the Canadian Executing Agency contracted by CIDA, to be key to the achievement of these results. Regarding ecology, the specialist stated that the main purpose is the sustainable management of forests, for which computer-based tools have been developed for forestry regulation, fighting forest fires and diminishing the negative impact caused by forest exploitation.
As part of the project, a reduced impact logging code was drafted, and plans were put in place to strengthen the San Lázaro ecological substation in the Zapata Swamp, the largest Cuban wetland that is in southern Matanzas Province.
In the economic area, Herrero said that a complete analysis of the national forestry industry was conducted so as to improve efficiency and diversification, which directly influences the rational use of forestry resources of the country as well as environment protection.
Intensively managed forest plantations are also part of the project, so as to produce timber in significant amounts in the short and medium term and reduce extraction pressure on natural forests. These plantations would include both exotic and native species.
The social component of the project is relevant, continued Herrero, as intensive work has been carried out among primary school students on the importance of forests. In addition, a gender strategy has been designed to improve conditions for greater participation of women in the forestry sector.
Last but not least, Herrero expressed satisfaction with the contribution of the Government of Canada, via CIDA, in the successful execution of the project and the training of the Cuban forestry sector to face the challenges arising in the sustainable management of forests and to increase the contribution from those ecosystems to the country’s ecology and economy. Herrero also stressed the special attention the Cuban government gives to reforestation despite being a country with few economic resources.