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Tree Planting

From: RRosenhek@aol.com

2/14/99

Greetings,

My name is Ruth Rosenhek and I'm a Board member of the Dharma Gaia Trust Fund which is a group that seeks to unite buddhism and ecology by funding engage buddhists working on environmental protection and restoration projects in developing countries.

Recently, we received a project proposal to assist Tibetan women to run tree nurseries. As you'll see this proposal is quite compelling and we would like to help locate possible funding sources and interested people.

One idea is to submit it to different Free Tibet listservs and individuals. I'm wondering if you have a list of cyber addresses for either of these.

Below I've appended the draft proposal. Feel free to circulate it as you wish.

Thanks for any assistance you can offer in this matter.

for the Earth,

Ruth Rosenhek

Rainforest Information Centre: http://forests.org/ric/

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Abstract

Because of recent decisions by the Chinese government, it's anticipated that Tibetan areas of western Sichuan will experience a boom in tree-planting. This program will train six Tibetan farmers in the operation of small, community-based tree nurseries. The trees they grow will be used in replanting of local forests, thus encouraging sustainable forestry practices as well as bringing economic benefit to local communities.

Background

Deforestation on the Tibetan plateau has been highlighted by reports of devastating floods in central and eastern China during the summer of 1999. Recognizing the serious environmental cost of continued timber harvest, the Chinese government recently enacted a ban on logging in western Sichuan, southern Qinghai, and eastern Tibet Autonomous Region, regions where an estimated half of original forest reserves have already been cut.

Closing down the timber industry--long western Sichuans biggest money-earning activity--is expected to have devastating consequences for Tibetan communities whose members were employed as wood-cutters, loaders, and drivers, not to mention the myriad of service industries that were fueled by logging. In its place will arise a mini-boom in government funded reforestation, but this is expected to employ only one-third of the full-time workers who formerly cut down trees. Ethnic Chinese, because of their greater access to training, connections, and capital, are likely to snap up these few opportunities ahead of Tibetans, thus exacerbating the economic disparity between the two groups.

Economics of the Tree Trade

At present, seedlings are grown by a number of government-established nurseries scattered at various locations. Having received land grants decades ago, the nurseries now run as businesses without government subsidy. In expectation of the coming boom, many of them are now planning expansion. However, seedlings need four years of growth in the nursery before they are ready to be moved to the mountains, so there will be a four year delay before current expansions result in new trees.

Most seedlings are purchased by government units, at a price set by the market and negotiated between grower and buyer. Local forestry departments buy seedlings for their own planting programs. Every government office is compelled by law to buy seedlings, which its workers put into the ground annually on a date in April that is designiated as nationa tree-planting day. In addition, private people buy seedlings to comply with laws requiring planting to make good trees taken for local building projects.

In coming years, the biggest market by far will be the logging companies, which are expected to shift their operations entirely out of harvest an into planting. Most likely, there will be a transient boom while governmen funds are poured into reforestation, followed by a gradual relaxation of the logging ban accompanied by movement toward sustainable forestry practices in which cutting and planting are approximately equal.

A Piece of the Action for Tibetans

As the traditional inhabitants of forested regions, Tibetans are a natural choice for running tree nurseries. However, they are inhibited by lack of skills, insufficient capital, and by a conservative mindset that tends to shun risky, unconventional ventures. Moreover, nursery management has a long lead-time--four years--before any profit can come out of it. As a result, the seedling industry is currently dominated by Chinese whose culture is more entrepeneurial.

We propose to give Tibetans a leg up, by providing training for them in nursery practices, and loans to start their small businesses. Nurseries can then be started in villages close to the forests where the trees will ultimately be transplanted. Besides being advantageous for the growers themselves, the program will encourage sustainable forestry because people will be more likely to comply with planting laws if they can buy seedlings from their neighbors.

Training Program

The training requires seven months, from late March to late September. Mr. Zhang Heping, manager of a nursery in Kangding, has already agreed to take on six students, who will also do work for him. The students will be selected from several small communities less than half a days travel away, most probably Jiagenba, Jiaobalou, and Tagong. They will be chosen on the basis of desire to undertake this business, educational background, access to suitable land, and personal references. In a traditional family, women customarily do the bulk of farmwork, therefore we anticipate that most of the students will be women aged between 18 and 25. They will live on the nursery grounds, and be paid a stipend to cover living and travel expenses. One experienced nursery worker will be their paid teacher.

Six months is an adequate training period to understand most aspects of growing trees, however pest management cannot be learned well in such a short time. Therefore arrangements will be made for continued mentoring of the students after they start their own nurseries.

The Time Factor

As existing nurseries gear up for expansion, the window of opportunity for small-scale entrepeneurs is a narrow one. We sincerely hope that this program can be funded by Feb. 15, otherwise students cannot be selected in time to start their training in March. If training does not begin in March, then the program must slip a whole year, with adverse consquences to its ultimate success.

Agreements and Incentives

Students will sign contacts stipulating their promise to start nurseries after the training is completed. The nursery manager, Mr. Zhang, will also be under contract to provide good training, and not to merely exploit the students for his own business advantage. We may also design a system of economic incentives so that he has a stake in the students success. Kham Aid Foundation personnel resident in Kangding will monitor the program throughout. The terms of loan repayment will be worked out so that they are fair and reasonable.

Conclusions

We at KAF have been trying to devise economic development programs for Tibetans, and have been challenged by the lack of skills and capital of people in Kham, and by their inate conservatism. This program is a rare opportunity because it well matches supply with demand, and skills with opportunities. Furthermore, it will encourage sustainable stewardship of Tibets natural resources, is in accord with governments policies, and allows people to stay on their own land and continue their traditional way of life. We sincerely hope you will consider it for support.

Kham Aid Foundation, Pamela Logan, President. tel 626 398-6714 fax 213 947-1048 http://www.khamaid.org (A fuller copy of this proposal is available here). Do you want to be on our e-mailing list? Let me know.


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