Analog Forestry: sustainable food production with a feminist perspective
In times of ecosystem degradation, deforestation and climate change, rural communities often struggle to make a living in a healthy and autonomous way. One of the solutions to counter their problems is Analog Forestry, a sustainable practice promoted by many of Both ENDS's partners. We spoke to Carolina Sorzano Lopez*, Analog Forestry trainer from Colombia for the International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN), and Luz Marina Valle*, a local Analog Forestry promotora in her community of El Jocote in Northern Nicaragua, to explain to us the advantages of Analog Forestry.
What is Analog Forestry and what are its advantages?
Carolina: It is a way of restoring forests. In conservation, normally you think only of conservation of nature, but in Analog Forestry we also take people and their economic well-being into account. An analog forest looks like a natural forest, but with useful species that provide food or income to the community.
Luz: An Analog Forest has many functions: restoration, but also production and climate change mitigation. Now that in Nicaragua there is little native forest left, due to deforestation and large monoculture plantations, this is extra important.
Carolina: Indeed, in many places soils are degraded by monoculture production. With Analog Forestry we can restore the soils which is essential to get healthy and resilient ecosystems that have a natural resistance to plagues, droughts and other threats. Diversification of crops means a farmer decreases risks and also needs less external input (like chemicals) to counter threats.
Luz: This is what now happens in my community. Due to drought, many of my neighbours haven't been able to harvest their grains yet and won't be able to pay back their credits they had to take to be able to sow in spring time. Whereas I have no such problems at my parcel, I can still harvest because of the great diversity of species I grow.
How did you start to work with Analog Forestry?
Carolina: I was working as a biologist in the environmental institutions of the Colombian government, but I wanted to focus more on serving local communities and their needs. Then, at a training in Bolivia I met a member of the IAFN. This turned out to be exactly what I was looking for.
Luz: Analog Forestry is part of the agroecological model I already applied to my parcel. So when we were invited in 2019 to join a training of IAFN in Costa Rica together with some colleagues of FEM I was happy to go. This was organised as part of the GAGGA programme. We left the training not only with a lot of theoretical knowledge, but also with a design for our own Analog Forest on our own pieces of land.
When can Analog Forestry be applied?
Carolina: It is adaptable to different situations. For example, big or small, from 5 or 6 hectares to less than 1: it is always possible, although in the small ones you have to adapt more and see which species are possible in such a small space. It also depends on the goal one has, for example is it only for feeding their own family or also bringing products to the market?
Luz: I have a parcel of 0,5 manzana (about 1/3 ha) on which I was already working within the agroecological model. Analog Forestry complements this. Two years after the training, I already can harvest cafe, banana, maracuja, sunflowers, different spices and vegetables, and next year I'll have avocado too.
But, as Carolina says: many people want to earn money too, so next year I'll also experiment with some cash crops: mais and beans, for example. I want to show my community members what's possible with Analog Forestry.
How does Analog Forestry improve access to good and healthy food for all?
Carolina: Analog Forestry contributes to food sovereignty: communities produce more different food products themselves and don't need to buy everything. Also they can produce more healthy food, have decisive power about what they sow and eat and how it has been produced.
Especially in the pandemic, we see how important this food sovereignty is. In the cities, it became more difficult to obtain food while rural communities could sustain themselves.
Luz: Indeed, Analog Forests provide us with healthy and diverse food, and more: medicines, wood, even water. But is also promotes the sharing of ancestral knowledge, it connects people and is a powerful tool against gender unequality. It is part of the feminist fight.
What is feminist about Analog Forestry?
Luz: In the conventional agrarian production system, women are no more than labour force, an object to be used. Analog Forestry for us is an opportunity to also get involved in the production of healthy food and to regain ownerwhip over our own alimentation and health. It gives us more autonomy.
But it is not only technical. Analog Forestry – when it is being applied with a feminist perspective – can be part of the continuous feminist fight for land rights and the commons. Land is a common good that gives us power and that we need to live in dignity, so we need to fight for land titles, for access to and control over land. We have to negotiate in our families, which is possible for women through a process of empowerment.
What are the results so far of the trainings for the promotors and how will you advance in the future?
Carolina: The group of women I work with, four promotoras from Honduras, so far are sowing and learning on their parcels. But the most effect I see is in the women: they are more secure when they speak, they share more, and have a bigger capacity of analysing and solving problems. They are now learning how to work with their communities and pass on their knowledge.
Luz: Indeed, I want to be an example for other women and other families, show them that more sustainable production is possible. I want to use my forest as a demonstration site, a place to learn and exchange experiences. I want to motivate other women, share my knowledge. Promote food security and sovereignty, the use of medicinal plants, and restore water sources. I hope other families in my communities will join me and start their own Analog Forest.
Carolina: Analog Forestry is a way for communities to live in dignity. They will not be rich in economical terms, but rich in having a healthy environment (water, soils, vegetation), rich in well-being, physically and economically. It is a slow process but I'm sure this is the way to go forward!
Carolina Sorzano Lopez is a biologist from Colombia. Before starting her work as a trainer in Analog Forestry for the International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN), she worked for the environmental institutions of the Colombian government. Luz Marina Valle is a feminist farmer, trained as an engineer in agricultural and cooperative management. She is a member of the Fundacion Entre Mujeres (FEM) and a local promotor of Analog Forestry in her community.
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