Research reports have indicated small-scale farming utilizing good agricultural practices in Zambia with the use of the latest hybrid seeds for maize, along with improving health on neutral soils, help reduce deforestation and tackle climate change. Researchers at Cornell University, New York, the United States, reported this in Global Environmental Change recently.
The nexus between planting improved varieties of seeds and climate, deforestation mitigation if brought to the fore through higher productivity per hectare of land, which minimizes expansion of cultivated hectares. Minimisation of cultivated hectares implies forest cover preservation, which also reduces the negative impacts of global warming. Governments around the globe are looking at ways to reduce deforestation and environmental degradation.
“If we can produce more food per hectare with better seeds, and by improving soil health,” Pelletier said, “we can protect those much-needed forests.”
“Scientists around the world are trying to reduce rapid deforestation and food insecurity, especially in the tropics,” said Johanne Pelletier, a postdoctoral researcher in the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and the paper’s lead author.
“Smallholder farmers are a cornerstone of food security in the world,” Pelletier said. “The main driver of deforestation is agricultural expansion in Africa, South America and Asia. It is important to learn what works at improving food security and keeping forests standing.”
Pelletier conducted this work as part of the NatureNet Science Fellows Programme, a joint research project funded by the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability and The Nature Conservancy. She works in the research group led by Chris Barrett, the Stephen B. and Janice G. Ashley Professor at Dyson.
“There are synergies to using a modern hybrid seed and good agronomic techniques to maintain healthy soils with stopping the degradation of tropical forests and halting climate change,” said Barrett, the paper’s senior author.
“Promoting improved maize seed uptake among smallholder farmers – which Zambia and many other governments do – is not only boosting yield, but it is reducing pressure on large forests,” Barrett said. “This is good news.”
Zambia has about 44 million hectares of forests that are dominated by the Miombo Woodland, an ecological region that is home to a diverse population of wildlife. The total mass of the forests has substantially dwindled since 2000: Zambia lost more than 1.3 million forested hectares between 2000 and 2012, which is referenced in the paper. A hectare is approximately 2.5 acres.