Sunday, May 20, 2012

Reforestation brings island back to life | Look At Vietnam

Reforestation brings island back to life

May 21, 2012
LookAtVietnam – Soil erosion has become rampant in most river banks and river islands in southern Vietnam, with the exception of Long Hoa Island in Tra Vinh Province in the Mekong Delta.
Farmer Tran Huu Chi, 55, pioneers in reforestation on river island to protect it from soil erosion. (Photo: Tuoi Tre)
Locals on the islands have discovered an ancient method to prevent erosion: reforestation. Trees surrounding an island help expand it gradually by creating a flooded alluvial plain, which then becomes a fishing area for locals to earn their living thanks to an abundant amount of sea products such as fish and shellfish.
Tran Huu Chi, 55, a farmer living on Long Hoa Island in Chau Thanh District, pointed towards a forest growing up from the flooded alluvial plain surrounding the island and said, “We farmers joined hands to cultivate indigenous trees to create that forest.”
“Thanks to the forest, we no longer lose land to soil erosion. It has even helped expand our island by some ten kilometers, a new area which has become a habitat for fish and shellfish.
“The alluvial plain has become the food pot for our farmers,” Chi said, implying that it is a means of living thanks to the abundant amount of sea products located there.
All river islands, river banks and alluvial plains in the Mekong Delta were once completely covered with aboriginal plants such as mangroves and nipa, or a kind of coconut tree that grew in flooded sites. Soil erosion only appeared when the forests were chopped down.
Over ten years ago, Long Hoa Island suffered from soil erosion, Chi said. It worsened following a storm in 1997. Numerous houses fell into the river. Even Chi’s house, which is located over a hundred meters from the river’s edge, was affected, said Nguyen Van Nhanh – deputy chairman of Long Hoa Commune’s People’s Committee.
Once, when Chi rowed his small boat to adjacent islands to catch fish and crab, he recognized that the islands with trees surrounding them weren’t suffering from erosion, and that they were even expanding. Chi began planting trees and one year later, soil erosion had almost stopped.
Other farmers worked with him to nurture trees around the island and it became a green forest as it is now, Chi shared.
A few years after beginning the reforestation, a flooded alluvial plain has formed, acting as a door step of the island opening towards the river. Numerous kinds of sea creatures such as fish, shrimp and shellfish grow there, making the area fishing field where locals earn their living.
“From bare land suffering severe soil erosion, Chi has become a pioneer in planting trees to protect his land and other locals have imitated his successful model,” said Long Hoa’s People’s Committee chairman, Le Van Tri.
Not only does Chi protect land, but he has even dug ponds to keep shrimp in, and his business gives him a net profit of over VND100 million every shrimp season.
“Now, I am protected from both erosion and poverty,” said Chi. “Reforestation is the eternal rule. We just follow the natural rules to survive.”
VietNamNet/Tuoi Tre
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