Reforestation Program Allows Expansion of Forest Areas in Cuba

Televisión Camagüey reports the successes of the Cuban national reforestation program, stressing that the program has increased local species and other economically important trees to more than 3.8 million hectares, while avoiding soil erosion.

Arnaldo Alvarez, a researcher with the Agricultural and Forest Research Institute, explains that the achievement is the result of governmental policies aimed at expanding timber and fruit tree plantations. Alvarez explained 20 percent of the total area was planted less than three years ago and noted that with the recent leasing of land, the number of farmers who are exploiting lands that were previously plagued with marabu bushes.

The marabu bush [see photo above], which arrived from Africa in the 19th century, is a weed that is considered an invasive species because it quickly overtakes agricultural land. Although Cubans were using these bushes to make charcoal for exportation, the land may be put to more productive use.

Forests are currently threatened by the effects of climate change entailing higher average temperatures, increase of the sea level and less raining. According to figures by the Cuban Ministry of Agriculture, the largest forest areas are located in the provinces of Pinar del Río, Camagüey, Holguín, Villa Clara and Guantanamo. Cuba has 26.7 percent of its area covered by forests and the goal is to reach 29.4 percent by 2015, according to the Ministry of Agriculture.

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