Faced with drought and environmental damage, they propose to grow organic coffee and cocoa in buffer zones

Establishing organic agroforestry systems in all the buffer zones of the protected areas where agriculture is produced is the best alternative to counteract the damage caused in these spaces by human activities. and to reduce extreme episodes of drought such as the one currently suffered by the Dominican Republic.

The environmentalist Olmedo León, in charge of Environmental Education of the Cibao Ecological Society (Soeci), makes this proposal to the authorities during his participation in the Listín Diario Green Meeting. León explains that for many years it has been argued that drought is not necessarily due to a lack of rainfall, and that the real problem of the dry season that the country is currently experiencing is due to the deterioration of the basins. “The drought must be seen from another perspective. If the basins are duly strengthened, with infiltration capacity, the fact that it lasts without rain for three to four months does not affect us so much”, says the environmental activist. With deteriorated basins, on the other hand, floods occur that suddenly release the water and this problem does require immediate action on the part of the authorities, “because the dry periods are already here, but they are getting longer.”

“Currently we have Santiago Rodríguez with 17 aqueducts without operation, due to lack of water; two aqueducts operating at 50 percent due to lack of water, in a province that has water. Where is the planning?” asks León. The university professor with a master’s degree in Environmental Management comments that, in recent years, governments have stubbornly considered the conclusions of forums that indicate that the capacity to store more water must be increased to guarantee supply because only 8 is being stored percent of rainfall. “However, What do we do with the dams if the river has no water, where is it going to fill it from? What to do? Strengthen the basins”, reply. León, who held the presidency of Soeci in the periods 1996-1997 and 1999-2001, understands that the best action proposal that any government can make is to strengthen the capacity of the basins with organic agroforestry projects, not monocultures. “We are talking about coffee, cocoa, shade projects. And if they are organic, agrochemicals and pesticides that will contaminate the water will not be used.”

Lots of benefits

Organic plantations, explains León, contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change, improve people’s quality of life, help strengthen the basin’s capacity to retain water so that the river has a permanent flow, allow access to bonds international carbon emissions and also help to maintain biodiversity. These perennial crops would be considered in all upper basins and in all privately owned protected area settings as alternatives to activities carried out there, including wood cutting, monocultures, and cattle ranching on high slopes. “You are going to tell a farmer that the cows cannot be here, but what alternatives do you give them for production? We are going to help you plant that organic coffee, under shade, in substitution of cattle ranching on slopes”. According to León, unplanned livestock is one of the main causes that contribute to water scarcity.

“The farmers live off their cattle and they know that there is a period of drought, so they must plan for that period. What many do is that in a cruel and heartless way they let the cows die of thirst and starvation to show those quasi-dead bodies to the press, so that the government feels sorry for them and financially remunerates them, who are losing, when there should be jail for a rancher who lets the cattle that has lived all his life put in that condition”. If they engage in this activity, they must make sure they have tube wells or reservoirs that guarantee water 365 days a year, he says.

Among the anthropic factors that influence the intensity of the drought, León cites:

Deterioration of the basins. “The cutting of trees without proper replacement deteriorates the forests; The one who cuts does not have the responsibility to replenish, there is no sustainability and we have fewer and fewer forests,” says León.

Livestock on steep terrain. “If you take photos now they are depressing: the cattle mountains now look completely brown. I was in Baitoa and in Las Charcas de Santiago and that is embarrassing. Uncontrolled livestock farming in the steep mountains and in the upper river basins violates Law 64-00 and is allowed because there is no government that raises awareness in that sector, there isn’t one”, insists the Environmental Education professor.

Forest fires. “It is something that is embarrassing, because the Ministry of the Environment has not assumed the role of controlling activities in the buffer zones of protected areas,” Olmedo insists. What do you gain by improving the response capacity and the consequences if the causes are still there?

monocultures. “Silvopastoral farms are being built, but that is a shield to perpetuate livestock farming on unsuitable land, violating Law 64-00.” The Law says that cattle ranching must be limited to land with slopes below 60 percent. And we hoped that the Territorial Planning Law would also say no”.

Not assuming control of buffer zones. Although it is private property, it is the guarantee of the protected core area, says León. “The Ministry has to assume the role of the activities that are carried out there. This is mine, but in what is there I cannot do anything; I cannot use any type of agrochemicals, because I endanger the species that are there and that come out to eat; I cannot fire under any circumstances because that is the buffering of the area”.

Climate change. It is an indirect anthropogenic cause that makes dry periods longer. “And for that we have to prevent them.”

Yvonne Arias, coordinator of the Green Meeting, adds that the scarcity and poor quality of water put collective health, agricultural and livestock production at risk, and therefore “we are putting food security at risk.”