Thursday, May 6, 2021

More Harm Than Good

 From DW:

When Prosopis juliflora was introduced to Kenya's Baringo County in the 1980s it was heralded for the benefits it would bring to the area's pastoral communities. A native of arid lands in Central and South America, the woody shrub, known locally as mathenge, was promoted by the Kenyan government and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization to help restore degraded drylands.

At first, mathenge helped prevent dust storms, supplied ample wood for cooking and construction and provided fodder for animals, said Simon Choge, a researcher with the Kenya Forestry Research Institute in Baringo County. But after the El Nino rains of 1997, things changed.

Mathenge seeds dispersed widely, and without any local fauna adapted to eat the foreign tree it spread aggressively. Impenetrable thickets overran grazing pastures, displaced indigenous biodiversity and depleted water sources. The trees' thorns pierced the hooves of livestock, while its sugary pods caused tooth decay and loss, sometimes leading to starvation among the animals it was meant to nourish.

"Now, people have no livelihoods," Choge said.

Large-scale tree planting programs have been heralded as an effective way of drawing CO2 from the atmosphere. Yet in the verdant vegetation that has transformed Baringo's grasslands lies a stark warning: Sometimes, planting trees can do more harm than good. (Read more.)

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