Multipurpose farm forestry makes common
Land degradation, low farm incomes, timber
shortages, habitat loss, lack of shade and shelter, and societys
dependence on shallow-rooted agricultural crops are important
issues in Australia today. Protecting remnant forests and
planting new ones are rightly seen as means of solving many
of these problems. As a result, the premise of most revegetation
and conservation programs is that there is a particular problem
that must be solved: i.e. farmers aren't growing enough trees
to combat land degradation; industry hasn't access to enough
timber to remain viable in a competitive international market;
or, more forests must be grown to offset carbon emissions.
Different perspectives invariably lead to arguments about
which problem is the most important. Interest groups compete
for funding, legislative protection and electoral support
arguing more needs to be done to solve their particular concern.
The timber industry argues that large monoculture plantations
are required for timber production, while environment groups
seek greater funding for indigenous plantings for land protection
Focusing on individual problems simply encourages advocates
and analysts to evaluate forestry options against too narrow
a range of criteria and recommend single-interest approaches:
a "right answer" or "recipe for success".
Whilst these may provide a solution to one particular problem
they ignore the fact that forests impact on a wide range of
economic, social and environmental values. The development
of plantations for timber production cannot be viewed in isolation
to land degradation, biodiversity, rural communities, agricultural
production and other related issues.
The shortsightedness of establishing and managing forests
for a single purpose when there are clearly other opportunities
and impacts is rarely lost on farmers. For example, many farmers
are clearly prepared to forgo some of the future timber value
of a plantation if it means they can enhance its wildlife
value or the benefits to stock from shelter.
Rather than viewing the current status of farming or forestry
as a problem requiring a solution it is more appropriate to
think of it as a starting point. Forests take
many years to mature and over the years the original purpose
or intent may change completely or become less important.
There are 400 year old oak forests in Europe, originally planted
for the production of wooden ship masts, which are just reaching
maturity now. If we plant and manage our forests with a single
purpose in mind we may well be foregoing future opportunities.
Rather than develop simplistic solutions, research and development
should be focused on gaining an understanding of the underlying
processes behind the problems and identifying the principles
of farm forestry design that will allow farmers and policy
makers to make the final decision as to the most appropriate
course of action. Farm Forest Line is focused on providing
assistance and support for all decision makers interested
in farm forestry.
An alternative approach
to farm forestry development
appropriate farm forestry designs
Back to top