Facing Climate Change through Analog Forestry

Sabrina Nagel,



studious-participants-learning-more-about-analog-forestry-from-instructor-milo-at-the-finca-fila-maruchaLeonardo DiCaprio’s documentary “Before the Flood” portends that climate change is no longer scenery from the future. The movie shows Miami fighting rising sea levels and monsoon rains in India destroying harvests in a single day. Costa Rica is on record for extreme weather conditions. According to the Tico Times Guanacaste experienced “a historically bad drought” with almost life-threatening results in 2015. The consequences of human mismanagement of natural resources are coming to light around the world.  Media reports show: If we don’t start to rethink our habits, there is no guarantee that our children will get to know the earth as we know it. Science proves that thousands of species are exterminated every year through human influences. There are fewer butterflies, bees, tigers, elephants and flowers today than yesterday. In the future, a lot of flora and fauna is going to vanish. Preserving biodiversity is not, however, wishful thinking. Biodiversity is also a guarantee of humankind’s survival. The big question is: how can we manage to get off dead-end road we are traveling?  What can be a basis to build upon?

The International Analog Forestry Network defines AF as an approach to ecological restoration which uses natural forests as guides to create ecologically stable and socio-economically productive landscapes.  On our journey to find out more about this we travelled to Finca Fila Marucha and Analog Forestry training center in Londres de Aguirre.  Hidden in dense foliage, surrounded by birds, reptiles and colorful insects, Milo Bekin, one of the founders of Analog Forestry, is carefully pollinating a yellow vanilla flower. “If you are fast enough you can pollinate hundreds of flowers in a day,” he explains.

The holistic methodology seeks in part to reduce external impacts, like those of agrochemicals.  AF is an alternative to destructive agroforestry and promises economic stability to the producers.  Consequently, a designed food forest creates a favor to biodiversity, proves itself as economically attractive, and at the same time underlines social and cultural development.

The paradigm’s success is embodied in the fact that AF has representatives all over the world. Organized as the International Analog Forestry Network (IAFN), certified and experienced trainers are dedicated to instruct interested parties, including from students, farmers, governmental officers, and entire communities. The four training centers in Bolivia, Sri Lanka, Cameroon and Costa Rica also provide information on national and international certification of forest-grown products. The most important principle of AF-style organic agroforestry production is the imitation of the existing forest. In 1982 one of the founders of IAFN, Dr. Ranil Senanayake, formulated the methodologies and principles of AF. The concept was so successful that the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) adapted the Forest Garden Product (FGP) principles into their worldwide Family of Standards for food exports in 2014.  Long-term goals of the Costa Rican training center include the development of a national system of certification for AF producers called Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) along with the reinforcement of a Costa Rican network.tumeric-loves-the-conditions-of-escazu

Even for those who don’t plan to grow food on a commercial scale, AF provides tools for a healthy and self-sufficient lifestyle.  A tableau vivant is Paulina Chaverri who works for IAFN and lives in the mountains of Escazú with her own Garden of Eden forest. While one third of her property consists of stable forest, the rest provides space for bananas, kale, beans, lemons, tomatoes and all kinds of herbs spices and other delicacies. A permaculture trainer, Chaverri is convinced that everyone has the ability to start growing his or her own food. Even one tomato plant on the balcony is a step in the right direction. Can this be a possible way out of climate change?

In “Before the Flood” Leonardo DiCaprio says he is more than pessimistic about our planet’s future but that learning more about AF gives us hope that there is no need to cut down the lungs of our planet.  Analog Forestry shows how we can live in harmony with nature respecting biodiversity and securing our existence. If we start to practice the principles now, we can eventually find a way off of our dead-end road.

Find out more about Analog Forestry and its principles: www.analogforestry.org

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