Recently, Nicaragua has begun to expand its reforestation programs in response to the increasingly rapid deterioration of the country's forest resources. In 1997 the Programa Socioambiental y de Desarrollo Forestal (the Social Environment and Forest Development Program, POSAF), financed by the Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo (International Development Bank, BID), began to promote reforestation and the development of sustainable production systems in the farms of the Rio Grande Basin of Carazo (in southwestern Nicaragua) and in other regions of Nicaragua. POSAF supplied technical and financial assistance for the development of forestry projects and operations across various collaborative institutions. With the species recommended by the National Forest Service of Nicaragua this program began to establish forestry plantations on the farms of the producers that were benefiting from the project.
By the year 2000, about 12,000 ha had been planted throughout the country. Plantations were established between the years 1997 and 1998. The average size of the plantations was 1.8 ha per property. There was a mixture of different production types; some blocks were composed of pure timber species or pure fuelwood species and some blocks were composed of mixtures of timber and fuelwood species in various arrangements. Farmers used more native than exotic species for reforestation. The species preferred by farmers for their growth were Azadirachta indica, Caesalpinia eriostachys, Eucalyptus spp., Gliricidia sepium, Leucaena leucocephala, and Tectona grandis. Farmers were willing to continue reforesting as long as they continued to receive government incentives. The implementation of incentive programs for reforestation was a key factor in encouraging the participation of small and medium farmers. The most common plantation system used by farmers was mixtures of timber and fuelwood species, both of which were planted and managed to satisfy domestic needs.
Some private companies are also willing to establish mixed plantation systems in a restricted portion of their property while dedicating most of their land to planting other species of higher commercial value. For example, on the peninsula of Nicoya, in the northern Pacific region of Costa Rica, trials have been established with 13 native species in mixed and pure designs at the property owned by Precious Woods of Costa Rica, a private company that has reforested the majority of their lands with pure plantations of Tectona grandis (exotic) and Bombacopsis quinata (native) (Piotto et al. 2004b). The land occupied by the study sites was previously used for cattle ranching. Measurements of diameter at 1.3 m and height done when the trees were 68 months old showed that native species grew better in the mixed plots. In Panama, a company called Futuro Forestal is buying abandoned cattle pastureland to establish pure and mixed plantations for foreign investors (Box 6.6).
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