In 2007, the Tree Bank began offering its first direct benefit to participating farmers: a modest annual stipend to support native forest plantings on their farms. To create the plantings, farmers could use the free native tree seedlings available from the Tree Bank Nursery, which had been established a year earlier.
Benefits for these “parcelas sembradas” included several types of payments. When a parcela was established, we paid the labor cost to put in the trees. In subsequent years, we have paid a small fee to cover maintenance (mostly by chopping out vegetation that would otherwise compete with the trees), and we pay a “stem fee” that is determined by the number of trees planted (up to a maximum density) and the width of the tree stems. Together, these payments were meant to create an incentive, not just to put in plantings, but to maintain them in a condition that favored tree growth.
The scheme worked, but it proved too expensive to implement on a large scale, so we are no longer admitting farmers into this program element. Instead, farmers can apply for Forest Credit, which is a much more efficient way to conserve forest and improve the farms as businesses.
But we are continuing to support our already-established parcelas. There are 10 of these, amounting to about 13 acres in all. In addition to their intrinsic value, tree-growth data from these parcelas could help us improve our restoration work. Some of them might also merit more detailed study in the years ahead.
Banner: A misty morning in the Dominican countryside. Photo by Chris Bright.