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conservation issues

The area is ecologically fragile owing to the very porous and erodible substrate and from being in a zone of transition between the dry valleys and the montane forests that makes the area vulnerable to the effects of climate change, including increased drought frequency. To this environmental fragility are added the effects of grazing animals and extraction of timber for firewood. The pasturing of animals in areas with high slopes has created characteristic patterns of reticular erosion and increased the susceptibility to erosion by rain and wind. At this time, the clearing of land for agriculture seems to have ceased due to the recurrent droughts that have driven many of the rural people out of the countryside to the main coastal cities.

The combination of environmental fragility and human practices has resulted in a reduced extension and height of the forest and the creation of bare patches of land that are further eroded through trampling by animals and the strong winds. These problems affect the biodiversity of the area but also the quality of life of the farmers, since the loss of soil and vegetation reduces their prospects for maintaining a livelihood in the countryside. The women also face an extra burden since they are in charge of finding firewood and have to walk longer distances as the vegetation cover diminishes. Also many plants used for traditional dyeing and weaving are being lost. Conservation measures such as reforestation with native species, management of range animals, soil restoration, and erosion control should be implemented in order to maintain the productivity and the biodiversity of the area.

Conservation measures need to be sensitive to the needs of the population and cultural practices in order to be effective. For example, reforestation with eucalyptus and pine may not be desirable for ecological and cultural reasons. Eucalyptus competes with native species for water and is not preferred for firewood by the women because of the thick smoke it produces. Native species have the potential to supply firewood and forage and have other benefits such as medicinal and cultural usages.

old woman