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UN-Backed Project Helps DPR Of Korea

UN-Backed Project Helps DPR Of Korea Reverse Vicious Cycle Of Land Degradation

New York, Apr 21 2005

Seeking to reverse the agricultural devastation caused by floods and droughts in recent years and the soil erosion stemming from extensive deforestation, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) is expanding a United Nations-sponsored pilot project of watershed management to increase the country’s output.

“Applying watershed management throughout the country, planting trees in the uplands and developing integrated approaches to the use of natural resources, will help diminish soil degradation and the dangers of floods and downstream sedimentation,” UN Food and Agriculture (<"http://www.fao.org">FAO) forestry expert Thomas Hofer said <"http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2005/101922/index.html">today.

Trees help retain water in the soil, preventing water from flowing downstream all at once during heavy rains and keeps moisture in the soil during low rainfall. Their roots also cling unto the soil, making it more difficult for soil to erode.

Soil erosion and sedimentation from floods and droughts between 1994 and 2000 have caused massive destruction and reduced the DPRK’s agricultural output in the last decade. In 1995 and 1996 alone, 16 per cent of arable land was damaged by floods, which also destroyed irrigation infrastructure as well as 30 out of 90 tree nurseries.

To compensate, forests have been extensively exploited and converted into agricultural land on steep slopes of marginal lands, which are vulnerable to soil erosion. Forests were also felled for fuelwood and to earn foreign currency. As a consequence, one quarter of the country’s non-agricultural land on hills and mountains is bare today.

At the Government’s request, FAO launched a watershed management project in 2001 to reverse this vicious cycle and offset diminishing forest quality and agricultural output, in part by rehabilitating damaged tree nurseries and establishing new ones. Two small-scale pilot sites have been established and country people have been trained to apply their newly-gained knowledge sites for replication elsewhere.

Based on the project, DPRK is now developing a watershed management plan for the Taedong River, which flows through the capital, Pyongyang.

“By applying elsewhere what we have learned from the pilot sites, we hope to see sustainable use of natural resources and greater agricultural output in the country,” Mr. Hofer said.

ENDS

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