Essay Sustainable Land Management in Latin America

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Sustainable Land Management in Latin America

“The enthusiastic celebration of indigenous skills can be the basis of alternative strategies of development.” – W.M. Adams


The sustainability of land management practices in developing countries is in question currently as a way to address poverty. Yet, this investigation is often done with the assumption that people in developing countries are acting irresponsibly and their behavior must be corrected by more enlightened conservationists from North America , Europe , and northern Asia . An analysis of the history of different land management practices shows that environmental degradation was often the result of colonial disruption of indigenous peoples. In the 1990
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Each of these practices served as building blocks in constructing civilizations.

Fire is one of the earliest-used and most universal human tools for land management. Fire was used by the hominid Homo erectus as early as 790,000 years ago, according to recent research in Israel (Rincon, 2004). Early Homosapiens, or humans, in eastern Africa used prescribed burning to encourage the re-growth of grasses and trees. Altering landscapes in differing degrees depending upon intensity, “the setting of fires is one of humankind’s most potent tools for effecting landscape and environmental change” (Horn, 1998). Prescribed burning can be used to prevent larger fires by removing smaller fuel, improve grazing areas, and encourage regeneration of trees and shrubs by making seedbeds (Ffolliott et al., 2001). This practice, whether developed indigenously or brought to the western hemisphere with the first peoples to migrate from Siberia , was used by the ancestors of Latin American peoples.

In the area that is now Chirripó National Park in Costa Rica people have used prescribed burns as a land management practice for thousands of years, shaping the landscape to their needs. The park, set on a mountain range, has a páramo, or tropical alpine climate, which includes both treeless areas and montane forests. Fires started by humans since prehistoric times, up to when the glaciers receded 10,000 years ago, have helped to adapt the treeless areas of vegetation,

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