Script 29.10

Notes to broadcasters

Content:  Deforestation contributes to droughts and flooding.  So you can help reduce the damage droughts and floods cause by planting and protecting trees, and using less wood for cooking.


Droughts and floods are a regular part of life for many farmers. You cannot stop such disasters by yourself. But you can reduce the damage they cause if you plant and protect trees.

In many parts of the world, trees are being cut down faster than they are being replanted. People cut down trees to build homes, to clear land for farming, to burn as fuel for cooking and heat, or to sell.

But living trees give shade and help keep the temperature moderate. They help keep the air clean. And they protect the land by holding rainwater in the ground so less is dried up by the sun. Their roots also hold down the soil.

Trees reduce the damage caused by droughts and floods. Although a drought is a natural disaster, it may be provoked and made worse by deforestation. If there are not enough trees around, floods also become worse.

During a drought the weather gets very dry. There are more wind and dust storms, water supplies dry up, and desert plants such as scrub brush grow. These troubling signs of drought are familiar to farmers in many parts of the world.

Because there is so little water, plants and grasses die. The animals that normally eat those plants and grasses have to start eating some of the remaining shrubs and trees. Meanwhile, people keep on cutting down trees to get the fuel they need for cooking.

Without shrubs and trees, there is nothing to hold down the soil. There is nothing to protect the ground from the hot sun, so the water in the soil quickly dries up. The wind blows away the dry, dusty soil. The drought gets worse.

During a flood, there is too much water, instead of too little. But the damage caused by floods is also worse if there are not enough trees. During a flood, trees absorb some of the water and slow down the rain run‑off. Their roots open up the soil and let the water get in instead of running along the surface. If most trees are cut down, or if animals have destroyed them by grazing too much, nothing covers the ground. Without trees, nothing slows down a flood.

So floods and droughts are not caused only by too much or too little rain. A lack of trees also contributes to droughts and floods. The problem is that there are a lot of good reasons for using trees. People need their wood for cooking and heat. And animals need them for food. So how can you protect trees and still use them for fuel and animal feed?

Protect trees:
The first thing you can do to protect trees is keep your animals penned up, especially when you first begin to notice the signs of a drought. Feed and water the animals yourself. They will not be able to graze freely if they are penned up, and they will not damage any plants.

Use less fuelwood:
Trees are also cut down and used for fuel. What can you do when you need fuel, but do not want to cut down trees? One solution is to use briquettes as fuel. You can make a briquette by combining two parts charcoal dust, two parts chipped twigs, and one part dried manure. Press the mixture together into a small bundle. None of these materials burn well on their own, but when they are mixed together they burn almost as well as coal. In many places, people build cooking fires in clay stoves. But some clay stoves are more efficient than others. That is, some burn less fuel to produce the same amount of heat. Using a stove that burns less fuel also saves trees.

There are other ways to reduce the amount of wood you need for cooking. You can make sure that your wood is dry. Break it into thin, long pieces, because they will burn hotter. Do not put a lot of wood into the stove at once, but add one piece at a time. Your stove will cook better and produce less smoke. Also, watch your fire to make sure it is not burning needlessly. Put lids on your pots to keep the heat inside. And if you simmer your food it will cook almost as fast as boiling but will use less fuel.

Be sure to cook out of the wind. And when you are finished, it is a good idea to take the partly‑burned pieces of wood out of the stove and save them for next time. You can also use the leftover heat from your stove, after the fuel has stopped burning, to precook the next meal or make some tea.

Finally, if you can share one fire for cooking or baking with several families, you will save even more trees.

Plant trees:
Planting new trees now is another way to solve the problem and help reduce drought and flood damage. Not only will the trees protect the land, but they can also give you food in times of drought. That is because their roots reach deep into the ground and get water even when there is not much rain, so they can survive even when other plants are dying.

Many types of trees can give you food and protect the land. Coconut, breadfruit, tulip, galip, talis, okari, aila, neem, pondanus, guava, loulau and mango are a few examples. Some trees, such as baobab, tamarind, and musau are especially tough and can survive very dry conditions.

It usually takes several years for the fruit to mature on tree crops. So planting trees means planning for the future. The trees you plant now will help protect the land from droughts and floods and give you food in years to come.

Planting trees does not have to be the job of just one person. You can get all your neighbours involved! Grow trees in unused village lots, or beside roads and rivers. The more trees there are, the more protection you will have from droughts and floods.


This script was produced as part of a research project on disaster preparedness and mitigation sponsored by the Reconstruction and Rehabilitation Fund of the Canadian Council for International  Co‑operation.  It was prepared by Irene Jaakson, a student from Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto.  It also includes information from Save Our Trees, a publication prepared and sent to the Network by participant Zubaida Khalid in Pakistan.

Information Sources

“Firewood shortage in the Third World,” in AT Source, Volume 17, No. 1.  Published by AGROMISA, Postbus 41, 6700 Wageningen, NETHERLANDS.

African Farming and Food Processing, September/October 1989.  Published by Alain Charles Publishing Ltd., 27 Wilfred Street, London SW1E 6PR, ENGLAND.

Harvest, Volume 4, No. 3.  D.A.L., P.O. Box 417 Konedobu, PAPUA NEW GUINEA.

Disasters and Development: A Training Module.  Printed by the U.S. Peace Corps, March 1984.  Peace Corps Information Collection and Exchange, Office of Training and Program Support, 806 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. Washington DC 20526, U.S.A.

Save Our Trees: A Guide to Saving Energy.  Published by the Domestic Energy Saving Project.  31 C Circular Road, P.O. Box 896, University Town, Peshawar, PAKISTAN.