On December 15, 2003, the Dominican Republic Model Forest Network and the 166 000 hectare Sabana Yegua Model Forest came into being. The Sabana Yegua watershed area, the site of the first model forest in the Dominican Republic, is home to more than 60 000 people.
“The model forest concept goes far beyond participation…it is an important step towards local management,” said Melba Grullon, President of the Fundacion Sur Futuro and one of the principal stakeholders in the management of the Sabana Yegua Model Forest. “We are proud to be part of a new era in the management of Dominican Natural Resources and are grateful for the opportunity to share this responsibility.”
Finding solutions to shared problems
The Sabana Yegua Watershed is located on the dry southern flank of the Dominican Republic’s central mountain range, or “Cordillera Central”. The area is divided into three sub-watersheds that encompass the drainages of the Yaque del Sur, Grande del Medio, and Las Cuevas rivers. The topography ranges from undulating hills to mountainous with elevations that range from 400 to almost 3 000 meters above sea level.
Because of the accentuated topography, the soils of the area are naturally thin and, due to shifting agriculture and grazing, are of marginal fertility. The proximity of the most productive areas to the national parks and national forest has created a scenario of conflicting land-use. The Model Forest Program will seek to harmonize areas of conflicting land-use and propose commercial and resource management solutions compatible with the environmental and land-capability characteristics of the watershed. It is also hoped that the model forest initiative will generate new employment in the area to stimulate the rural economy.
“As the Sabana Yegua Model Forest partners work towards harmonizing economic priorities with social, environmental and cultural priorities, they begin a process of understanding the values of different partners, and in finding solutions to shared problems.” said Richard Verbisky, IMFNS Senior Program Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, “We look forward to conveying the Dominican Republic experience to the rest of the international network.”