Forest plantation activities have had a role in easing the widespread unemployment in many areas of central America caused by a downswing in the ranching business. Forestry has created employment and trained ranch workers for new tasks as well as increasing the awareness of the local people to many environmental issues such as soil erosion and desegregation. A number of people are employed on a permanent basis in forestry management and working in the nurseries. Many more are employed as occasional workers, most of them as contractors for planting, weeding, pruning and thinning. This has created a new middle class of small family companies which, together with the economic linkage effect, support many families. Tree breeding and forest plantation are seen to be activities of importance for the area's future. Many landowners, in particular small farmers, are learning about forestry and getting tree planting material to add some long term investment and diversity to their farms. The government has moved to promote reforestation in these countries as they see the long term benefits in the development of this socially and environmentally friendly industry.