Monday, February 24, 2014

The destruction of the world’s forests is inevitable as our need for land and food grows. Do you agree?

Essay: Is the destruction of the worlds forests inevitable as our need for space increases?

It is 9:05, the 22nd of February 2013 and already 19 million children have been born this year. In just under 3 months, there are already 19 million more people that need a home, food, and water – all the essentials of life. By the end of the year, according to some estimations, the population will have grown by 77 million.
In the 20th century alone, the population increased from 1.65 billion to 6 billion. That’s a 264% increase!  And from the population in 1800 (1 billion) to now? That’s a 699,900% increase!
And by 2025? People are estimating the population to hit 8 billion.
The problem that our planet wasn’t meant to fit 8 billion humans and all the other life we have here and the Earth isn’t going to grow fast enough to fit 8 billion people in 12 years and what happens after 8 billion?
As medicinal knowledge increased, the mortality rate steadily decreased – which is a great thing in many ways. Illnesses that would have killed people a hundred years ago are easily cured. People with diseases that would have meant a childhood death now survive and live a relatively normal life. Birth complication that would have meant the death of the baby and the mother are easily overcome.
Basically, less people die and more people live to a ripe old age than in years gone by. Which means, our need for land and food is growing along with our population.
Everyday, forests are cut down to make space for condos or maybe just for wood. In just a few months (from Jan. 1st to Feb. 22nd) , 747,000 forests have been cut down. At this rate, the destruction of the world’s forests is inevitable.
There are ways that we can slow the destruction such as reusing old abandoned buildings or destroying them to make new buildings but these alternatives are both costly and hard which means no one is willing to do them.
Another problem with that plan which sort of ties in with the “expensive” is shortsighted government employees who can’t really see past money and the fact that they like money.
They don’t really care about the future because they can’t make any profit from the future. People seem to think that the impending ruin of Earth is just their kids and their grandchildren’s problem.
Maybe we can slow the destruction of the forests by making smarter decisions. Maybe we can’t. Either way, it is inevitable until people realize that the world is getting over populated and we need to do something about it. Not later – now.


The following issues are discussed:
1. Immediate Causes
Agriculture-Shifted Cultivators
Agricultures-Cash Crops & Cattle Ranching
Large Dams
Mining and Industry
Colonisation Schemes
2. Underlying Causes
Development and Overconsumtion: the Basis Cause
Exploitation by Industrialised Countries
The Debt Burden
The Role of Poverty and Overpopulation
3. Additional Information
For more on the causes of rainforest destruction, link to World Rainforest Movement

"Deforestation, in other words, is an expression of social injustice "
- Marcus Colchester
According to Professor Norman Myers, one of the foremost authorities on rates of deforestation in tropical forests, "the annual destruction rate seems set to accelerate yet further, and could well double in another decade" (Myers 1992).
As Myers points out, "we still have half of all tropical forests that ever existed". The struggle to save the world's rainforests continues, and there is a growing worldwide concern about the issue. In order to save rainforests, we need to know why they are being destroyed.
Nobody knows exactly how much of the world's rainforests have already been destroyed and continue to be razed each year. Data is often imprecise and subject to differing interpretations. However, it is obvious that the area of tropical rainforest is diminishing and the rate of tropical rainforest destruction is escalating worldwide, despite increased environmental activism and awareness. A 1992 study by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) placed the global rate of tropical deforestation at 17 million ha. per year. A study by the World Resources Institute (WRI) suggests that the figure could be as high as 20.4 million ha. per year.

1. Immediate Causes
The immediate causes of rainforest destruction are clear. The main causes of total clearance are agriculture and in drier areas, fuelwood collection. The main cause of forest degradation is logging. Mining, industrial development and large dams also have a serious impact. Tourism is becoming a larger threat to the forests.

1.1 Logging

Commercial logging companies cut down mature trees that have been selected for their timber. The timber trade defends itself by saying that this method of 'selective' logging ensures that the forest regrows naturally and in time, is once again ready for their 'safe' logging practices (WWF).

In most cases, this is untrue due to the nature of rainforests and of logging practices.
Large areas of rainforest are destroyed in order to remove only a few logs. The heavy machinery used to penetrate the forests and build roads causes extensive damage. Trees are felled and soil is compacted by heavy machinery, decreasing the forest's chance for regeneration.
The felling of one 'selected' tree, tears down with it climbers, vines, epiphytes and lianas. A large hole is left in the canopy and complete regeneration takes hundreds of years.
Removing a felled tree from the forest causes even further destruction, especially when it is carried out carelessly. It is believed that in many South East Asian countries 'between 45-74% of trees remaining after logging have been substantially damaged or destroyed' (WWF).
The tracks made by heavy machinery and the clearings left behind by loggers are sites of extreme soil disturbance which begin to erode in heavy rain. This causes siltation of the forests, rivers and streams. The lives and life support systems of indigenous people are disrupted as is the habitat of hundreds of birds and animals.
Little if any industrial logging of tropical forests is sustainable. The International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO), the body established to regulate the international trade in tropical timber, found in 1988 that the amount of sustainable logging was "on a world scale, negligible".
"Logging roads are used by landless farmers to gain access to rainforest areas. For this reason, commercial logging is considered by many to be the biggest single agent of tropical deforestation"
Apart from its direct impact, logging plays a major role in deforestation through the building of roads which are subsequently used by landless farmers to gain access to rainforest areas. These displaced people then clear the forest by slashing and burning to grow enough food to keep them and their families alive, a practice which is called subsistence farming. This problem is so widespread that Robert Repetto of the World Resources Institute ranks commercial logging as the biggest agent of tropical deforestation. This view was supported by the World Wide Fund for Nature's 1996 study, Bad Harvest?, which surveyed logging in the world's tropical forests.
Most of the rainforest timber on the international market is exported to rich countries. There, it is sold for hundreds of times the price that is paid to the indigenous people whose forests have been plundered. The timber is used in the construction of doors, window frames, crates, coffins, furniture, plywood sheets, chopsticks, household utensils and other items.
Solutions: For all purposes for which tropical timber is used, other woods or materials could be substituted.
We can stop using tropical timber and urge others to do the same. As long as there is a market for tropical timbers, trees will continue to be cut down. Labelling schemes, aimed at helping consumers to chose environmental friendly timbers, are currently being discussed in many countries.
Note: The Rainforest Information Centre provides information to consumers wishing to avoid tropical and other environmentally damaging timbers. Look at the Good Wood Guide on our website,

1.2 Agriculture - Shifted Cultivators
'Shifted cultivators' is the term used for people who have moved into rainforest areas and established small-scale farming operations. These are the landless peasants who have followed roads into already damaged rainforest areas. The additional damage they are causing is extensive. Shifted cultivators are currently being blamed for 60% of tropical forest loss (Colchester & Lohmann).
The reason these people are referred to as 'shifted' cultivators is that most of them people have been forced off their own land. For example, in Guatemala, rainforest land was cleared for coffee and sugar plantations. The indigenous people had their land stolen by government and corporations. They became 'shifted cultivators', moving into rainforest areas of which they had no previous knowledge in order to sustain themselves and their families (Colchester & Lohmann).
Large-scale agriculture, logging, hydroelectric dams, mining, and industrial development are all responsible for the dispossession of poor farmers.
"One of the primary forces pushing landless migrants into the forests is the inequitable distribution of agricultural land" (WRI 1992, Colchester & Lohmann). In Brazil, approximately 42% of cultivated land is owned by a mere 1% of the population. Landless peasants make up half of Brazil's population (WRM).
Once displaced, the 'shifted cultivators' move into forest areas, often with the encouragement of their government. In Brazil, a slogan was developed to help persuade the people to move into the forests. It read "Land without men for men without land" (WRM).
After a time, these farmers encounter the same problems as the cash crop growers. The soil does not remain fertile for long. They are forced to move on, to shift again, going further into the rainforest and destroying more and more of it.
It is evident that the shifted cultivators "have become the agents for destruction but not the cause" (Westoby 1987: Colchester). Shifted cultivators do not move into pristine areas of undisturbed rainforests. They follow roads made principally for logging operations. "Shifted cultivators are often used by the timber industry as scapegoats" (Orams and McQuire). Yet logging roads lead to an estimated 90% of the destruction caused by the slash-and-burn farmers (Martin 1991: Colchester).
Solutions: Land reform is essential if this problem is to be addressed. However, according to Colchester and Lohmann, "an enduring shift of power in favour of the peasants" is also needed for such reforms to endure (Colchester &Lohmann).

1.3 Agriculture - Cash Crops and Cattle Ranching
Undisturbed and logged rainforest areas are being totally cleared to provide land for food crops, tree plantations or for grazing cattle (Colchester & Lohmann). Much of this produce is exported to rich industrialised countries and in many cases, crops are grown for export while the local populace goes hungry.
Due to the delicate nature of rainforest soil and the destructive nature of present day agricultural practices, the productivity of cash crops grown on rainforest soils declines rapidly after a few years.
Monoculture plantations - those that produce only one species of tree or one type of food - on rainforest soil are examples of non-sustainable agriculture.
They are referred to as cash crops because the main reason for their planting is to make money quickly, with little concern about the environmental damage that they are causing.
Modern machinery, fertilisers and pesticides are used to maximise profits. The land is farmed intensively. In many cases, cattle damage the land to such an extent that it is of no use to cattle ranchers any more, and they move on, destroying more and more rainforest. Not only have the forests been destroyed but the land is exploited, stripped of nutrients and left barren, sustaining no-one.
Solutions:"Reducing the demand for Southern-produced agribusiness crops and alleviating the pressure from externally-financed development projects and assistance is the essential first step" (Colchester and Lohmann).

1.4 Fuelwood
The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that '1.5 billion of the 2 billion people worldwide who rely on fuelwood for cooking and heating are overcutting forests'. This problem is worst in drier regions of the tropics. Solutions will probably involve a return to local peoples' control of the forests they depend on.

1.5 Large Dams
In India and South America, hundreds of thousands of hectares of forests have been destroyed by the building of hydro-electric dams. It was the dominant view that new dams had to be built or otherwise these countries would suffer an energy crisis. However, a recent study by the World Bank in Brazil has shown that 'sufficient generating capacity already exists to satisfy the expected rise in demand for power over the medium term, provided that the energy is used more efficiently' (WRM).
The construction of dams not only destroys the forest but often uproots tens of thousands of people, destroying both their land and their culture. The rates of waterborne diseases increase rapidly. Downstream ecosystems are damaged by dams which trap silt, holding back valuable nutrients. Reduced silt leads to coastal erosion. The sheer weight of water in dams has in Chile, Zimbabwe, and Greece led to earthquakes. The irrigation and industrial projects powered by dams lead to further environmental damage. Irrigation leads to salination of soils and industry leads to pollution.
Solutions: Aid organisations like the World Bank have traditionally favoured spectacular large-scale irrigation and hydro-electric projects. In all cases when such projects are proposed, there has been massive opposition from local people. Reform of the World Bank and other such organisations, and support for campaigns against large-scale dams is needed.
1.6 Mining and Industry
Mining and industrial development lead to direct forest loss due to the clearing of land to establish projects. Indigenous people are displaced. Roads are constructed through previously inaccessible land, opening up the rainforest. Severe water, air and land pollution occurs from mining and industry.
Solutions: Local campaigns against mining and industrial development, and the campaigns to reform the large aid agencies which fund such schemes, should be supported.

1.7 Colonisation Schemes
Governments and international aid agencies for a time believed that by encouraging colonisation and trans-migration schemes into rainforest areas, they could alleviate some of the poverty felt by the people of the financially poorer countries. It has since become increasingly obvious that such schemes have failed, hurting the indigenous people and the environment (Colchester & Lohmann).
These schemes involve the relocation of millions of people into sparsely populated and forested areas. In Indonesia, the TransmigrasiProgram, begun in 1974, is believed to be 'the greatest cause of forest loss in Indonesia', directly causing an average annual loss of 200,000 hectares (Colchester & Lohmann).
The resettled people suffered the same problems as 'shifted cultivators'. The soil is not fertile enough to be able to sustain them for very long.
Even after such projects have officially ended, the flow of 'shifted cultivators' continues as the area remains opened up. "The World Bank estimates that for every colonist resettled under the official transmigration project, two or more unofficially move into the forest due to the drawing effect of the program" (Colchester & Lohmann).

1.8 Tourism
The creation of national parks has undoubtedly helped to protect rainforests. Yet, as national parks are open to the public, tourism is damaging some of these areas.
Often, national parks are advertised to tourists before adequate management plans have been developed and implemented. Inadequate funding is allocated for preservation of forests by government departments. Governments see tourism as an easy way to make money, and therefore tourism is encouraged whilst strict management strategies are given far less government support.
Ecotourism, or environmentally friendly tourism, should educate the tourists to be environmentally aware. It should also be of low impact to its environment. Unfortunately, many companies and resorts who advertise themselves as eco-tourist establishments are in fact exploiting the environment for profit.
In Cape Tribulation, Australia, for example, the rainforest is being threatened by excessive tourism. Clearing for roads and pollution of waterways are two of the major problems in this area. The Wet Tropics Management Authority which oversees the surrounding World Heritage Area is promoting tourism to the area before any management plans have been formulated, before any effective waste management strategy has been devised and before any ecofriendly power alternatives have been fully explored.
Solutions: The rights of indigenous forest dwellers and others who depend on intact forests must be upheld. In instances where there are campaigns opposing specific tourist developments, they should be supported. Genuine ecotourism should be preferred to other tourist enterprises.

2. Underlying Causes
More Than Just Poverty and Overpopulation
Poverty and overpopulation are believed to be the main causes of forest loss, according to the international agencies such as the FAO and intergovernmental bodies. They believe they can solve the problem by encouraging development and trying to reduce population growth. However, the World Rainforest Movement and many other non-governmental organisations hold unrestrained development and the excessive consumption habits of rich industrialised countries directly responsible for most forest loss.

2.1 Development and Overconsumption: the Basic Causes
The World Rainforest Movement's Emergency Call to Action for the Forests and Their Peoples asserts that "deforestation is the inevitable result of the current social and economic policies being carried out in the name development". It is the push for development which gives rise to commercial logging, cash crops, cattle ranching, large dams, colonisation schemes, the dispossession of peasants and indigenous people and the promotion of tourism.
Harrison Ngau, an indigenous tribesman from Sarawak, Malaysia and winner of the Goldman Environment Award in 1990, has this to say about why tropical forests are being destroyed:
The roots of the problem of deforestation and waste of resources are located in the industrialised countries, where most of our resources, such as tropical timber end up. The rich nations with one quarter of the world's population consume four fifth of the world's resources. It is the throw away culture of the industrialised countries, now advertised in and forced on to the Third World countries that is leading to the throwing away of the world. Such so-called progress leads to destruction and despair![World Rainforest Movement]

2.2 Colonialism
Tropical rainforests are found mainly in the Third World countries, Australia and Hawaii being the only exceptions. All of these countries have indigenous populations who had their own system of land management and/or ownership in place for thousand of years before the intervention of colonists from rich industrialised nations. The colonial powers (Britain, France, Spain and Portugal), whilst exploiting the resources of many of these countries, attempted to destroy indigenous peoples' rights to remain on their land. Colonialism turned previously self-sufficient economies into zones of agriculture export production (Colchester and Lohmann). This process continues today and the situation is worsening.

2.3 Exploitation by Industrialised Countries
Wealthy countries have been consuming so much of their own resources that they are no longer sustaining their growing populations and increasingly, they are turning to the resources of the financially poorer countries. "Twenty per cent of the world's population is using 80 % of the world's resources" (Orams & McQuire).
Currently, although many indigenous people are claiming their culture and rights, they face stubborn opposition, as the governments in their own countries have often 'adopted the same growth-syndrome as their Western neighbours, with the emphasis on maximising exports, revenues and exploiting resources for short-term gain. Corruption in government, the military and economic powers is well known' (Orams & McQuire).
The problem is made worse by the low price for most Third World exports on the international market. The United States has been accused of manipulating prices for agricultural commodities for its own benefit at the expense of tropical countries (WRR).

2.4 The Debt Burden
The governments of the financially poorer countries feel they need to make money in order to repay their huge international debts. In the 1970's and 80's, they borrowed vast sums of money from development agencies in industrialised countries in order to improve their own economies. Most are still battling to make repayments due to escalating interest rates (Orams & McQuire).
Since 1987, the flow of debt repayments from Third World countries to rich countries has exceeded the flow of aid money going to Third World countries (RIC). Poor countries feel compelled to exploit their natural resources, including their forests, partly to earn foreign exchange for servicing their debts. Non-government organisations in Third World countries have for many years been pointing out that there is no chance of stopping impoverishment and destruction of nature without a solution to the debt crisis.
For example, in some countries in South-East Asia, the construction of roads for logging operations was funded by Japanese aid. Later, the forests were exploited by Japanese timber companies. The timber companies made the profits and the South-East Asian countries were left owing Japan money for the construction of the roads (Orams & Maquire).

2.5 The Role of Poverty and Overpopulation
Poverty, while undeniably responsible for much of the damage to rainforests, has to a large extent been brought about by the greed of the rich industrialised nations and the Third World elites who seek to emulate them. Development, which is often seen as the solution to world poverty, seldom helps those whose need is greatest. It is often the cause rather than the cure for poverty.
The claim that overpopulation is the cause of deforestation is used by many governments and aid agencies as an excuse for inaction. In tropical countries, pressure from human settlement comes about more from inequitable land distribution that from population pressure. In general, most of the land is owned by a small but powerful elite which displaces poor farmers into rainforest areas. So long as these elites maintain their grip on power, lasting land reform will be difficult to achieve.
Overpopulation is not a problem exclusive to Third World countries. An individual in an industrialised country is likely to consume in the order of sixty times as much of the world's resources as a person in a poor country. The growing populations in rich industrialised nations are therefore responsible for much of the exploitation of the earth, and there is a clear link between the overconsumption in rich countries and deforestation in the tropics.

Evolution of forest policies and future directions

Evolving forest policies

In the past, the need to generate revenue and foreign exchange for national economic development motivated governments to design centralized and sectoral policies to influence how forest resources were used. Policy-makers regarded forests as distant reserves to be managed as sources of public revenue, treated as reservoirs of new land for cultivation or protected as nature reserves. Over time, however, society's shifting and sometimes conflicting expectations created more difficult policy challenges related to both the forest sector and national development. The perspectives and demands of politically diverse groups are still proliferating, placing a significant strain on current institutions and policies.
Today, national development strategies require policies that integrate forests in rural development efforts and that balance economic and environmental needs among national, local and international interests. Forests are no longer viewed as being separate in space, narrow in political interest or sectoral in their economic function. They directly affect, and are affected by, local national and international concerns. Development strategies must acknowledge that forest conditions are a consequence of development, shaped and formed by competitive uses.
Important changes in our approach to forest policies began in the 1970s, when growing awareness of how local communities depend on forests, and of the importance of small-scale forest industries, prompted efforts to strengthen local participation in forest management, programmes and activities. New types of cooperative activities emerged between local communities and national governments, including community forestry, farm forestry and joint forest management. These activities highlighted the role of forests in broader rural development and, at the same time, eroded confidence in exclusive state control.
The importance of forests to local communities led governments, NGOs and donors to consider a variety of rights, obligations, incentives and supports that would motivate people to invest in growing and managing forests. Countries throughout the world paid greater attention to local interests in forests and the capacity of communities to manage them alongside national interests. They explored new organizations, structures, rules and tenurial forms to enhance the productivity of forests, protect environmental qualities and empower rural communities to use forest resources for economic and social needs. As these various interests and objectives were not necessarily compatible, they gradually expanded rather than resolved contentious forest issues.
By the 1980s, countries began to recognize that forests have a global role in the stability of the biosphere, in the maintenance of biodiversity and in the protection of threatened indigenous and traditional cultures. This expanded role placed additional pressures on national governments. While in the 1970s they were compelled to develop better means to work with local communities, governments of the 1980s were expected to act as intermediaries between international interests in forests and local actions and demands for forest resources. Forestry policy-makers searched for ways to balance growing international expectations with the dispersed, diverse activities and needs of households and local communities.
In the 1990s, forests are a primary focus of policy debates about sustainable development. Despite its message of harmony, the concept of sustainability raises tensions between market-driven economic growth, social pressures for a more equitable distribution of economic opportunities and the need to maintain environmental productivity, ecological services and biological diversity to fulfil future economic and social aspirations. The forces behind these pressures are unlikely to meet their goals without some compromise.
Forest resources are also in the forefront of national policy debates about how to restructure economic and political systems as well as how such structural changes can be made consistent with national interests in local action, social and sectoral distribution, international obligations and sovereignty. Today's governments are searching for pragmatic policy frameworks that deal coherently with both the contributions of forests to development and the institutional and organizational structures required to make better use of these contributions.

Forest policies and sustainable development

Developing effective forestry strategies and policies to promote sustainable development involves an array of difficult choices. For example, while we know that forest clearing for crops and pasture, overcutting for fuelwood, uncontrolled commercial logging for timber and expanding infrastructure all contribute to deforestation and degradation, the fundamental problem facing policy-makers is how to address the underlying causes. These include poverty, hunger, access to land, a lack of jobs and income-generating opportunities, and growing economic demands for forest goods and services.
Ironically, some government policies frequently exacerbate these underlying causes, producing intense and lasting impacts on forest resources. A growing body of literature now demonstrates convincingly that taxes, terms of forest concessions, administered prices, controlled transportation of forest goods, land and tree tenure insecurity, tariff and non-tariff barriers to international trade, investment incentives, agricultural sector strategies and macro-economics policies all affect economic motivations as well as the management and conservation of temperate and tropical forests. In many cases, these policies directly encourage or unintentionally subsidize deforestation and degradation.
Countries are seeking more appropriate economic policies, regulatory mechanisms, financial incentives, organizational structures and tenurial arrangements to promote sustainable forestry practices. In many countries, the search for policies takes place alongside a wider examination of the role of government as regulator of the market place, as landowner and as forest manager. This examination is prompted partly by governments' own need to optimize resource efficiency, and partly by public concerns with government performance and, in particular, with the performance of forest services and their policies.
The overall policy impacts on the economy, society and environment depend not so much on the effect of policies on one forest, but their net effects across these diverse settings. The resulting forest conditions reflect the consequences of policies that created and modified the motives for cutting and growing trees in different places and at different times. For example:
  • Relative market prices between agricultural and wood products and between fossil and forest fuels influence the growth of farm forestry and rates of natural forest depletion.
  • The development of market infrastructure influences price structures and relationships.
  • Changes in the labour force, non-farm employment opportunities and the expansion and intensification of agriculture are all fundamental forces affecting how forests change.
  • Income and its distribution between and within urban and rural populations affect the availability of resources for, and spatial distribution of, investment in trees.
  • The capital value of trees as growing stock and as protection against avoidable costs in soil and aquatic productivity is of growing importance to macro-economic considerations of the national roles of forests.
  • Trade policies and international environmental agreements alter property rights and tenure systems.
Thus, the use, development and conditions of forests are fundamental consequences of the wider configuration of national policy and economic development. National development is constantly creating incentives and capacities both to exploit and to enhance forest resources. Economic growth and social conditions tend to shift the location and composition of forest resources. On a national scale, the nature of this relationship depends on a country's particular economic, demographic and political circumstances.

Forests in national policy

Many governments tend to deal with forests through programmes and projects rather than as elements of a national system. Forests are nonetheless analogous to other systems of national interest such as infrastructure, education, finance, transportation and energy. Policies chosen to express and serve these interests influence the aggregate quality, composition, distribution and use of a country's forests.
Forests are living systems which evolve over time with or without human intervention. These changing forest formations create a kaleidoscopic movement of trees and land uses over space. Understanding the reasons behind these changes provides the basis for predicting the direction and consequences of future changes. Understanding how national policies affect forests provides the basis for achieving desired types of forest formations, including the aggregate contributions they provide, and the required trade-offs with other national objectives. But while the overall economic implications of national policy models are reasonably well understood, aggregate forest landscape formations have been ignored.
Forests and the resources devoted to growing, maintaining and protecting them depend on combinations of many different policies: environmental, energy, land, commodity, trade, industrial and agricultural policies; price, wage, income and investment policies; and the terms of international agreements. The analytical task is to relate policy combinations to forest consequences in diverse conditions and to identify those that are likely to serve local, national and international interests in the best way.
An important step towards understanding how overall policy choices affect forest resources was taken in the 1980s, as development strategies shifted from project-based assistance to policy-oriented programmes. During this period, policy analysts turned their attention to the impacts of intersectoral policy linkages on the forestry sector. They recognized the inability of traditional forestry strategies to slow the accelerating pace of deforestation and forest degradation and realized that the roots of forest degradation and depletion often lay outside the forestry sector.1 In the industrial countries, the effects of pollution (acid rain) on temperate forests highlighted this problem. In the developing countries, population growth, land tenure systems and agricultural sector policies were seen as underlying causes of deforestation.
Indeed, specialized direct policies have proved to be remarkably ineffective without an appropriate macro or intersectoral policy context allowing them to work properly. How these policy linkages are defined and interpreted depends on whether forest issues are: viewed from a national (macro) or a forest unit (micro) perspective; evaluated using development-oriented or resource-oriented concepts of capital, space and location; and analysed with macro-economic or micro-economic methods (therefore establishing macro or micro sets of policy priorities).
The ongoing research on the efficiency and sustainability implications of these linkages may be consolidated in four key areas: i) market failures and incentive structures; ii) policy failures; iii) forest sector policies; and iv) impacts of timber trade policies on forest use and the environment.
Market failures and incentive structures
When public goods, including public environmental goods and externalities are present, incentive structures may lead to market failure. The market does not confront users with the full social costs of their actions. For example, markets that fail to reflect environmental values fully (e.g. the additional costs of managing forests sustainably) can lead to excessive environmental degradation. Some form of public or collective action involving regulation (command and control), market-based incentives or institutional measures is required if market failures are to be corrected.
Forests may be affected in several ways. For example, the market prices of widely traded timber products typically do not reflect the environmental costs of their production. Market prices fail to account for indirect use values (e.g. watershed protection or nutrient cycling) as well as future use and non-use values (e.g. option value or existence value), which may be lost or degraded by the production or consumption of forest products. Many environmental benefits are public goods and thus have no market price.
If all goods and services, including environmental services, provided by forests could be bought and sold in efficient markets, the trade-offs among forest functions and between forest and non-forest uses of land would be determined by the public's willingness to buy different services. If the public preferred the services of an intact forest over timber, the private landowner would be paid more to preserve the forest than to harvest it. Since it is not possible to restrict environmental benefits to those who pay for them, no market for these services exists and most landowners undervalue and thus underinvest in environmental forest functions.
In these cases, private and social costs and benefits diverge. Logging companies, for example, may disregard the impact of their activities on wildlife and landscape. The resulting loss of value for hunting or tourism falls outside the private cost and benefit calculations of the timber firm. When external costs are consistently ignored throughout an industry, prevailing market prices will tend to fall below the socially optimal level. Ideal policies would induce landowners to weigh the social costs and benefits of their land-use decisions equally with the private costs and benefits. Policies that attempt to induce this behaviour include taxing landowners to cover the social costs they impose on society or subsidizing landowners to prevent them from imposing the damages.
Property rights also shape the system of incentives and disincentives for forest use. The structure of property rights defines the rules, rights and duties within which users of the forest operate. Economic policy-makers place great importance on property rights systems because they govern the efficiency of resource use throughout the economy as well as the distribution of income.
Macro-economic policies
Macro-economic policies and public investment decisions may distort market prices of traded forest products and services. Economic policy interventions at various levels can alter the profitability of forest-based activities vis-à-vis other domestic sectors and their competitiveness relative to foreign producers. For instance, exchange rate devaluations and the level of debt-service ratios influence forest resource use in a variety of ways. An overvalued exchange rate lowers the price of tradable goods relative to non-tradable goods. In this case, a real devaluation would remove economic distortions and provide enhanced incentives to domestic production of tradable goods (including forest products) relative to non-tradable goods. This may encourage forest harvesting and increase deforestation rates through the expansion of wood production for international markets. More generally, macroeconomic policies can affect underlying demand and supply conditions, having an inevitable impact on the forest industry and forest resources.
The impacts of macro-economic performance and policies on the forest sector are difficult to assess; few studies have attempted to examine the macro-economic linkages to temperate deforestation, and studies of tropical deforestation often produce conflicting conclusions.2
Public investment often has direct effects on forest-based activities, particularly where transport infrastructure and public services are extended to previously inaccessible forested areas. This type of investment may be an important subsidy for the logging and wood processing industry, because it reduces the costs of gaining access to forest resources. Likewise, it represents a subsidy for consumers, as it brings forest products to market less expensively. Public investment in remote forested areas also acts as an impetus to human migration and agricultural expansion, which is the major cause of forest clearing in many countries.
Forest sector policies
Examples of policies that aim directly at forest management include tax credits or subsidies for forest conversion, forestation and wood production. Forestry is also affected by policies that alter incentives and impede competition in downstream industries or related sectors, such as wood processing and construction.
In the past several years, a great deal of applied research has focused on the economic linkages between forest policies and deforestation.3 Many studies conclude that forest pricing and management policies often distort costs in two ways. First, the prices for timber products or the products derived from converted forest land do not incorporate the lost economic values, such as foregone timber rentals, foregone non-wood forest products, forest protection and ecological functions or the loss of biodiversity. Second, the direct costs of harvesting and converting tropical forests are often subsidized (or distorted in other ways), thus encouraging overuse and waste.
An important role of policy analysis is to determine whether the benefits of incorporating these foregone values into decisions affecting forest use balance the costs of reduced timber production, trade, jobs and income (as well as the costs of implementing such policies). The next step is to correct the distortional domestic government policies and market failures that drive a wedge between private and social rates of forest use. Economically efficient policies internalize the ecological costs of forest use in production decisions.
Policies that permit imperfect competition in the forest industry can have important effects. Barriers to entry can prevent the most efficient firms from operating, thus leading the industry as a whole to extract more timber than necessary to provide a given supply of products. Inefficiencies in the processing sector are particularly damaging in this respect, as they tend to increase the raw material requirements and, consequently, timber exploitation through poor log conversion rates and overexpanded capacity. Imperfect competition may also lead to the failure to adopt technologies and management practices designed to improve forest harvesting activities that minimize environmental degradation.
Forestry policies may lead to management inefficiencies in a number of ways by affecting the level of privately and socially efficient harvests; by influencing alternative royalty, contract and concession arrangements and their implications for trespass, high-grading and other environmental losses; and by altering the level of rent distribution. Designing forestry policies to reduce the inefficiencies of existing management practices and to control excessive degradation through logging activities is a complex process requiring careful attention to harvesting incentives. More often than not, policies actually create the conditions for short-term harvesting by concessionaires and, in some instances, even subsidize commercial harvesting at inefficient levels.
All these domestic market and policy failures have important implications for sustainable forest management. If public policies are to be redirected to achieve efficient and sustainable management of forest resources, then changes are required. The economic valuation of current policies plays an important role in determining the appropriate policy responses. Often, however, insufficient economic data and information exist to allow a precise estimation of the economic costs arising from domestic market and policy failures. Although in most cases cost estimates as orders of magnitude and indicators of the direction of change are sufficient for policy analysis, in many cases we are not even at this stage of ‘optimal ignorance’.

Forests, trade and the environment

The environmental impacts of international trade are among the most divisive issues facing national policy-makers. Some environmental and advocacy groups interested in the trade environment debate argue that further trade liberalization will increase the demand for tropical timber. Not surprisingly, these groups tend to distrust regional and global trade agreements aimed at removing trade barriers. A number of interest groups advocate more restrictive trade measures in multilateral negotiations to control excessive forest depletion, encourage sustainable timber management and raise compensatory financing for timber-producing countries that lose revenues and incur costs by changing their forest policy.
Important concerns in the trade and environmental debate include: i) logging of old-growth forests in some regions of the world to service the trade; ii) the impacts of market, policy and trade distortions on the incentives for timber trade; and iii) the inability of many countries to make a sustainable transition from dependence on primary to second-growth forests and to match domestic processing capacity with the availability of timber stocks.
Trade policies and forest resource use
Countries with forest industries may use restrictive trade policies to protect their own forest-based industries, to stimulate value-added processing or to reduce the log content of timber product exports. Trade barriers include tariffs, quotas and other controls that limit the type and volume of forest products traded relative to what would be traded in a free market. Tariffs and quotas on imported forest products provide protection for domestic forest industries. Subsidies and product standard rules are used to discriminate against imported forest products. Taxes and bans on log exports are intended to promote value-added processing and restrict harvesting.
Over the past four decades, international trade negotiations have attempted to reduce trade restrictions on a wide range of goods and services including forest products. Fora such as GATT provide a means for reaching agreements on trade rules, settling disputes and reducing trade barriers.
Trade liberalization also raises important questions regarding social distribution of wealth, resources and income. More open markets tend to concentrate wealth and redistribute it to economically efficient groups at the expense of less advantaged and less efficient segments of society. These shifts require public interventions to adjust for imperfect competition and market failures. How to sustain productive distribution and regulate conflicts over forest resources is a fundamental question in the new world of liberalized trade, and nations are only beginning to confront the complexity of these problems.
The various studies to date imply that, to take advantage of trade-expanding strategies, countries need to address existing policy failures and the incentive structure underlying deforestation by, for example, internalizing externalities, improving access to farmland, increasing agricultural productivity, expanding employment opportunities and providing increased tenure security for common and private property.4
On the other hand, trade measures are often not the most appropriate means for addressing concerns about deforestation and degradation, for several reasons. First, substantial distortions may already exist in the timber trade, the environmental effects of which are not well known. Further interventions to achieve environmental objectives may add to these uncertainties and prove to have unintended and even counterproductive effects.
Second, market and policy failures have a significant impact on forest management. Domestic environmental policies can have substantial effects on timber production, trade and prices. Trade interventions, on the other hand, address these problems only indirectly at best. Trade measures imposed unilaterally by importing countries would have little influence on domestic policies within producer countries.
Finally, trade measures have their most direct impact on cross-border product flows and prices. As noted above, changes in these international flows may have very little influence on the main causes of deforestation and forest degradation in producer countries. Even for forestry operations, there may be little effective control on how these trickle-down effects influence economic incentives at the level of the timber stand.
However, trade policies can play a role in encouraging trade-related incentives for sustainable forest management. Such policies should be used in conjunction with and to complement forest sector policies and regulations that improve forest management. Certainly, other sectoral and macro-economic policies that influence the pattern of deforestation and forest land use must also be addressed.

Forests and future directions

In the past, national governments treated forests as bounded stocks of wood that could be enhanced, maintained or converted to improve national welfare. These earlier approaches made use of centralized ministries and sectoral policies to generate revenue and foreign exchange. Today, governments are recognizing that sources of wood are found beyond conventional forest jurisdictions and that forest benefits and services go beyond wood.
This broader view of what forests are and what they contribute requires national strategies and policies to integrate forests in rural development efforts and balance economic and environmental needs among local, national and international interests. At the same time, these sometimes conflicting expectations create difficult policy challenges in dealing with both the forest sector and national development.
Evolving concepts and shifting priorities are also placing additional strains on national capacity to manage individual forest units. For instance, sustainability in forestry has evolved from focusing on sustained yield of timber to a much broader concept of managing ecological processes, environmental services and economic and social goods. Like the concept of sustainable development, incorporating this broad range of values into sustainable forestry management is appealing, but difficult in practice. The approach to sustainability depends on the perspective adopted.
In addressing the wide spectrum of priorities between local and global perspectives and responding to interest groups which may have competing objectives, trade-offs are inevitable. Critically important issues of equity arise when the interests and welfare of local communities, with limited options and capacity to find alternatives for their subsistence, differ from national or international priorities. Consulting and compensating those who are poorly served by the priorities selected is essential; the public must be involved in setting priorities.
For all these reasons, national governments are challenged to mesh people's needs with national and global interests; to use policies that determine forest conditions in ways that help improve opportunities for people and communities; and to understand better how interactions among sectoral policies and macro-policies influence people's use of forests, and the consequences of such use on national development.

Developments in community forestry

Recent experiences at the local level, in community forestry programmes, provide lessons in new forms of local governance aimed at addressing the interests of people who depend on the forest. There is now a need and an opportunity to invest these lessons in arrangements that also capture the intersectoral and macro policy relations that determine what people do with forest resources
Until the early 1970s, central governments tended to blame rural communities for forest destruction; local communities overharvested fuelwood, allowed livestock to overgraze and illegally converted land to crop agriculture. Local needs increasingly conflicted with national needs and, during much of this period, governments responded by nationalizing forests, restricting local access, curtailing community rights and introducing police authority. Over time, this authoritarian approach displaced community-centred cultures, broke up well-established common property resource traditions and resulted in increased forest destruction.5
State control meant keeping people away from forests. Agriculture and forestry were considered separate and, to some extent, mutually exclusive land-use activities. However, it became evident that the expansion of state control and curtailing of community rights ignored fundamental linkages between the forests, agriculture and people as integral components of the rural ecosystem. Food security, income, nutrition, employment, energy sources and overall well-being of rural families were linked to the forests.
The new approach that emerged attempted to integrate forestry and communities into a single framework of policy and action, especially in areas with endemic poverty and severe forest depletion. The re-orientation of policies and programmes aimed to support forestry for people and encourage rural populations to participate in forestry and conservation efforts. Community forestry is the well-known umbrella term for these participatory activities, which include farm forestry, social forestry, joint forest management and extractive reserves. There are subtle distinctions among programmes, but all involve a form of forestry that is based on local interests and depends on community participation.
Community forestry attempts to account for diverse situations by strengthening local stakes in management. Nonetheless, community programmes and activities must operate in the context of national-level approaches that involve uniform policy structures. For instance, macro and sectoral polices affect local-level forest use by influencing such factors as: i) the level of competition for non-forest land uses (agricultural, grazing and industrial uses and the relative prices for their products); ii) ease of access to forest products (unguarded public forests, low-cost agricultural wood, commercial fuels and other fodder sources); and iii) access to markets and availability of services. Community forestry activities attempt to work within this policy context by directly influencing the use of individual forests through formal and informal agreements between the government and local groups.
Community forestry experiences from around the world illustrate diversity in: the products harvested; the organization of local users; the politics surrounding access; the initial conditions; and contractual arrangements. The variety of products, services and interested parties makes it difficult to classify cases and policies into successes and failures. However, it is evident that different types of users can cooperate and manage programmes, plant trees and restore forests.
On the other hand, as a result of top-down planning, many projects more accurately reflect planner's perceptions of people's needs rather than local people's ideas of their own needs. A recent FAO review of community forestry identifies several patterns that differ from what had been assumed or intended by the planners. Other studies question community forestry achievements and some of its aims. Criticisms include the following: people did not participate to the expected level; the extensive practice of monoculture has been ecologically destructive in some cases; many fuelwood plantations produced industrial and commercial timber rather than relieving fuelwood shortages; and a weak commitment to gender equity (many programmes treated the household as a unit) has worsened rather than strengthened women's economic position and productivity.
The experience with community forestry offers some important lessons.6 First, just as different branches of the government often support conflicting uses for forests (such as agricultural expansion, timber production, watershed production, government revenue or local economic development), community interests differ and conflict among activities, users, user groups and communities. Because access to political power and economic opportunities are not uniform within a community, it is not surprising that some groups fare poorly under arrangements intended to benefit local users as a whole. This is especially true for women who are often responsible for collecting fodder, fuelwood and food items from the forest. In these cases, women are penalized by forest management policies designed to promote forest growth by reducing access to forest products. Addressing these concerns through national policies is feasible but may inhibit local initiatives. It is more effective for women to decide on their own priorities and negotiate these with competing interest groups.
Second, the more successful examples from around the world point to the need to lay out explicit contracts where the returns to the parties are roughly proportional to the respective levels of investment and risk. Arrangements whereby the state government tries to collect most of the benefits create local opposition. On the other hand, arrangements with large subsidies for local users often attract considerable attention from politically powerful individuals. Even if the usurpation of rural resources can be controlled, highly subsidized projects are financially unsustainable and are rarely replicated.

Capacity development

Community forestry successes underline the advantages of strengthening the capacities of local groups and NGOs involved in forestry activities. Capacity development is needed for individual participation, communal management, co-management with government forest services or joint ventures with private sector groups. Local and provincial groups need expanded education, skill training and funding for national forest services.
Developing local and national capacity in forestry requires human resources with improved skills and capacities to formulate and implement policies, strategies and programmes; and improved institutional arrangement for economic development.
Evidence suggests that all countries need to improve their capacity to manage the growing demands on forest resources and increasing obligations to the international community. While it may be more urgent in some developing countries and those undergoing the transition from a centrally planned to a market-oriented economy, it is also necessary in the industrial countries. Although encouraging examples of organizational reforms and adjustments exist on a limited scale, every country faces challenges to achieve the kind of balance between development and the environment agreed to at UNCED.
FAO identifies six specific areas that require special attention to capacity-building:7
  • the ability to collect, analyse and use sectoral information for policy formulation, planning, priority-setting and programming;
  • the capacity for dialogue and cooperation among sectors, institutions and the increased range of interest groups whose development strategies and programmes need to follow approaches to sustainability that are complementary to those for forestry;
  • the capacity to promote sustained participation by rural communities and to provide them with adequate support, including extension;
  • the capacity to identify, prepare, negotiate and secure funding for projects and programmes based on the demonstrable value of forest contributions;
  • the capacity to adapt policies, laws, tenures, institutions and attitudes as well as to transform skills for effectiveness, especially in former centrally planned countries undergoing market-oriented reforms; and
  • research and technological development and research extension on the broad range of technical, socio-economic and policy issues relevant to forestry development.

The international dimensions

Evolving global interests in forest conditions (for carbon storage, biodiversity, wilderness, etc.) are increasing the level of international involvement in forest governance. International funding for forestry from ODA increased from $400 million per year in the mid-1980s to more than $1 300 million in the early 1990s. During the last decade, a variety of new international arrangements emerged, including: debt-for-nature swaps and subsidized plantation programmes; tradable permits, quotas and quasi-market schemes for carbon storage; scientific, political, technical assistance and financial programmes to expand resource availability and increase national investments through capital and technology transfers; and freer trade and market liberalization.
UNCED devoted considerable attention to the world's forests. The conference drew up a non-legally binding authoritative statement of principles for a global consensus on the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forests, known as the ‘forest principles’. Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 focuses on deforestation, and forestry is an important element in other chapters dealing with desertification and drought, sustainable mountain development and the conservation of biodiversity.
The forest principles can be considered as a code of good stewardship applicable to all forests. They respect national sovereignty over forests and request all countries to adopt sustainable patterns of production and consumption. They also point out the multiple functions and uses of forests and the need for a balanced view of the issues and opportunities for their conservation and development.
Chapter 11 of Agenda 21 highlights four programme areas: sustaining the multiple roles and functions of all types of forests; strengthening capacities for planning assessments and systematic observations of forestry and related programmes, projects and activities; promoting efficient resource utilization and evaluation techniques that incorporate the entire range of values provided by forests, forest lands and woodlands; and enhancing, protecting, conserving and managing degraded areas. The UNCED Secretariat estimated the total annual cost of these programmes to be $30 000 million.
The responsibility for implementing UNCED agreements rests with national governments, while the commitments made by NGOs, local communities and private sector groups in each country will determine the rate of progress.
FAO has identified several levels of action:
  • Stimulate international dialogue among governments, NGOs and the commercial private sector (as main interest groups), to secure early agreement on pressing issues which currently are the subject of divergent positions. Examples include, reaching agreement on common attributes of sustainable forest management, setting clear targets for implementing the forest principles and forestry elements of Agenda 21; reaching agreement on priorities in UNCED follow-up; proposing modalities for cooperation among the interest groups.
  • Promote agreement on a harmonized system of criteria and indicators for assessment of progress toward sustainable forest management, taking account of the different capacities of member countries and their sovereign rights over their forest resources.
  • Enhance information on forests and appeal to the donor community to: (a) support the capacity of concerned international institutions active in forest resources assessment; (b) fund programmes for capacity building in member countries for forest resources assessment; and (c) support ongoing international work on development of methodologies for valuation of forest goods and services to provide more sound justification for public and political support for sustainable management of forests.
  • Promote collaboration among multilateral lending institutions active in forestry, donor agencies, member governments of main beneficiary countries, NGOs and the private sector in order to study existing and new mechanisms for enhancing funding flows for forestry, with particular emphasis on private sector and domestic resources, including sectoral revenues.
  • Through broad consultations among all interest groups, chart a way forward towards trade in forest products from all types of forests, based on sustainably managed forests and the application of criteria and indicators.
  • Intensify international support for: (a) capacity-building both for governments and other groups active in forestry; (b) strengthening the public institutions charged with responsibility for safeguarding forests and improving their visibility and stature so as to be better able to influence policy and attract the degree of resources and political support essential for pursuing sustainable forest management; and (c) technology transfer and development, including efforts to marry modern science with indigenous knowledge and practice.
In the future, the trade-offs between international obligations and national interests and government readiness to negotiate international dimensions of forests (in terms of both commodity trade and environmental services) will further influence policy choices, national development and forest conditions.
Actions within the forestry sector alone cannot secure sustainable conservation and a wise use of forests. Success in the implementation of UNCED follow-up activities requires the promotion of follow-up actions in other sectors that influence forestry. Redirecting public policies to achieve efficient and sustainable forest management requires significant changes. However, UNCED's consensus on forest principles represents the first-ever commitment of responsibilities beyond national boundaries. The formidable challenge ahead is to turn these principles into practice. The contributions of forests to national development will depend on how well this challenge is met.

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