Poor Farmers & Loggers Threaten Forests



Report Indicates Poor Farmers Could Destroy Half of Tropical Forests (with Logging Threatening the Rest)


Forest Networking a Project of Ecological Enterprises 7/5/96


A widely reported study by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research states that half of the world's remaining tropical forests are threatened by slash-and-burn agriculture. In a familiar display of chauvinism, this threat gets the headline, while the fact that the rest of the forest (which would also be half) is threatened by logging. Despite the fact that it is easier to blame poor people than logging corporations for tropical deforestation, the fact remains that unfragmented tropical forests landscapes may cease to exist from the combined threats. The study lists better agricultural extension, more agro-forestry and development of sustainable forestry as potential policies to address the crisis. Add to this an immediate halt of industrial forestry practices in ancient rainforests, and immediate transfers of financial resources and appropriate technology to developing countries where rainforests exist, and we may have a fighting chance. Following is a photocopy of an Associated Press article on the report.

Study: Poor farmers could destroy half of tropical forests

August 4, 1996 Copyright 1996 Associated Press.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Nearly half of the world's remaining tropical forests could be lost, mostly because of poor farmers who are forced to use slash-and-burn agriculture to feed their families, a new study warns.

The rest of the 5-billion-acre forest cover is endangered by logging, said a study by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. The group is sponsored by the World Bank, the United Nations Development Program, the Food and Agriculture Organization and the United Nations Environment Program.

The study said that despite rising global awareness, increased aid for tropical forestry and a decade of international efforts to shape coherent global strategies for saving the forests, 38.1 million acres are lost annually -- 72 acres a minute.

The study said that the slash-and-burn agriculture practiced by poor farmers to grow crops results in the loss or degradation of about 25 million acres of land per year.

Ismail Serageldin, the group's chairman, said that while not every acre of tropical forest could be protected, the loss of the forest cover could be diminished through a combination of new agricultural practices and government policies.

"There is no magic bullet to saving the world's tropical forests," said Serageldin, who is also a World Bank official. "What is needed is a comprehensive effort on a solid scientific basis to attack the root causes of deforestation - - poverty, rising population, bad natural resource management and distorted forest policies."

Among the initiatives suggested by the study:

* Assisting farmers in raising their output on their present land, improving farmers' access to markets and removing bureaucratic obstacles that hinder small-scale farmers.

* Integration of trees into farming practices, which would provide farmers with a convenient source of food, fuel and timber for construction and fences.

* Developing environmentally sustainable logging practices that would not damage the forest.

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