Balancing agricultural development and environmental objectives: assessing tradeoffs in the humid tropics
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This volume so far has presented numerous issues, opportunities, and concerns from specific national and thematic perspectives on tropical forests and deforestation. This chapter attempts to pull these together through analysis of tradeoffs across those vari - ous perspectives. And, indeed, everyone in the world seems to want something from tropical forests. Forest dwellers want to continue aspects of their traditional way of life based on hunting and gathering while improving the welfare of themselves and their families. They are losing their land to migrant smallholders, who clear small amounts of forest to earn a living by raising crops and livestock. Both these groups tend to lose out to larger, more powerful interestsâ??ranchers, plantation owners, large-scale farm - ers, or logging concernsâ??whose aim is to convert large areas of forest into big money. Outside the forests is the international community, who want to see forests preserved for the carbon they store, which would otherwise contribute to global warming, for the wealth of biological diversity they harbor, and for the many other ecosystem ser - vices they provide. Deforestation continues because converting forests to other uses is almost always profitable for the individual, household, or firm that engages in it. However, society as a whole bears the costs of lost biodiversity, global warming, smoke pollution, and the degradation of water resources. Every year the world loses about 13 million ha of tropical forest, an area more than three times the size of Belgium. None of the land use systems that replace this natural forest can match it in terms of biodiversity rich - ness and carbon storage. However, the land use systems that replace the forest vary greatly in the degree to which they combine at least some environmental benefits with their contributions to economic growth and poor peoplesâ?? livelihoods. Therefore it is always worth asking what will replace forest (and for how long), both under the cur - rent mix of policies, institutions, and technologies and compared with possible alter - natives, some of which may leave forests largely intact. In other words, what can and should be done to secure the best balance between the conflicting interests of different groups, including some who are poor and experience chronic hunger?
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