Forests for People? In 1979, FAO launched a "special action programme" intended to make forestry serve local community development. Priority was given to increasing fuelwood supplies, supporting agroforestry programmes and "increasing incomes from forest-based activities." Following FAO's lead, the World Bank signalled its intention to devote an increasing share of its investment in forestry to "social forestry" programmes.
At the time, Jack Westoby told delegates to the Eighth World Forestry Congress: "I think it would be prudent to wait until we set the victory bells ringing." His caution has proved justified. In all to many cases, the need to pay off loans has led to trees being diverted to industrial uses; the profits to be made have also encouraged private investors to make over
agricultural land to tree plantations, to the detriment of the local community.
A case in point is Karnataka, which is hailed by both FAO and the World Bank as an example where social forestry has brought major improvements for the poor. In fact, the main beneficiaries have been two highly polluting pulp mills. In Africa, "Trying to grow trees for fuel in the Sahel has become an international obsession over the last decade", notes Lloyd Timberlake in his 1988 book Africa in Crisis. "But most of these attempts have ended in failure.. . In 1982, some $160 million had been spent to produce a total of about 25,000 hectares of fuelwood plantation, much of it was growing poorly."
Corporate Conservation: The Tropical Forestry Action Plan FAO, however, has proved deaf to criticism of the logging industry, insisting that it is "the rural poor who are the primary agents of destruction."26 It is a view that fits neatly with FAO's uncritical assumption that the forests cannot be protected without "development" — which in practice amounts to wresting control over the forest domain out of the hands of local people and placing it in the hands of commercial or state interests. Nowhere is this bias currently more apparent than in its Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP), jointly drawn up by FAO, the World Resources Institute (WRI), the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and coordinated by FAO.
Although promoted by FAO as "an emergency action plan to arrest deforestation", TFAP's approach to the problem of tropical deforestation is resolutely "business-as-usual". Far from attempting to tackle the root causes of deforestation, TFAP focuses almost exclusively on promoting commercial forestry. In Cameroon, the national plan proposes opening up 14 million hectares of pristine forest to logging, with the aim of transforming the country into the largest tropical timber exporter in Africa in the 21st Century. In Peru, TFAP proposes an increase in logging in Amazonia of between 390 per cent and
590 per cent. In Tanzania, it calls for a 23fold increase in sawnwood exports: in Nepal for a 250 per cent increase in timber production. In Ghana, TFAP makes the second tranche of its loan conditional on the lifting of a ban on the export of timber from 14 tree species.27
Whilst the original TFAP reports stressed the need for land reform, few of the national plans that have been drawn up address land ownership issues. On the contrary, rather than calling for reforms of inequitable land ownership, TFAP often requires alienation of traditional lands into government forestry estates.
Criticism of TFAP is now widespread. The first major critique, published by the World Rainforest Movement (WRM) and The Ecologist in early 1990, concluded that "on balance, deforestation seems likely to accelerate under the TFAP" and called for a moratorium on international funding for the plan.28
Subsequently, a report from the World Resources Institute — one of the bodies originally responsible for TFAP — criticized the excessive focus on the forestry sector and highlighted a number of failures at a national level, especially with regards to NGO participation.29
Finally, an independent review, com
missioned by FAO itself in 1989, reported in June 1990.30 The review is remarkable for making scarcely any comment at all on the specific projects put forward under TFAP. Although the review team made field visits to Cameroon, Ghana, Indonesia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Honduras and Columbia, in several of which countries environmentalist criticism of national-level TFAP exercises has reached a high pitch, it devotes not one line to the specific contents of any of the national plans.
Deflecting Criticism Despite the mounting criticism, the substantive international debate on TFAP has become submerged in a bureaucratic wrangle about the structure of high-level TFAP management. WRI's main recommendations are for a new management structure for the TFAP, and a clarification of TFAP's goals and objectives. Meanwhile, the independent review confines itself mainly to recommending that TFAP should be "country-driven and processoriented" and that the four originators of TFAP should work out new "organizational arrangements". It also recommends that the name of TFAP be changed from the Tropical Forestry Action Plan to the Tropical Forestry Action Programme.
The limitation of the debate to administrative structures reflects two major interests in TFAP. The first is that of the donor and recipient governments, for which TFAP provides a framework within which a wide range of forestry aid and development loans can be coordinated, and in which national forestry plans can consolidate a number of projects into a single plan. Over the past two years, donor governments have responded to growing public concern over tropical deforestation by committing increasing sums to tropical forestry aid. The German aid agencies, for example, are obliged to spend DM300 million on tropical forest issues every year, rising to DM500 million by 1985. The British government has committed itself to spending £100 million over three years in tropical forestry aid. Clearly, it is in the interests of donor agencies that the TFAP should be efficient in providing them with a regular list of fundable projects. The same is true of recipient governments, for whom TFAP has the potential to provide badly needed foreign currency and aid.
The second major interest is that of FAO itself, which is insistent that TFAP
The Ecologist, Vol. 21, No. 2, March/April 1991 should remain under its control. The focus on the administrative failings of TFAP has enabled FAO to side-step the more substantive criticisms of TFAP's underlying policies made by WRM, The Ecologistand many groups in the South. Indeed, in an eight-page response to TFAP's critics, FAO's Director-General Edouard Saouma ignored the broader issues entirely and confined himself to rebutting what he saw as attacks on FAO's capacity to administrate TFAP, rejecting the formation of an external steering committee and blaming past failure on a cash crisis within FAO.31
Meanwhile, the FAO Committee on Forestry argues that "TFAP must be revitalized in order to demonstrate its effectiveness and achieve tangible results" and that TFAP "should be extended to all developing countries where forest resources play, or can play, an important role for socioeconomic development and environmental stability."32 Indeed, within FAO, it is clear that few question the "rightness" of TFAP as presently constituted.
Institutionalized Deforestation FAO is now making a major play to draft and administer a global Forest Convention, to be signed at the UN Conference on Environment and Development in Brazil in 1992. An FAO draft proposal for the convention, leaked to The Ecologist, reveals that FAO has learned little from its TFAP critics: although the rhetoric has changed, the approach is still top-down, commercially-orientated, and, i f adopted, likely to exacerbate the deforestation crisis.33
The draft sets out three underlying "principles" on which forest policy should be based: sovereignty, stewardship and burden-sharing. The language used, however, opens the way for continued appropriation of local peoples' resources. "Stewardship", for example, is defined in terms of "ensuring the attainment and continued satisfaction of human needs for present and future generations" without specifying who is to determine these needs, this satisfaction and that attainment. Similarly, "sovereignty" of the "forest resource" is defined exclusively in terms of state sovereignty — this despite the role that governments continue to play in causing deforestation and the displacement of local peoples. The tendency to buttress state control of the forests is further encouraged by the proposal that "supreme authority" over the convention and its enforcement should be vested in a conference of governments. Worse, the relative power of member states is to be weighted according to "forest area, GNP or participation in international financial mechanisms" — a proposal that will disproportionately benefit the interests of the North.
Under a section headed "Main Obligations of Parties", the draft calls for governments to agree to an "optimal" forest land use pattern which reconciles "ecological, economic and social requirements". Beneath the rhetoric are two unsubstantiated assumptions. The first is that ecological and social requirements are compatible with the demands of the modern market. The second is that it is proper to leave to states decisions on the nature of this "optimal land use". The implications of the second assumption are made clear under a
section entitled "Integration of Forest Considerations into General Development Policy." The section stipulates that states should commit themselves to developing national policies "to achieve spatial patterns of settlement, economic activity and administrative services that will sustain investment in, and the productivity of, forest resources and provide the maintenance or establishment of a permanent forest base." In effect, decisions on where people are allowed to live must be subordinated to the requirements of companies who seek to invest in or produce goods from forests. The notion that this constitutes anything but an imprimateur for eviction and commercialization of the forests — and thus further deforestation — is fanciful in the extreme.
The draft explicitly promotes forestbased industrial development and assumes throughout its discussions that "sustainable" logging is both theoretically possible and politically achievable. While nothing is said about how to defend existing communities who are trying to protect their forests from logging or how to ensure land security, a page and a half, out of 15 pages, is devoted to laying down technical specifications for logging the forests on a "sustainable basis". This is despite overwhelming evidence that sustainable logging is little more than a myth (see Marcus Colchester, The ITTO and Rainforest Destruction', The Ecologist, Vol. 20, No. 5, 1990). In effect, i f implemented as drafted, the convention would give a worldwide go-ahead to further catastrophic and unsustainable timber mining.
Although the draft makes repeated calls for "vigorous" and "aggressive" reforesta-
Tropical Forestry Action Plan Campaign Resources
The Ecologist and the World Rainforest Movement have compiled a comprehensive 124 page dossier for activists campaigning against TFAP.
The dossier includes: • Critical reviews of key TFAP documents and a bibliography of TFAP literature;
• Reprints of articles from The Ecologist and other journals on the tropical timber industry and the adverse effects of plantations;
• A paper from a World Bank consultant questioning the very notion of sustainable logging;
• An open letter to the World Bank calling for a halt to funding for projects that would entail logging of tropical forest.
The TFAP Dossier costs £4.50/$9 to
activists and £9/$18 to institutions.
The second edition of the influential report, The Tropical Forestry Action Plan: What Progress? by Marcus Colchester and Larry Lohmann is available for £5/$10 to activists and £10/$20 to institutions.
Order both the dossier and the report and you receive a free copy of The Greenpeace Guide to Paper, a 56 page booklet on the environmental impact of the paper and pulp industries.
Payment by cheque or postal order to
WE C Books , Worthyvale Manor, Camelford, Cornwall, PL3 2 9TT, UK.
Pleas e add £1/$2 for p.& p.
The Ecologist, Vol. 21, No. 2, March/April 1991