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The Tropical Forestry Action Plan is the development establishment's response to the accelerating destruction of the tropical forests. However its lack of recognition of land rights issues and its promotion of logging in primary forests can only exacerbate the destruction of the forests and the impoverishment of their inhabitants. (Photo: P. McCully)

Paved With Good Intentions:

TFAP's Road To Oblivion by

Larry Lohmann and Marcus Colchester

When it was launched, the Tropical Forestry Action Plan was hailed by the aid agencies and environmental groups which conceived it as the answer to the tropical forest crisis. National plans have now been drawn up under the TFAP process, and although they are shrouded in official secrecy, enough information is available to confirm the worst fears of those activists who opposed the Plan from the outset. The national plans are biased towards industrial forestry and forest-based industries and ignore the main causes of deforestation. Hopes that

TFAP can be reformed are unrealistic and environmentalists should now be concentrating their energies on supporting the struggles of those who rely on the forests.

In 1985, when the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Bank unveiled their $8 billion Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP), the first reaction of many environmentalists was to breathe a sigh of relief. At last, it seemed, official development agencies had recognized the crisis of tropical deforestation and were set to do something about it.

Marcus Colchester was formerly Research Coordinator and Projects Director of the human rights organization Survival International. He now works for the World Rainforest Movement, 8 Chapel Row, Chadlington, Oxfordshire 0X73NA, England. Tel. 060 876 743. Fax 060 876 691, E-mail GE02.WRM. Larry Lohmann worked for six years with Thai NGOs. He now works at The Ecologist's editorial office, Corner House, Station Road, Sturminster Newton, Dorset DT10 IBB, England. Tel. 0258 73476, Fax 0258 73748, E-mail gn: ecologist.

The Ecologist, Vol. 20, No. 3, May/June 1990

As the details of TFAP became known, however, some independent observers began to criticize the plan as being both unrealistic in its approach to forest problems and dictatorial in its formulation and implementation. They accused the Plan of failing to come to grips with many of the main causes of tropical deforestation, including international development financing, industrial logging, commercial plantations, landlessness and unjust national land use policies. In addition, TFAP had been developed in almost complete isolation from local peoples, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the general public, and was strongly biased against ordinary people in the rural areas of the Third World, incorrectly blaming them for the forest crisis.1

Partly in response to such criticisms,

TFAP literature was soon taking pains to acknowledge that the causes of deforestation included not only population pressure for agricultural land and the demand for fuelwood and fodder but also:

" . . . skewed land distribution and insecure land tenure . . . unsustainable exploitation of forests for industrial timber production and export, and inappropriate government policies regarding land tenure, economic incentives, forest settlement, and other population issues . . . Commercial exploitation is a major cause of deforestation . . . Large-scale development projects in agriculture and other sectors, including projects funded by international development assistance agencies, are major factors as well. As these and other

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