[permaculture] BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Forests to fall for food and fuel
Lawrence F. London, Jr.
lflj at intrex.net
Sun Jul 13 21:12:55 EDT 2008
Page last updated at 23:04 GMT, Sunday, 13 July 2008 00:04 UK
Forests to fall for food and fuel
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website
Demand for biofuels will add to pressure on forests, the report warns
Demand for land to grow food, fuel crops and wood is set to outstrip supply, leading to the probable destruction of
forests, a report warns.
The Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) says only half of the extra land needed by 2030 is available without eating
into tropical forested areas.
A companion report documents poor progress in reforming land ownership and governance in developing countries.
Both reports will be launched on Monday in UK government offices in London.
Supporters of RRI include the UK's Department of International Development (DfID) and its equivalents in Sweden and
The dual crises of fuel and food are attracting significant land speculation
Andy White, RRI
"Arguably, we are on the verge of a last great global land grab," said RRI's Andy White, co-author of the major report,
Seeing People through the Trees.
"It will mean more deforestation, more conflict, more carbon emissions, more climate change and less prosperity for
Rising demand for food, biofuels and wood for paper, building and industry means that 515 million hectares of extra land
will be needed for growing crops and trees by 2030, RRI calculates.
But only 200 million hectares will be available without dipping into tropical forests.
The report foresees demand increasing further into the century.
Market stall selling food in Senegal
'New crops needed' to avoid famine
It cites studies suggesting that "...if the current plateau in productivity continues, the amount of additional
agricultural land required just to meet the world's projected food demand in 2050 would be about three billion hectares,
nearly all of which would be required in developing countries."
According to UN figures, the world currently has about 1.4 billion hectares of arable land and about 3.4 billion
hectares of pasture.
Some academics place their hopes in agricultural technologies including genetic engineering to boost crop yields.
But since the spectacular successes of the Green Revolution, advances have been slow. In some areas, yields are falling
- a trend which is likely to be exacerbated by climate change.
However, eating into tropical forests to create extra agricultural land would, in turn, exacerbate climate change, with
deforestation currently accounting for about 20% of greenhouse gas emissions.
One of RRI's key conclusions is that reform of land ownership is crucial, if large-scale pillage of tropical forests is
to be avoided.
The conclusion is supported by DfID, whose minister Gareth Thomas will be speaking at the launch event.
"These new studies should strengthen global resolve to protect the property rights of indigenous and local communities
who play a vital role in protecting one the most outstanding natural wonders of the world," he said.
DfID runs programmes in West Africa aimed at helping forest dwellers acquire the legal right to manage their land.
Drawing maps of forest areas in mud in Bandundu Province, DRC
Many indigenous peoples need help in acquiring rights to the land they live on
"It is clear that the dual crises of fuel and food are attracting significant new investments and great land
speculation," said Andy White.
"Only by protecting the rights of the people who live in and around the world's most vulnerable forests can we prevent
the devastation these forces will wreak on the poor."
But the second RRI report - From Exclusion to Ownership? - says progress in reforming ownership has been slow, with only
a few countries such as Brazil, Cameroon and Tanzania handing over significant tracts to local communities.
Moves to curb climate change by preserving forests in developing countries could help, RRI concludes. But it also raises
the question of who owns rights to the trees - the rich Western countries that want to fund carbon sequestration, or the
people who live in the forest areas?
Sorting out ownership could not only help on the environmental front, but also remove reasons for conflict. RRI
calculates that about two-thirds of the world's current violent conflicts are driven by land tenure issues.
Richard.Black-INTERNET at bbc.co.uk
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