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RROJAS DATABANK Vol 1, No.1 /1995
    (This set of articles on deforestation is background reading
     for Dr. Robinson Rojas' teaching on development)
1.- Paradise Lost: The Ravaged Rainforest  
    By Ellen Hosmer  
2.- Treasures Among the Trees  
    By Mark Plotkin  
3.- A Tragic Legacy: The World Bank's Environmental Record  
    By Samantha Sparks and Ellen Hosmer  
4.- The World Bank: Sowing Seeds of Discontent  
    By Samantha Sparks  
5.- Funding Deforestation  
    An Interview with Bruce Rich  
6.- Madagascar: The Fate of the Ark  
    By Henry Mitchell  
7.- A Continent's Demise  
    By Edward Wolf  
8.- Fighting for the Forest  
    By Chip Fay  
9.- Losing Ground in the Philippines  
    By William Steif  

[] MULTINATIONAL MONITOR June 1987   VOLUME 8, NO. 6 * JUNE 1987  
Speaking for Themselves  
"I think greed is healthy. You can be greedy and still feel good  
about yourself."   
- Ivan Boesky in a 1985 commencement speech to the Berkeley  
School of Business Administration.   
Paradise Lost: The Ravaged Rainforest  
Every day, nearly 75,000 acres of rainforest disappear from the  
globe. Despite public outcry in both the developed and the  
developing world, the devastation continues. In a year, 27  
million acres of tropical rainforest - a land area the size of  
Austria or Pennsylvania - vanish. And with the forests go the  
earth's most diverse ecosystem.   
"We are destroying the biological heritage that developed over  
billions of years and doing it in the matter of a few human  
generations," says Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University. "Our  
descendants, if any, will be very much the poorer for it."   
With increasing alarm, environmentalists point to large expanses  
of what used to comprise the earth's tropical rainforests. The  
large splotches of green designating the rainforest on maps in  
1900, have shrunk dramatically; today, only a few disparate  
clusters of tropical forest remain. By 1980, almost 40 percent  
of the world's tropical forests had been destroyed.   
Even the most sanguine predictions hold little hope for a  
turnaround in the world's environmental policy in time to save  
vast portions of the earth's rainforests. Yet without an  
immediate plan of action - something that is still not on the  
drawing boards - environmentalists fear that in another 30 to 40  
years there may not be a single rainforest left to save.   
"The most valuable forests have already disappeared or are under  
severe threat," says Tom Stoel, of the Natural Resources Defense  
Council (NRDC). "The rest may be destroyed in another few  
Tropical forests are located in some 70 countries, but about 80  
percent are in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Gabon, Indonesia,  
Malaysia, Peru, Venezuela and Zaire. The rainforests are home to  
nearly half of all the plants, animals and insects in the world.  
Notes the World Wildlife Fund, "more species of fish live in the  
Amazon River than in the entire Atlantic Ocean."   
Tropical plants produce chocolate, nuts, and wood products,  
rubber and petroleum substitutes and ingredients found in  
toothpaste, pesticides, fibers and dyes.   
In addition, several medical wonders of the twentieth century  
have come from plants found only in rainforests. These plants  
have been used to treat high blood pressure, Hodgkin's disease,  
multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease. The tiny periwinkle  
flower from the rainforest in Madagascar, for example, is key to  
a drug that has been successfully used to treat lymphocytic  
leukemia. And rainforests may hold the answer to treatment for  
several types of cancer. A study of the Costa Rican rainforest  
found that 15 percent of the plants studied had "potential as  
anti-cancer agents."   
But the rainforests, which provide food and fuel for millions of  
people in the developing world, are increasingly losing ground.  
A complex web of government and corporate policies often force  
Third World leaders into making tough economic choices.  
Invariably, the rainforests lose out. Economic priorities pushed  
by the West and accepted by the developing world ensure export  
crops replace subsistence crops on the best farmland and large  
and costly development projects are favored over small-scale  
Farming the forest  
Each year millions of the developing world's poor head into the  
rainforest to eke out a subsistence living on plots recently  
cleared for farming. But rainforest soil is usually too poor to  
support a farmer's crops for more than a few years and the land  
is soon depleted of nutrients. Peasant farmers must then head  
further into the rainforest, slashing and burning still more  
land for farming, and starting the cycle all over.   
In Latin America and some parts of Africa, cattle ranchers  
quickly buy up land abandoned by peasant farmers. After only a  
few years the land is unable to support even herds of cattle.  
"And that land for all intents and purposes is ruined," says  
Professor E.O. Wilson of Harvard University. "It's finished."   
When the cattle are slaughtered, much of their meat makes its  
way to U.S. fast-food counters and into U.S. TV dinners -  
raising the ire of both environmentalists and U.S. farmers.  
Companies such as Burger King, Jack in the Box, Roy Rogers and  
Bob's Big Boy have all come under fire for importing beef  
produced in these environmentally sensitive areas.   
"To knock five cents off a fast-food hamburger, the United  
States is importing beef when we produce too much," says  
Ehrlich. "The result is the deforestation of Central America."   
Between 1966 and 1978, Brazil lost 20 million acres of tropical  
forest to cattle pasture. Costa Rica's beef production has more  
than doubled in the last 20 years and that country has lost most  
of its rainforests to cattle ranching. Ironically, as beef  
production has climbed, beef consumption in much of Latin  
America has declined.   

Not only does beef production not feed the developing world's  
hungry, critics charge, but it also takes away sustainable food  
"It's extremely bad use of land," says Wilson. In the Amazon,  
the giant river turtle could be farmed along the shores of the  
Amazon very inexpensively with a yield several hundred times  
greater in pounds of turtle per acre than beef, he says.   
Fuelling Deforestation  
It is often the logging roads of the timber companies that  
provide the first pathways through the rainforest - passages  
that will be used by the landless poor in their battle to turn  
the forest into farmland. Although a majority of the wood that  
is harvested from the rainforest goes for fuel, rainforest wood  
is also prized for various wood products and its harvest  
contributes significantly to the loss of rainforest.  
The conversion of statuesque mahogany, teak and dipterocarp   
forests into disposable chop sticks, coffins and office  
furniture for the developed world rankles environmental groups,  
especially in Southeast Asia. But the industry is a billion  
dollar export earner for the debt strapped Third World.   
According to the U.S. Interagency Task Force on Tropical  
Forests, "Industrial (non-fuel) wood production accounts for  
one-fifth of the total volume of wood removed from tropical  
forests," but only one fourth of this wood is then exported.  
U.S. imports of tropical hardwood and hardwood products amounted  
to $430 million annually in the mid-1970s. Japan imports a  
majority of all hardwoods exported from the tropics -  
approximately 75 percent. It is Japan's largest import after  
A Developmental Disaster  
Ironically, the multilateral development banks play perhaps the  
most significant and controversial role in the destruction of  
the world's rainforest. The World Bank, the Inter-American  
Development Bank (IDB) and the Asian Development Bank have  
financed projects to build highways, dams and mines that convert  
and destroy the rainforests. In Brazil and Indonesia, the World  
Bank and the IDB have helped fund large-scale government  
population relocations into rainforest areas. Such projects  
appear to sacrifice the environment for increased living  
standards for the Third World's poor, but too often the poor are  
sent into the rainforest with devastating results.   
In many cases, says Wilson, it's not just a matter of destroying  
plant and animal life, but of destroying the soil and with it  
the country's chance of feeding itself.   

Haiti is a case in point. Once covered with lush rainforest, it  
was considered an island paradise. When the forests were cut,  
the topsoil on the hills washed away, and with it went the  
country's ability to grow food.   
Today, Haiti is the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere.  
The countryside is a ravaged wasteland, incapable of producing  
food for the country's 5.7 million people.   
Hungry for Land  
In many cases the political economy of a country exacerbates the  
strain on rainforests. Throughout the Third World, the  
underlying issue of deforestation is one of unequal distribution  
of land: landless peasants heading to the forest because there  
is no other land available to them. Although seemingly  
incomprehensible in a country the size of Brazil, which has  
almost as much land as the United States and less than half the  
population, unequal distribution of land is endemic to the  
region. On the average, 7 percent of the population owns 93  
percent of the land in Latin America. In Brazil, much of the  
arable land is devoted to export crops. Instead of growing food,  
the country grows oranges and soybeans so that it can earn  
foreign exchange.   
Throughout the tropics, unequal distribution of land coupled  
with swelling populations threatens to intensify pressures on  
the rainforests. Two billion people live in these regions today,  
but the figure is expected to jump to three billion by the year  
What Then Must Be Done?   
In 1980, amidst unabated rainforest destruction, the U.S.  
Interagency Task Force on Tropical Forests issued a stern  
warning to policymakers: the "community of nations must quickly  
launch an accelerated and coordinated attack on the problem if  
these greatly undervalued and probably irreplaceable resources  
are to be protected from virtual destruction by the early part  
of the next century."   
The taskforce offered a detailed list of recommendations for  
both the short and long term. Within one to five years the  
United States needed to elicit commitments from all nations  
concerned to pursue environmentally sound projects, double the  
worldwide reforestation efforts and lessen pressures on the  
forest by introducing "low-cost energy and alternative food  
production systems into rural areas." The message was clear:  
time was short and the industrial nations had power over the  
fate of the rainforests. Action was imperative.   

That call, though repeated often, has fallen on deaf ears. Only  
an ad hoc coalition of environmental and consumer groups and a  
few sympathetic members of Congress are actively attempting to  
spur the U.S. government to take an active role in preserving  
the world's rainforests. The World Wildlife Fund has pumped  
hundreds of thousands of dollars into the developing world to  
protect specific forests and has sent scientists around the  
world to catalog new species and track endangered ones.   
The Environmental Defense Fund and a coalition of international  
environmental and community groups have teamed up with  
Republican Sen. Robert Kasten, Jr. of Wisconsin to pressure the  
World Bank and other multilateral development banks to meet new  
environmental standards in their development projects. The  
United Nations has sponsored studies attempting to quantify the  
degree of deforestation in the developing world. And  
environmentalists and academics throughout the United States and  
abroad have worked to make the public aware of the ramifications  
of losing rainforests. Most recently, a worldwide Rainforest  
Action Network formed following a conference in Penang,  
Whatever course of action is followed, the price tag will be  
high. A World Resources Institute (WRI) comprehensive plan of  
action for the rainforests estimates that in the first five  
years of its preservation program, only a single aspect of the  
plan, could cost nearly $800 million and the total cost of the  
5-year action plan could reach $8 billion.   
It is unclear where that money will come from. Third World  
advocates are calling for debt forgiveness for countries that  
enact tropical forest preservation schemes, but the idea has  
found few supporters. If projects sponsored by the multilateral  
and bilateral development agencies require adherence to strict  
environmental guidelines, future problems could be diminished,  
but such a plan offers little respite from current destructive  
pressures on rainforests. Under any scenario, the United States  
would have to make a hefty financial commitment.   
Indeed, says Stoel, "The United States should take the lead in  
establishing an international mechanism for countries to work  
together to protect the rainforest."   
"You have to make it a worldwide responsibility," says Stoel.  
Poor countries simply do not have the resources to protect their  
fragile forests. "To say that Zaire or Uganda is responsible for  
protecting their areas is not very realistic."   

In the long run, rainforests, with valuable medicines, foods and  
products, may be able to pay for their own preservation. The  
tiny periwinkle flower - a pharmaceutical wonder - could reap  
millions of dollars for Madagascar, and with it in the forest  
are thousands of other plants that hold promise for medicinal  
uses. But scientists may not have time to unlock the secrets of  
the plant and animal life in these rapidly disappearing areas.  
According to the National Academy of Sciences, nearly one  
million species face extinction by the end of the century  
because of deforestation.   
"A lot of these places are in fact throwing away their national  
treasures; they're throwing away something it took millions of  
years to produce and the value of that great diversity is  
enormous," says Wilson of Harvard University. "It is one of the  
principal assets of countries like Indonesia, Ecuador and Zaire.  
They don't realize it fully yet but that's an asset greater than  
Despite controversy over what needs to be done to protect the  
world's rainforest, there is striking agreement as to what the  
ultimate devastation of the rainforests will mean. In what  
sounds like an apocalyptic pronouncement, the U.S. Interagency  
Taskforce says that when rainforests are levelled, the results  
are "floods of unprecedented severity, with large life and  
property losses." Other scientists predict results even more  
grim - droughts, starvation, a new ice age.   
Unfortunately, such predictions are plausible. In the tropics,  
moisture is slowly released into the atmosphere and then comes  
down as rain. The rainforest, by slowly releasing the moisture,  
prevents both storms and floods. The trees in the rainforest  
also protect the watershed for land worked by 40 percent of the  
farmers in the world. When the rainforests go, the land is  
eroded, silt blocks lakes and reservoirs and more floods result.  
Scientists also fear that large amounts of carbon dioxide  
released into the atmosphere when a forest is destroyed may  
wreak havoc on the climate. Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere  
traps heat and could significantly warm the earth's temperature,  
producing a melting of the polar ice caps.   
What's more, experts note, when the forests are gone, they won't  
begin to grow back for hundreds of years. And where the land is  
damaged irreparably, they will never grow again.   
Survival is at issue.   
"We are destroying a part of the planet's heritage that is  
crucial to our health, to our climate, to the very maintenance  
of our biosphere," Ehrlich warns. "Second only to nuclear war,  
there are few problems more critical to humanity at the moment."  
Mark Plotkin is an ethnobotanist and director of the plant  
conservation program at the World Wildlife Fund. He has worked  
with Indians in Suriname and Brazil and has catalogued thousands  
of plants for medicinal and commercial uses.   
Treasures Among the Trees  
Beyond the loss of vast areas of natural beauty and timber  
resources, the clearing of the world's tropical rainforests will  
leave in its wake the extinction of thousands of species of  
animal and plant life - many of which provide irreplaceable  
medicines and essential food supplies to both local populations  
and the rest of the world.   
The majority of the world's threatened species inhabit the  
tropical forests - an area which covers only 7 percent of the  
earth's surface but may contain well over 50 percent of the  
world's species. The Rio Negro in central Brazil contains more  
species of fish than are found in all the U.S. rivers combined.  
Manu National Park in south-eastern Peru is home to more species  
of birds than are found in the entire United States. A hectare  
of forest in western Amazonia may contain more than 300 species  
of trees.   
While expeditions to the tropics, particularly the Amazon  
region, continue to bring back new species, destruction of the  
world's forests and the life systems within them is increasing  
at a rate much higher than the rate at which new life forms can  
be found and sustained. As much as 95 percent of the Atlantic  
Coastal Forest of eastern Brazil has already been destroyed. On  
the island of Madagascar, where 80 percent of the flowering  
plants are believed to be endemic - occurring nowhere else in  
the world - well over half of the original forest cover has been  
removed or seriously disturbed. In the Hawaiian archipelago,  
where the rate of endemism is higher than 90 percent, 14 percent  
of the flora is already believed to be extinct.   
Although extinction is a natural process, biologists estimate  
that the present rate of global species extinctions is 400 times  
higher than occurs naturally - and the rate of extinction is  
rapidly accelerating. As populations increase in tropical  
countries, greater areas of forest lands will be cleared and  
countless more species of plants and animals will die out.  
There are hidden implications to this loss of diversity.  
Although rainforests are often considered only for their  
valuable timber or the eventual crop or pasture land which  
remains after the timber has been extracted, they are much more  
valuable. Tropical ecosystems can yield a wealth of valuable  
non-timber materials on a renewable basis. They can, for  
example, significantly decrease the dependence of many Third  
World countries on western pharmaceutical products.   
Since the Stone Age, plants have traditionally served as the  
world's most important weapon against disease. Only recently,   
with the advent of modern technology and synthetic chemistry,  
have developed countries been able to reduce their almost total  
dependence on the Plant Kingdom for medicines.   
Still, almost half of all prescription drugs dispensed in the  
United States contain substances of natural origin - and over 50  
percent of these medications contain a plant-derived principal.  
In 1974 alone, the United States imported $24.4 million of  
medicinal plants and in 1985. U.S consumers purchased over $8  
billion worth of prescriptions in which the active ingredients  
were extracted from plants.   
Although many plant species are still unknown to scientists in  
the developed world, tribal people who inhabit tropical forests  
have understood and used this diversity for both food and  
medicine. A single Amazonian tribe may use over 100 species of  
plants for medicinal purposes alone.   
Some of these tropical plants are used in the West as sources of  
direct therapeutic agents. The alkaloid D-tubocurarine is  
extracted from the South American jungle liana Chondrodendron  
tomentosum and is widely used as a muscle relaxant in surgery.  
Chemists have so far been unable to produce this drug  
synthetically in a form which has all the attributes of the  
natural product.  
Harvesting of medicinal plants is often less costly than  
artificial drug synthesis. In 1973, less than 10 percent of the  
76 drug compounds from plants used in U.S. prescription drugs  
were produced commercially by total chemical synthesis. In the  
mid-1970s, for example, the synthesis of reserpine, an important  
hypotensive agent extracted from Rauwaolfia, cost approximately  
$1.25 per gram while the cost of extracting it from the plant  
was only about $.75 per gram.   
Tropical plants are used to create more complex semi-synthetic  
compounds as well. Saponin extracts, for example, are chemically  
altered to produce sapogenins necessary for the manufacture of  
steroidal drugs. Until recently, 95 percent of all steroids were  
obtained from extracts of neotropical yams.   
In addition, tropical plants serve as models for new synthetic  
compounds. Cocaine, a product of the coca plant, has served as  
a model for the synthesis of a number of local anesthetics such  
as procaine.   
Some plant species can yield a large number of beneficial  
derivatives. The rosy periwinkle, native to Madagascar, is the  
source of over 75 alkaloids, two of which are used to treat  
childhood leukemia and Hodgkin's disease with a very high  
success rate. Annual sales of these alkaloids worldwide in 1980  
were estimated to reach $50 million wholesale, the retail markup  
is an additional 100 percent.  
The potential for undiscovered plant species is enormous. One  
study of tropical plants found that 70 percent of the plants  
known to possess some kind of anti-cancer compounds are  
indigenous to the lowland tropics. Yet only a minute portion of  
tropical plant species have been screened for their anti-cancer  
potential. Another study concluded that 8,000 neotropical plant  
species probably have anti-cancer properties. And numerous  
species of plants in the Amazon have been used for years by  
forest tribes as natural contraceptives.   
The value of such plants isn't limited to countries that can  
afford to chemically modify them. The World Health Organization  
has estimated that 80 percent of the people in the world rely on  
traditional medicine from natural sources for primary health  
care needs. Several African and Asian nations have begun to  
encourage traditional medicine as an integral component of their  
public health care programs. Indigenous medicines are relatively  
inexpensive, locally available, and usually readily accepted by  
the local populace. The establishment of local pharmaceutical  
firms could mean jobs, reduced import expenditures, and foreign  
exchange for the developing world. And it could spawn increased  
documentation of traditional ethnomedical lore. Most important,  
these firms - and in turn the people of the country - would have  
a vital stake in the conservation and sustainable use of the  
tropical forest.  
The potential of tropical plants goes far beyond their medicinal  
uses. The world's food supply can be increased substantially by  
using the edible plants which grow in the tropics. Of the  
several thousand species that are known to be edible, only 150  
have entered into world commerce. Today, fewer than 20 plant  
species produce 90 percent of the world's food. Other tropical  
plants have chemical properties that act as natural pesticides.  
Lonchocarpus, a South American plant, is the source of much of  
the world's rotenone, an important biodegradable pesticide. And  
many of the non-fuel petroleum products used in the United  
States can be replaced by products synthesized from tropical  
Unfortunately, however, knowledge of the thousands of plant  
species and tribal medicines may soon be lost. With the  
"westernization" of many native cultures, the traditions and  
knowledge endemic to tribal people are not being passed on to  
the next generation. The introduction of synthetic  
pharmaceutical products in many of these remote areas has  
encouraged native tribes to discard their tribal lore.   
The situation is critical. At the current rate of environmental  
and cultural destruction, thousands of years of accumulated  
knowledge of how to use rainforest plants may disappear before  
the turn of the century. And without stepped up conservation  
efforts, the rainforests themselves may disappear shortly  

A Tragic Legacy  
The World Bank's Environmental Record  
The World Bank has finally succumbed to lobbying by  
environmental groups and some member countries' elected  
officials and pledged to make environmental concerns a top  
priority of its $17 billion annual lending program.   
"Sound ecology," declared Bank President Barber Conable in a  
major environmental address May 4 to the World Resources  
Institute (WRI) in Washington, "is good economics."   
He vowed that the Bank "will put new emphasis both on correcting  
economic policy incentives that promote environmental abuse and  
on stimulating the small-scale activities that can combat human  
and environmental deprivation."   
More than half of the roughly 325 projects approved by the Bank  
each year affect the environment; the bulk of the loans are for  
agriculture, energy and transportation.   
Leading environmental critics of the Bank greeted Conable's  
speech as good - but long overdue - news, and said they would  
withhold judgment until the promised changes were implemented.   
"We're optimistic," said Alex Echols, an environmental aide to  
Sen. Robert Kasten, the Republican senator from Wisconsin who  
has spearheaded congressional opposition to the Bank's  
environmentally unsound lending. "But the real assessment has to  
be made in evaluating the [Bank's] projects" in the years ahead,  
Echols added.   
In an unusual move, Conable also acknowledged that the Bank has  
played a significant role in the destruction of Brazil's  
tropical rainforest by funding the infamous "Polonoroeste" road-  
building project.   
Polonoroeste, he said, "was a sobering example of an  
environmentally sound effort which went wrong."   
Environmentalists were quick to point out that Conable's mea  
culpa glossed over the fact that serious problems associated  
with the project became apparent at least two years before the  
Bank officially interrupted loan disbursements in April, 1985.   
The Polonoroeste project had bold beginnings. The Brazilian  
government, with World Bank assistance, wanted to pave a 1,100  
mile road through the Amazon in northwest Brazil, opening the  
region up to agricultural colonization for the country's 2.5  
million landless poor.   
The World Bank approved loans totalling $435 million out of a  
total project cost of $1.6 billion. Starting in 1981, the  
ambitious project began moving thousands of peasants into the  
states of Rondonia and Mato Grosso. By 1986, the promise of land  
for farming and government support had lured 500,000 Brazilians  
to the area, three-fourths the size of France.   
The World Bank backed Polonorneste despite the failure of  
earlier attempts to colonize the Amazon and warnings both inside  
and outside the Bank that the project was environmentally  
unsustainable and economically unsound.   
The project was a disaster. Because farms created from  
rainforest land typically support crops for only a couple of  
years, the settlers in many areas have already moved further  
into the forest, selling their old land to cattle ranchers or  
other large landholders. As a result of changes brought by  
resettlement, malaria runs rampant throughout the agricultural  
settlements - inadequate health care facilities are unable to  
deal with the epidemic and already some 200,000 settlers have  
been afflicted. Indian lands have not been properly protected.  
And Rondonia's rainforest has been decimated: the state now has  
the highest rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon.   
"The Bank misread the human, institutional and physical  
realities of the jungle," Conable acknowledged in his speech.  
"In some cases, the dynamics of the frontier got out of  
But the Bank continues to disburse the outstanding project  
balance of $135 million. Most of the money is slated for  
assistance to migrant farm families and for health-care  
facilities, but $48 million will be used to extend the  
controversial highway.   
While the World Bank is attempting damage control in the states  
of Rondonia and Mato Grosso, the Inter-American Development Bank  
(IDB) has decided to forge ahead and extend the road another 300  
miles into the nearby state of Acre, a Virginia-sized area still  
covered with pristine tropical rainforest. The IDB tells critics  
it will not repeat the World Bank's mistakes: "Environmental  
factors are being taken into account from the start," said an  
IDB spokesperson.   
By the end of 1986, the IDB had disbursed $12 million on the  
project. One-fifth of the total project cost of $58 million is  
earmarked for environmental preservation - setting aside  
extractive forest reserves and demarcating Indian lands.   
But environmentalists fear the IDB-sponsored venture will expose  
another huge area of Brazil's quickly diminishing rainforests to  
settlers from the failed projects in nearby states.    

"We cannot allow a repeat of the devastation which occurred in  
Rondonia," said Senators Kasten and Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, in  
a letter to the president of the IDB. They insisted the project  
be put on hold, "until the [IDB] can certify that the necessary  
environmental components of the loan have been implemented."   
In general, regional multilateral lenders have not gone as far  
as the World Bank to formally address environmental concerns. No  
regional bank currently has an environmental department;  
instead, the IDB uses an inter-departmental committee to assess  
the environmental impact of projects, while the Asian  
Development Bank and the African Development Bank both employ  
individuals to monitor environmental issues.   
Leading environmentalists question whether even the World Bank  
has learned any lessons from the Polonoroeste disaster. In  
Indonesia, noted Bruce Rich of the Washington-based  
Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), the Bank continues to fund a  
project which has the potential for much greater destruction  
than Polonoroeste.   
The Indonesian government, in the largest rainforest  
colonization project in history, had originally planned to  
relocate millions of Indonesians living on the islands of Java,  
Bali and Lombok to the country's less populated outer islands.   
The World Bank, which began funding the Indonesian  
Transmigration Project in 1976, has approved loans totalling  
nearly $600 million. Between 1979 and 1984, 1.5 million people  
were resettled under the project. Another 4.3 million people  
were scheduled to be moved by 1989, but decreasing oil revenues  
put constraints on the Indonesian government, and by 1986, only  
750,000 people had been moved.   
The outer islands contain some of the world's most unique  
rainforest and also most of Indonesia's worst soil. If  
Transmigration continues, according to an EDF report, 80 percent  
of the settlement sites will be "located in primary tropical  
forests, and 3.3 million hectares of these forests will be  
cleared initially."   
The agricultural settlements created by the Transmigration  
Project caused many of the same problems that occurred in  
Polonoroeste. The land in many areas proved incapable of  
supporting the new arrivals for more than a year or two, and  
they were forced to head further into the jungle. More than  
300,000 people are living in "economically marginal and  
deteriorating Transmigration settlements," according to the EDF.  
Many more have flocked to the cities of the outer islands  
searching for work.   

Critics also cite a number of other Bank-funded projects with  
serious environmental ramifications:   
In India's Narmada River Valley, the World Bank has approved  
$450 million in loans for a multi-billion dollar program that if  
fully implemented will forcibly displace 1.5 million people. Two  
more loans totalling $420 million for a second hydro project in  
the valley are under consideration. The Narmada River Valley  
Program will build 30 major dams, 135 medium dams and 3,000  
small dams in India's largest westward flowing river. The first  
stage of the plan, the Sardar Sarovar project, will flood  
thousands of acres of forest and forcibly displace some 70,000  
In Botswana, the World Bank has approved $18 million in loans  
for livestock production and land management in order to  
increase the country's beef exports. Through World Bank loans,  
the cattle industry has boomed in Botswana. But, critics charge,  
overgrazing has devastated the land, turning more and more of  
the country - already in its sixth year of drought - into  
desert. The cattle ranchers' huge fences block migration paths  
for plains animals, cut the animals off from water supplies and  
spill onto tribal communal lands. Botswana, says an  
Environmental Policy Institute report, is "literally being  
trampled into destitution by the World Bank-backed cattle  
In 1986, the World Bank approved a $500 million loan for the  
Brazilian energy sector, despite strong opposition from then  
U.S. executive director of the World Bank, Hugh Foster. Foster  
and others said approving the loans was "folly," since the  
proposed huge hydro power plants would flood hundreds of square  
miles of rainforest as well as the tribal homelands of Indians  
living in the region.  
In China, the World Bank is awaiting the results of a  
feasibility study on what would be the largest and most  
expensive hydro project in history: the Three Gorges Dam. If the  
Bank funds the $20-billion dam, environmentalists say, 3 million  
people will be forced from their land to make way for the  
reservoir alone, and billions of dollars will be spent flooding  
an area known as the "Grand Canyon of China" In addition, many  
rare species of plants and animals that live in the thousands of  
square miles of land will be submerged, according to the Agency  
for International Development, which has noted potential  
problems with the project.  
Although the World Bank insists publicly that it intends to  
review all projects - present and future - for environmental  
ramifications, one senior Bank source said that Conable's new  
environmental program does not mandate a review of current  
development projects. "Once money has been sunk into a project  
it's much more difficult to step back and re-evaluate," said one  
Bank official.   

All contend, however, that future projects will be subject to  
stringent environmental reviews, the details of which have yet  
to be announced.   
As part of the Bank's sweeping re-organization, Conable  
announced the creation of a new, high-level environmental  
department and four regional liaison offices, and an increase in  
environmental staff from 8 to at least 65 full-time employees.   
In addition, Conable said Bank staff would begin an "urgent"  
environmental assessment of some 30 developing nations, design  
a program to combat desertification and deforestation in Africa,  
more than double current lending levels for forestry projects,  
and explore possibilities for protecting the polluted  
Mediterranean sea and coastline.   
One high-placed Bank source said that the far-reaching changes  
proposed by Conable are not expected to be implemented "until  
the dust settles" from the Bank's extensive restructuring  
exercise - at the end of this year at the earliest. And an  
internal Bank paper notes only a "modest allocation" of  
additional resources has been approved to address environmental  
concerns in fiscal year 1988.     

The World Bank: Sowing Seeds of Discontent  
Well before World Bank President Barber Conable went public with  
proposals for environmental reform, a vocal and well-organized  
international network of environmental advocacy groups had found  
fault with elements of his plans.   
Environmental leaders in Brazil, India, and Washington, D.C.  
were particularly alarmed by the Bank's proposal to increase  
lending to forestry projects from $138 million to $350 million  
over the next two years. The proposed increases, they charged,  
would worsen already deleterious effects of Bank forestry  
programs on sensitive tropical ecosystems.   
The World Bank's forestry program is based upon an extensive  
package of proposals made by the World Resources Institute (WRI)  
in conjunction with the United Nations Development Programme  
(UNDP), embodied in an Oct. 1985 document, "Tropical Forests: A  
Call for Action."   
Conable delivered his May 4 speech on the environment, at the  
WRI, which has worked closely with the Bank in the past. The  
group, which used Bank office space while working on the "Call  
For Action," receives substantial corporate contributions. And  
in the past three years, it has received a total of $150,000 in  
grants from the World Bank.   
In its "Call for Action," WRI estimated that a world-wide  
doubling of public and private investment in forestry between  
1987 and 1991 - a total of some $8 billion - would be needed to  
slow significantly current rates of deforestation.   
But some environmental activists charge that WRI's reforestation  
proposals may do more damage than good to tropical forests and  
the indigenous people that live in them.   
From Brazil, Friends of the Earth representative Magda Renner  
wrote to WRI in early 1986 to complain that WRI's action plan  
"was elaborated by persons alien to the reality of the local  
problems and followed all the models of other projects which  
only made problems worse."   
Renner was particularly critical of WRI's endorsement of the  
Aracruz Florestal company's eucalyptus plantation in Brazil. In  
WRI literature, Aracruz Florestal is hailed for transforming  
"badly degraded forest lands containing excessive scrub  
vegetation into more than 60,000 hectares of highly productive  
eucalyptus plantations."   
Renner told WRI President Gus Speth in a March, 1986 letter that  
the planting of eucalyptus had extinguished "many native species  
important for the regional ecological equilibrium."   

The eucalyptus tree is favored by industry because it grows  
quickly and is used to make poles and pulp and in the production  
of rayon, says Bruce Rich, a senior attorney at the Washington-  
based Environmental Defense Fund and a vocal critic of the World  
Bank's environmental record.   
But Indian citizens' groups allege that the tree is poisonous to  
livestock, makes poor fuelwood and bad thatch, and uses so much  
water that it is destructive to areas where water levels are  
low, Rich said.   
The uproar over eucalyptus planting underscores what many  
observers feel is a fundamental division between grassroots  
environmental advocacy, and the large-scale development strategy  
of the World Bank and other multilateral development agencies.   
Indian environmentalists Vandana Shiva and J. Bandyopadhyay, of  
the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Natural  
Resources Policy, criticized WRI for displaying "arrogant  
ignorance" in its recommendations for forestry-related  
Noting that WRI's $1,222 million price-tag for conservation in  
India over the next 5 years is more than WRI's estimate for all  
of Africa's needs put together, Shiva and Bandyopadhyay said the  
discrepancy in figures suggested "that it is not ecological  
survival but market growth that the Bank is interested in."   
The Federation of Voluntary Organizations for Rural Development  
(FEVORD) in Kamataka, India, representing 65 grassroots  
organizations in the region, has also written to the World Bank  
to protest its endorsement of eucalyptus planting.   
"The rural poor do not, at all, want eucalyptus and other non-  
browsable these do not meet their basic needs,"  
wrote SR. Hiremath, FEVORD chairman, in a letter to John Spears,  
the World Bank's senior forestry advisor on April 27, 1987.  
Hiremath called for the "total elimination of eucalyptus  
seedlings from the project."   
The governments of Kenya and Burma have also stated they do not  
want Eucalyptus planted, for similar reasons.   
The World Bank, through Spears, has listened to the complaints  
about Eucalyptus planting, but in an April 8, 1987 memo  
concluded "that a Bank decision to withhold funding from  
Eucalyptus planting in social forestry programs would be quite  
"The species has obvious potential for rapidly contributing to  
increased rural incomes using poor quality agricultural  
wasteland that otherwise would remain unproductive," Spears  
wrote, although he acknowledged that "it is undeniable that in  
some situations the tree is planted in the wrong place, with  
obvious negative results."   
WRI spokesperson Peter Hazleton, responding to the group's  
critics, defended the "Call for Action" but said the report was  
intended only as a "framework" for efforts to combat  
deforestation, and was not a detailed game plan.   
Controversy over whether to plant eucalyptus trees "is not a  
black and white issue," Hazleton said. "Our position is that  
there are some cases where it's okay to plant, some where it's  
Hazleton said WRI considers debate over its proposals "healthy,"  
adding that he expects some disputes to be resolved when the  
group presents a revised action plan paper at a conference in  
Italy this summer.   
- Samantha Sparks  

Funding Deforestation  
An Interview With Bruce Rich  
Bruce Rich, a former consultant to several international  
organizations, heads up the Environmental Defense Fund's  
international conservation campaign. Working with environmental  
groups here and abroad, Rich has attempted to pressure   
multilateral development agencies into making environmental  
considerations a key aspect of development policy. The   
Multinational Monitor spoke with Rich about the role  
multilateral development banks play in tropical deforestation.   
Multinational Monitor: Almost half of the world's rainforests  
have already been destroyed, the rest risk devastation within  
the next few years. What chance do we have of reversing this  
Bruce Rich: The good news is that awareness is growing. It's  
becoming an international environmental issue and an  
international issue for grassroots activism in a number of  
countries. The bad news is that the rate of destruction is  
probably accelerating. We really don't have much time. In 20  
years a substantial part of the remaining rainforests will be  
destroyed, and with that a very substantial percentage of the  
species of living things that exist on this planet.   
But awareness of the problem hasn't been translated into any  
legally significant, broad-reaching actions which will address  
the basic causes of tropical deforestation.   
Monitor: Although the causes of deforestation are complex, what  
strategy can you suggest to protect the world's rainforests for  
the short-term?   
Rich: Every study that's been done has basically identified  
conversion of tropical forests for agricultural purposes as the  
main cause, accounting for 70 to 80 percent of the [rainforest]  
destruction. Of course, that covers a number of different kinds  
of activities: planned agricultural development of pristine  
tropical forest, cattle ranching, and the migration of landless  
people from other rural areas into tropical forests.   
The question is, how does one get a handle on agricultural  
policy, agricultural development, and land tenure in countries  
such as Brazil and Indonesia, which together account for about  
half of the world's tropical forests?   
If you look at the international system, the answer is not that  
difficult. There are extremely important international  
institutions involved in both formulating development policy and  
financing development - particularly agricultural development -  
in the Third World. Those institutions are the multilateral  
development banks.     
It is critical that these institutions be pushed into promoting  
environmentally more sustainable agricultural alternatives that  
would take pressure off the tropical forests.   
Monitor: What role has unequal distribution of land played in  
the destruction of the rainforests?   
Rich: Let's take Brazil for an example. There has been a huge  
transformation of agricultural policies in that country over the  
past couple of decades, whereby the good farmland has been  
converted from smaller holdings for domestic food production,   
into large, capital-intensive, export-oriented holdings. In 20  
years Brazil has become the largest exporter in the world of  
soybeans and citrus fruits. More than half of all the  
concentrated orange juice sold in the U.S. today comes from  
Brazilian oranges. As a result, hundreds of thousands of people  
have been displaced in south-central Brazil, and the government  
has directed most of them into the northwest Amazon as a safety  
valve. Brazil is increasingly driven to export huge amounts of  
agricultural commodities of this kind because of the  
international debt situation.   
Monitor: Can the multilateral development banks promote  
sustainable development or are the flaws which enabled them to  
approve disastrous projects in the past endemic?   
Rich: I'm sort of an agnostic on this one, I start from the  
standpoint that we are stuck with these banks. One way or  
another their importance is going to increase economically. One  
has the choice of trying to influence them or not. Now can they  
really support sustainable economic development? Frankly I don't  
know. But there are individual projects that the banks are  
promoting now, thanks to the pressure of activists in the United  
States and elsewhere, which are promising.   
One such project they are promoting is a proposal by the  
National Union of Rubber Tappers in Brazil, a union of over  
500,000 rubber tappers in the Amazon. These tappers proposed  
that the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank  
(IDB) set aside large areas of tropical forest as "extractive  
reserves." They would be managed by the people that live in the  
Amazon rainforest - the rubber tappers, jungle farmers and the  
Indian tribes. They would harvest rubber, Brazil nuts, other  
nuts, oils, fibers and other products from the tropical forest  
areas in a way that both exploits the forest economically but  
conserves it completely as forest.  
Preliminary studies show that extractive reserves may indeed  
help to both protect the forests and stimulate the Brazilian  
economy. EDF anthropologist Steve Schwartzman found that in the  
state of Acre in northwest Brazil, extractive production in  
recent years has accounted for about 95 percent of all export  
income for the state.   

Representatives at the highest level in the IDB and the World  
Bank have acknowledged that this appears to be the most  
promising alternative they've seen and have agreed to consider  
financing pilot reserves. It shows that banks can play a  
positive role in promoting both policies and projects that will  
conserve tropical forests and at the same time be much more  
responsive to the needs of the people who live in these   
Monitor: The World Bank has recently admitted that it made a  
mistake with the Polonoroeste project in Brazil and it has  
pledged to upgrade environmental standards. Do you think this  
represents a radical policy departure on the part of the Bank or  
do you think the Bank was merely responding to increasing  
pressure from environmentalists and members of Congress?   
Rich: We have been told, at the highest levels [in the Bank]  
that the reforms they are undertaking now [are] in response to  
outside pressure. Put under tremendous pressure, it has  
responded with some environmental projects. But the Bank's  
lending portfolio must be examined as a whole. What good is it  
to have more environmentally beneficial projects if the bulk of  
the lending portfolio still goes to finance projects that aid  
Let's take Indonesia as an example. Three Indonesian ministries  
put together a lengthy study on forest policy and forest  
development in Indonesia. The study concluded that the World  
Bank was financing projects that were dreadfully destructive of  
forest resources, such as Transmigration. It noted that on a  
much smaller scale the World Bank was also financing  
environmentally beneficial projects such as reforestation of  
watersheds. So we have an institution that is financing  
destruction of forests and simultaneously funding reforestation  
schemes, and it is the Indonesian people that have to bear the  
brunt of the debt that is incurred.   
The study concluded that the amount the banks were lending for  
environmentally destructive activities - activities that were  
directly destructive of forest resources - were 10 times greater  
than the amount of money that was going in for allegedly  
environmentally sound activities.   
Monitor: Although Bank officials are talking about incorporating  
changes, will it take a fundamental restructuring to force the  
World Bank into an environmentally sound, sustainable model of  
Rich: The real issue is the kind of development model the World  
Bank is promoting. Let's take the energy sector. Energy is the  
second biggest sector for lending after agriculture. Agriculture  
accounts for 25 percent of lending in a given year and energy  
has taken up 18-20 percent of its lending. The Bank's energy  
lending consists mainly of investment in generating  
infrastructure, most often huge hydro projects.   
In India, where there isn't much tropical forest left, these  
World Bank-financed dams are flooding very valuable areas of  
remaining tropical forest. What are the alternatives that would  
be environmentally more benign and would not inundate tropical  
forests or have other kinds of negative impacts?   
In India and Brazil, the World Bank has done really very little  
in looking at the economically more efficient and  
environmentally much more benign alternatives in the areas of  
energy efficiency, conservation and end use efficiency.   
In India, the industrial sector is the main user of a lot of  
this new generating capacity. Yet the Indian end use of  
electricity in many industries is among the most inefficient  
ever seen. It takes twice as much electricity in India to  
produce a ton of steel as it does in almost any other steel  
producing country on earth.  
Why don't they consider alternatives or promote them more  
vigorously? The excuse used is that the Bank merely provides  
money for projects at the request of the borrowing country. This  
is completely disingenuous because the countries ask the banks  
for loans for projects that the banks have already encouraged  
beforehand through their policy meetings. Bank studies are often  
the most important planning documents that exist in small  
Monitor: Much of the information criticizing the Polonoroeste  
Project was written by World Bank staffers in the early days of  
the project. Would a freedom of information act mandating the  
release of this information - economic and environmental  
feasibility reports on specific projects - lessen the number of  
flawed projects approved?   
Rich: The issue here is really one of accountability - huge  
institutions with tremendous economic power should be more  
accountable, both to the taxpayers in the donor countries and to  
the people in the borrowing countries that are affected by these  
projects. It is a question of access to information which we  
don't have - to Bank memos, and papers and reports. Information  
that is completely closed off to the public.   
There has been legislation to promote reforms in those  
institutions so that local groups - indigenous groups and  
environmental groups would have access to information on  
prospective projects. But it really hasn't been implemented.   
Monitor: In situations like Polonoroeste, where the World Bank  
has loaned huge sums of money with disastrous results, what  
option is left to the Brazilian government?   
Rich: In Polonofoeste anything that can be done now is sort of  
a pyrrhic victory. The area now has the highest rate of  
deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. The Bank optimistically  
points out that it is only 16 percent deforested. It has now  
gone from 4 percent to 16 percent in something like three years.  
It is this rate of deforestation that is most disturbing. In  
Polonoroeste, now that you have a half million people there and  
the whole dynamic has been unleashed, perhaps no one can really  
control it.   
The only thing the Bank can do now is engage in mitigatory  
measures helping to protect Indian areas and some forest areas,  
and trying to promote sustainable alternatives such as  
extractive reserves. The best thing that can come out of  
Polonoroeste is that it is not repeated elsewhere.   
Monitor: Can the forests at some point pay for themselves?  
Rich: I think they already pay for themselves. The forests  
provide free, irreplaceable environmental services that don't  
become monetized or quantified until the tropical forest is  
turned into a desert. That's the great tragedy of environmental  
destruction. That the costs become apparent in the economy only  
after the destruction has occurred. A system of royalties and  
payments for tropical products would be overwhelmed by the  
current economic forces that are causing the destruction of the  
forest. Since time is running out, you have got to address these  
points of pressure and deal with the economic and social  
dynamics of deforestation.     

Henry Mitchell is a staff writer for the Washington Post.   
Madagascar: The Fate of the Ark  
Any effort to save the grand variety of life in the world must  
reckon with Madagascar, an island with an almost endless supply  
of plants and animals, including primates, found nowhere else on  
Today this vast island, larger than the state of Texas, is about  
to lose the last of its tropical rainforests and with them the  
island's unique plant and animal life.   
Madagascar, saddled with a large foreign debt - interest  
payments alone take half of the country's export earnings - and  
sinking commodity prices, is one of the poorest countries in the  
world. Each year the country can afford to allocate only a few  
thousand dollars toward the protection of its national forests.  
And without that protection, slash and burn agriculture and the  
search for fuelwood are rapidly transforming the country's  
Today, only 10 percent or less of the country's original forests  
remain. And as the population increases, and with it the demand  
for charcoal - the daily fuel that is acquired by cutting and  
burning remaining woodlands - few predict that even Madagascar's  
most isolated rainforests will be standing at the turn of the  
The plight of Madagascar's rainforests, which environmentalists  
call "one of the most spectacular natural wonders of our  
planet," has prompted unprecedented international cooperation.  
In April, 1987, U.S. and Soviet environmental scientists joined  
together to appeal for bilateral cooperation to protect the  
country's rainforests.   
Madagascar, the fourth-largest of the world's islands, is  
thought to have separated from the eastern coast of Africa some  
180 million years ago, long before modern forms of life evolved.  
From an African nucleus of early organisms there evolved on the  
island, in isolation, plants and animals different from those of  
the mainland. The primate line led to lemurs, not apes or  
monkeys or men - considered the most ancient primates still  
extant. The island, inaccessible to African organisms for 30 to  
40 million years, became a microcosm of evolution, without  
humans, who arrived only a thousand or so years ago, or large  
land predators - although there were 26-foot crocodiles. This  
unique experiment in evolution led to spectacular plants and  

Among primates, for example, 93 percent of the island's lemurs  
are endemic - occurring nowhere else in the world. From 95 to 99  
percent of its reptiles and 81 percent of its plants are unique  
to the island and of its 150 kinds of frogs only two are found  
elsewhere in the world.   
The island is populated with an astonishing number of unique  
palms: one hillside contains almost the entire population of the  
palm Neodypsiis decaryi. And the succulent Aloe suzannae, also  
unique to Madagascar, is represented on the island by perhaps no  
more than three living examples.   
Madagascar escaped the climatic cataclysms that from time to  
time swept over Africa, wiping out many African plants and  
animals, so forms of life long extinct on the continent remain  
in highly evolved forms on the island.   
Many of these ancient plants that remain are in the country's  
rainforests, which are greatly endangered even in the  
fragmentary form in which they survive.   
Although the human population is only about 10 million, the  
devastation wrought by development has been heavy. There are so  
many species and so few forests that clearing even a few acres  
can do infinitely more damage to rare kinds of life than would  
be the case in the United States, even if vastly more forest  
were cleared.   
Already extinct since the coming of man to the island is the  
great elephant bird, the largest ever to live, standing 10 feet  
tall, along with certain tortoises, a kind of aardvark, a small  
hippopotamus and at least seven genera of large lemurs.   
In spite of all this, there is hope that energetic conservation  
measures can protect much of what remains. Foreign assistance  
takes some of the pressure off the population - China gave $54  
million, France $50 million, the United States $11 million and  
the Soviet Union $10 million, in bilateral aid. Multilateral aid  
came to $180 million, with the World Bank contributing $100  
Perhaps most encouraging, the socialist government of the island  
is increasingly interested in saving its great national heritage  
of endemic life. The World Wildlife Fund, which will spend  
$300,000 on its Madagascan projects in fiscal 1988, has outlined  
19 projects, grouped according to priority, ranging from  
educating Malagasy people to value their great wildlife  
inheritance, to providing help for wildlife wardens along with  
plans to protect the forest and various endangered species.   
Unfortunately, says Dr. Thomas Lovejoy, the Fund's executive  
director for the United States, $300,000 is only a small  
percentage of the amount of money needed to sustain the forest  
and protect the many species at risk.   

The irony in Madagascar as everywhere else is that the forests  
and waters so critical to the survival of rare animals and  
plants is also critical to the survival of its human population,  
a point that has so far been difficult for people to understand.  
When the rape of nature goes too far, however, it may be too   
late for that understanding to do any good.   

Edward Wolf, a researcher at the Worldwatch Institute, is author  
of Reversing Africa's Decline and On the Brink of Extinction:  
Conserving the Diversity of Life.   
A Continent's Demise  
The destruction of tree cover in Africa represents one of the  
most dramatic human alterations of the environment on record.  
Nearly every country in Africa is affected. In two countries,  
Mauritania and Rwanda, forests have virtually disappeared. The  
climatically critical rainforests of West Africa are  
disappearing at the rate of 5 percent annually. The Ivory Coast,  
which once had 30 million hectares of tropical rainforests, now  
has only 4.5 million hectares. Vast areas of Ethiopia, the  
communal lands of Zimbabwe, and the homelands of South Africa  
are now largely devoid of trees.   
Deforestation has severe implications for the continent's  
climate. Meteorologists contend that climatic effects occur when  
deforestation or land use changes affect an area of 25 million  
hectares. The Ivory Coast alone has seen this much land  
The conversion of tropical forests to cropland dramatically  
alters the hydrological cycle - the distribution of water to the  
land and atmosphere. Although little hydrological research has  
focused specifically on Africa, studies from the central Amazon  
indicate that when rain falls on a healthy stand of tropical  
forest, roughly one-fourth runs off, returning to the ocean,  
while three-fourths re-enters the atmosphere either as direct  
evaporation, or indirectly through the transpiration of plants.  
After the rainforest is cleared for cropping or logging this  
ratio is roughly reversed, with three-fourths of the rainfall  
running off immediately and one-fourth evaporating to recharge  
the rain clouds. With three-quarters of the moisture returning  
to the ocean, floods may be inevitable and then - with the  
clouds unreplenished - drought may follow.   
Overall, about 3.6 million hectares of African forests are  
cleared each year, an annual rate of about 5 percent of  
remaining forests. Pressures for new areas to cultivate accounts  
for 70 percent of the clearing of closed-canopy forests and 60  
percent of the cutting of savanna forests, according to the  
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).   
As the forests shrink, cropland expands. Between 1950 and 1985  
the area planted in grain crops alone expanded from 46 million  
hectares to over 70 million. The area in all crops now  
approaches 120 million hectares.   

Agriculture's imprint on African woodlands is clear from an FAO  
survey of the forest resources of 37 African countries. Fallow  
forest land (recovering its woody vegetation after several  
seasons of cultivation) covers 178 million hectares, one-fourth  
as much land as the continent's remaining 685 million hectares  
of intact forests. Another 443 million hectares are shrub land;  
the spread of extensive farming is adding to this category,  
since shortened fallow intervals prevent the regrowth of  
anything but shrubs on what was previously well-wooded land.   
But these continent-wide rates understate the regional pressures  
on specific forests. In the early 1980s, the forests of coastal  
West Africa - the countries from Guinea through eastern Nigeria  
- were cleared by commercial loggers and subsistence farmers 2  
at a rate of more than 5 percent each year. At this rate, these  
forests have a "half-life" of just 13 years. Well over half of  
all the outright deforestation in Africa takes place in these  
coastal states, which contain only 7 percent of the continent's  
forests. Though small in comparison to the vast remaining  
forests of the Zaire Basin, this coastal greenbelt of  
rainforests may play a critical role in recycling moisture from  
the Gulf of Guinea which then provides summer rains for  
countries from Senegal to the Sudan.   
While clearing land for farming has caused the largest absolute  
changes in Africa's forested area, mushrooming demand for  
household fuels and the growth of urban markets for fuelwood and  
charcoal relentlessly degrade Africa's remaining woodlands.  
Firewood is Africa's primary fuel, and supplying it is the  
continent's largest industry. In most African countries,  
households use 10 times more wood than all other commercial  
fuels combined. Even oil-exporting Nigeria uses twice as much  
firewood as all other energy sources.   
The effects of deforestation are most directly felt in the  
countryside, since trees provide the framework of economic life  
for rural Africans. Trees supply food, medicines, fuelwood, and  
building materials, as well as fodder for livestock. Rural  
people rarely chop down standing trees for fuel. They may do so  
if the wood can be sold, but most of the fuel for rural  
households is dead wood, shrubs, crop residues and dung, all of  
which can be readily collected. Branches of living trees may  
sometimes be lopped off for fuel, or trees harvested to supply  
building poles, but usually these trees have a chance to  
regenerate. As woodland quality declines, rural communities get  
less wood, fodder, wildlife, medicines, fruits, nuts and foliage  
each year.   
Despite a decade of rapidly increasing international support for  
reforestation, little progress has been made toward restoring  
African woodlands or managing the continent's forests. After  
sustained drought led to famine during the early seventies, a  
partnership of European countries and Sahelian nations created  
the Club du Sahel to promote drought recovery and long-term  
development. Forestry and ecological restoration were high on  
the Club du Sahel's agenda. Starting from a base of only $2.9  
million in 1975, international assistance for forestry and  
reforestation in the Sahel grew more rapidly than aid for any  
other development sector, reaching $45.3 million in 1980. Over  
that period, nearly $105 million was spent to restore forests  
and supply wood for fuel and building in the region. Yet this  
rapid growth represented just 1.4 percent of the total  
international assistance to the Sahel in those years.   
The same pattern was repeated throughout Africa by major  
international donors. The U.S. Agency for International  
Development budgeted nearly $220 million for forestry and  
fuelwood projects in Africa between 1977 and 1984, although the  
annual amount committed has declined since 1982. The World Bank  
had spent nearly $93 million on fuelwood projects alone before  
1983. Between 1968 and 1984, the Bank invested another $426  
million in African forest management, watershed protection, or  
agricultural development with a forestry component.   
Despite all the spending on reforestation, World Bank forestry  
advisor John Spears wrote in 1984: "The challenge remains of how  
to multiply what are in many cases relatively small scale  
initiatives, particularly in countries like Rwanda and Burundi,  
into larger scale rural forestry programs that will penetrate  
throughout the rural areas as quickly as possible."   
In many places, he said, the rate of tree planting is less than  
one-fifth of the rate needed to "assure a reasonable supply of  
fuelwood, fodder, and poles by the year 2000" - in many small  
African countries the figure is close to one-twentieth.   
A comparison of rates of tree planting with rates of  
deforestation supports this conclusion. FAO's survey of African  
forest resources showed that the area of forests cleared each  
year exceeds the area on which trees are deliberately planted by  
a ratio of 29 to 1, far higher than any other region in the  
developing world. If degradation and unsustainable harvest of  
woodlands is added, the ratio would be higher still.   
Most of the international agencies that support forestry have  
begun a thorough reexamination of their reforestation efforts.  
New recognition of the complex relationship between forests,  
farmland, and household fuel supplies is beginning to influence  
the way reforestation money is spent. The traditional rationale  
for forestry programs - that impending wood shortages simply  
mean the more trees planted, the better - is no longer a  
reasonable guide to setting planting priorities. Without  
question, more trees must be planted in Africa. But which trees,  
in which regions, for whom and by whom are the critical  
questions that will determine whether the next decade of  
replanting in Africa fares better than the last.   
Careful management of Africa's forests can boost wood supplies  
more cheaply than any alternative planting scheme. Africa still  
has over a billion hectares of forests and shrub land from which  
firewood, building materials, medicines, and wild foods are  
gathered. "Even modest gains in productivity could have  
significant impact on the fuelwood supply," says former U.S. AID  
forestry adviser Thomas Catterson. The cost of making degraded  
but intact forests productive could be as low as $200 per  
hectare - one-fifth the cost of many intensive plantations.   
Africa's economic - and therefore agricultural - prospects  
depend upon restoring the continent's woodlands and forests. It  
will require sustained effort and cooperation among African  
governments and an unprecedented willingness by international  
donors. No simpler rationale for restoring woodlands throughout  
Africa is needed than an observation by African foresters that  
"regardless of how well all other rural development efforts may  
succeed, a Sahel without trees is dead."   

Chip Fay is the Southeast Asia projects coordinator for Survival  
International, a Washington-based human rights organization  
which works for the protection of indigenous people. He recently  
returned from the Philippines.   
Fighting for the Forest  
The Philippines, once known as the "Hardwood King" of Southeast  
Asia, today has fewer productive old growth forests than most  
countries in the region. Only one million hectares survive  
today, down from approximately 10 million hectares 30 years ago,  
according to Philippine government statistics.   
Under 20 years of dictatorship by President Ferdinand Marcos,  
the forestry business boomed. Timber companies aggressively  
cleared the country's vast forest lands. To avoid millions of  
dollars in licensing fees, whole forests were smuggled out of  
the country illegally. Although the Aquino government has banned  
new logging concessions, it has made little progress in  
cancelling the many licenses generously handed out by the Marcos  
government. The only real opposition to the logging interests  
has come from tribal Filipinos.   
Indeed, local tribal populations, dependent on the forests for  
their existence, have proven both capable and determined to  
protect the ecological balance of their forest environment.   
Today, campaigns by indigenous and tribal peoples in the  
Philippines mirror those found among similar populations in the  
Amazon region of South America and the rainforest areas of Costa  
Rica and Panama. But in the Philippines, as well as in other  
regions, active resistance to deforestation is invariably met  
with force. The current situation facing tribal populations in  
the northern Cordillera mountains in the Philippines is a case  
in point.   
In late 1985, in response to massive logging operations that  
were destroying water sources and eroding sacred ancestral  
lands, many Atta and Isneg tribal families in the Cordillera  
began to actively campaign against Taggat Industries, a   
logging corporation in the northern Philippines. Tribal women   
and men blocked logging roads, drained gasoline from logging   
trucks and in some areas even burned the company's logging   
The destruction of large areas of rainforest, said tribal  
leaders, had destroyed the delicate balance of the mountain   
ecosystem with devastating effects on their tribes - the Atta,  
a seminomadic hunting and gathering group, and the Isneg, an   
adjacent tribal population. Clear-cut logging and open-pit   
mining operations were wreaking havoc on their traditional way  
of life. Streams and rivers used for irrigation were polluted,  
causing a rapid decline in available land for agriculture. The  
Atta and the Isneg, fearing that continued destruction of the  
rainforest would wipe out the tribe completely, organized.   
For the past two years, however, the powerful logging interests  
- with the help of the Philippine military - have carried out a  
campaign of terror against the Atta, the Isneg and other tribal  
populations in northern Cordillera. Villages have been bombed,  
homes and granaries burned, and tribal men and women abducted  
and killed.   
In September, 1986, after refusing to act as guides for the  
army, five Atta from the village of Mawanan - including a 6-  
year-old girl - were shot and killed by soldiers of the 17th  
Integrated Battalion of the Philippine Army.   
In late February of 1987, the army launched an assault code  
named "Red Buster II." The operation, which lasted until mid-  
April, concentrated on Paco Valley, an area within the sub-  
province of Apayao that is occupied primarily by the Isneg.  
Claiming that the valley was occupied by rebel soldiers of the  
New People's Army (NPA) - communist insurgents waging a  
protracted war against the Philippine government - the military  
began three days of intensive mortar attacks on the Isneg  
village of Kelat. Ground operations followed and foot soldiers  
looted and burned all the villager's homes and granaries.  
According to Paco Valley residents, it was the sixth village in  
that area burned since October, 1986.   
The soldiers temporarily withdrew in early March, but three  
weeks later the operation resumed. According to refugees who  
were forced to flee from Paco Valley, more than 100 bombs were  
dropped on their homes and rice fields on March 29. Four fighter  
jets, four "Tora-Tora" planes, and two helicopter gunships took  
part in the attack.   
Newspapers in Manila gave the operation front page coverage,  
echoing the military claim that the soldiers had overrun a large  
NPA camp, killing dozens of subversives. Two days later, the  
Minister of National Defense, having a difficult time  
substantiating the initial report, told reporters that the  
operation was merely a military exercise and that no NPA were  
killed. Isneg farmers who witnessed the "military exercise"  
claimed that the attack was directed against the village. They  
said no rebels were in the valley at that time.   
Attacks on tribal villages in this region have been carried out  
with the full cooperation of Taggat Industries, according to the  
local tribal people. Soldiers assigned to duty within Taggat's  
logging fronts are paid a supplementary salary by the company  
and the company's airstrip and planes are used during bombing  
For years, Taggat has dominated logging in the northern  
Philippines. With close ties to former President Marcos, the  
general manager of Taggat was able to consolidate control over  
some of the most lucrative logging concessions in the  
Philippines. To date, none of the company's licenses have been  
revoked by the Aquino government.   
The backbone of Taggat's operation is a labor force of  
approximately 2,000 people who work primarily in the coastal   
logging town of Claveria. When workers are paid, they make just  
above the poverty level. But Taggat employees claim that they  
often go for months without receiving wages. In 1986, for  
example, workers were not paid for a six-month period, and as of  
March, 1987, none of this back pay had been released. During  
this time, workers were allowed to "charge to payroll" food from  
the company store at prices which exceeded those in a nearby  
market by 10-20 percent. And, after the suspicious deaths of  
several union organizers, no one dares to organize.   
In late 1986, amidst allegations implicating Taggat security  
guards in the deaths of the union organizers, the Minister of  
Natural Resources cancelled Taggat's concessions. Only days  
later, however, the concessions were reinstated and the company  
resumed its operations.   
As a result of government inaction, military atrocities, and the  
continuous encroachment upon tribal lands by mining and logging  
corporations, the indigenous tribes of the Philippines, once  
supportive of President Cory Aquino, are increasingly turning to  
armed resistance to protect the land that supports them.   


Losing Ground in the Philippines  
MANILA, The Philippines - The fertile topsoil of the Philippines  
is rapidly disappearing, triggered by uncontrolled logging in  
the islands' hardwood forests.   
That's the conclusion of this Third World nation's National  
Environmental Protection Council (EPC). And it is a conclusion  
supported by observation of mountainside scars in Luzon, the  
Philippines' largest island, and by similarly ravaged land on  
the big islands of Mindanao, Cebu and Bohol to the south.  
Scarred hillsides dot this nation, similar in size to Italy, and  
scrub has replaced mahogany, rosewood and other hardwood  
The Council reports that nearly 75 percent of the country's land  
is suffering from severe soil erosion. Of the nation's 73  
provinces, 13 suffer from what NEPC calls "worst case" soil  
erosion - that is, more than half the topsoil in these provinces  
has been washed away. Six of the 13 provinces are in Luzon.  
Hardest hit is Batangas Province, 75 miles south of Manila where  
83 percent of the topsoil has disappeared.   
"The problem has yet to gain the crucial attention it deserves,"  
says former NEPC Executive Director Veronica Villavicencio.   
In an agricultural country of 55 million people, with 1985 per  
capita income under $600, greater farm output is a vital part of  
nursing the sick Philippine economy back to health,  
Villavicencio says. But even with fertilizers, fanners have  
difficulty increasing output because of vanishing topsoil. Loss  
of arable land isn't the only problem associated with erosion.  
Unarrested soil erosion causes flooding, reduces supplies of  
potable and irrigation water, causes serious silt build-up in  
the canals and reservoirs and depletes food and cover for  
wildlife. Silt build up in the Ambutdao Dam in northern Luzon's  
mountains, for example, has cut the dam's projected lifespan by  
30 years.   
The 7,107 tropical islands of the Philippines average 140 inches  
of rainfall a year. Land without trees, however, is unable to  
absorb such large amounts of water. Inappropriate cutting of  
trees - especially logging - is the primary cause of Philippine  
soil erosion.   
More than half the Philippines' 75 million acres was virgin  
forest when Ferdinand Magellan came to the archipelago in 1521.  
Through the centuries, some of that forest land was turned into  
farmland. Today about five million acres are still virgin forest  
and 12.5 million acres are categorized as "denuded forest land,"  
according to Rodolfo del Rosario, the Philippines' former  
minister of natural resources. Of that total, reforestation  
projects have been started on 2.5 million acres, leaving 10  
million acres "denuded" and subject to large-scale soil erosion.    
Economic pressures encourage the rapid cutting of Philippine  
forests because timber is needed in the burgeoning cities.  
Timber is also one of the nation's most profitable exports.   
In August, 1983, now-deposed Philippine President Ferdinand  
Marcos imposed a ban on logging in a number of "critical" areas  
but officials in del Rosario's ministry said the ban was  
"counterproductive." They note that although 71 timber firms'  
licenses were cancelled, illegal cuttings actually increased in  
areas covered by Marcos' ban. Since August, 1983, ministry  
officials say, two million cubic meters of logs have been taken  
from areas covered by the ban.   
By 1990, del Rosalio says, demand for forest-based products will  
be 24 percent higher than in 1985, and 1995 demand is expected  
to climb 21 percent higher.   
Much of the wood is exported to Japan, the biggest foreign  
customer for Philippine timber. Although official Philippine  
records show that in 1984 about 600,000 cubic meters of logs  
were exported to Japan, Japanese records show that the number  
was more like one million cubic meters of logs - a discrepancy  
accounted for by illegal exports. Philippine timber traders  
either smuggle their goods outright or resort to "over-  
shipments" - that is, they report only a portion of what they  
actually ship.   
Estimates here are that timber traders have deposited at least  
$60 million a year in hard currencies for the last five years in  
foreign banks. They've also evaded duties and taxes that could  
have been collected on the logs if the exports were legal. Early  
in 1985, the Marcos government accused 10 exporters of  
"overshipping" logs to Japan, but no substantive penalties were  
In late summer, 1985, Marcos issued an executive order aimed at  
strengthening controls over log exports, and at the end of 1985  
del Rosario warned 175 logging companies that they were  
"delinquent" in paying government logging fees amounting to  
about $1.6 million. In some cases, companies were 10 years  
behind in fees.   
Government sanctions against logging companies were few and far  
between under Marcos, and little seems to have changed with the  
election of Corazon Aquino. Although no new concessions have  
been granted, no old concessions have been withdrawn. Meanwhile,  
the country's soil continues to wash to the sea.   
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