RROJAS DATABANK Vol 1, No.1 /1995
(This set of articles on deforestation is background reading
for Dr. Robinson Rojas' teaching on development)
 MULTINATIONAL MONITOR June 1987 VOLUME 8, NO. 6
THE RAVAGED RAINFOREST
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
- Ivan Boesky in a 1985 commencement speech to the Berkeley
School of Business Administration.
BY ELLEN HOSMER
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
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.
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
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."
 MULTINATIONAL MONITOR June 1987 VOLUME 8, NO. 6 RAINFORESTS
BY MARK PLOTKIN
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
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
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
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
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
 MULTINATIONAL MONITOR June 1987 VOLUME 8, NO. 6 RAINFORESTS
BY SAMANTHA SPARKS AND ELLEN HOSMER
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,
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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.
 MULTINATIONAL MONITOR June 1987 VOLUME 8, NO. 6 RAINFORESTS
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
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 species...as 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
 MULTINATIONAL MONITOR June 1987 VOLUME 8, NO. 6 RAINFORESTS
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
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
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
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.
 MULTINATIONAL MONITOR June 1987 VOLUME 8, NO. 6 RAINFORESTS
BY HENRY MITCHELL
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
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
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.
 MULTINATIONAL MONITOR June 1987 VOLUME 8, NO. 6 RAINFORESTS
BY EDWARD WOLF
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
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."
 MULTINATIONAL MONITOR June 1987 VOLUME 8, NO. 6 RAINFORESTS
BY CHIP FAY
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 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
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.
 MULTINATIONAL MONITOR June 1987 VOLUME 8, NO. 6
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
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
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
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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