forestry projects

Thu Oct 13 13:54:34 EST 1994

From: eccoord at (Coordinador Ecologia)
Date: Thu, 29 Sep 1994 06:12:16 GMT

From: Third World Network <twn>


This article highlights the ecological and social impact  of
large-scale  monoculture tree plantations which service  the
export-led strategy of many Third World countries. A  global
network of NGOs has been formed to address this issue.

By Ricardo Carrere
Third World Network Features

During  the  past  two  decades,  tree  planting  has   been
increasing on a global scale. This has been encouraged by  a
number  of  multilateral financial agencies, as well  as  by
national  and international advisory and  support  agencies.
Transnational corporations (TNCs) have also become  directly
involved through the implementation of large-scale  forestry
projects in diverse areas of the world.
The reasons underlying these tree-planting activities may be
very  different;  for example, tree  planting  for  fuelwood
needs at local community level, to halt desertification, and
to   supply  raw  materials  for  local  timber  and   paper
industries.  Nevertheless, the main thrust arises from large
wood   and  pulp  transnationals  attempting  to  secure   a
homogeneous, abundant and cheap supply of raw materials.
To do this, TNCs are trying to locate plantations in regions
which  exhibit appropriate characteristics  for    achieving
their goal: cheap land and labour force, foreign    currency
hunger,  and environmental conditions that guarantee    fast
tree  growth. Most Third World countries fulfil  all   these
conditions,  thus becoming potential suppliers of  this  raw
The  terms  'afforestation'  and  'reforestation'  lead   to
confusion because they are used to define extremely  diverse
situations.   They  are  used  to  refer    to   monoculture
plantations  of  exotic or native species, (in  areas  which
were either previously covered by forest or used   for  some
other  purpose), and also to refer to native or exotic  tree
planting  within  agroforestry systems. This is    why  many
people are surprised when environmentalists support  certain
types of afforestation but oppose others.
In  order  to  understand  the  problems,  it  is  therefore
important to define more precisely the concepts being  dealt
with. The term 'reforestation' should be applied only to the
operation of planting local species, with the aim of  trying
to recover a degraded or clear-felled native forest.
The term 'afforestation' should be replaced by 'tree  crops'
when   referring   to   monocultures   that   include   soil
preparation, selected genetic material, agrochemical inputs,
a   high   degree  of  mechanisation   and   market-oriented
Agroforestry systems also imply tree planting, but these are
part of the agro-ecosystem, having both directly  productive
functions  (timber, fruits, leaves, resins etc) and  support
functions (nutrient recycling, shelter and shade etc).

Finally,  there are other possible types  of  afforestation,
different   from   the   above:   protective    landscaping,
recreational  afforestation. What matters then is not to  be
Tree  planting  in  itself  is not  the  problem.  What  has
triggered  concerns  from both environmentalists  and  local
communities  has  been, and still is, the  establishment  of
large-scale  mono-culture tree plantations, mostly  composed
of fast-growing eucalyptus and pine trees. These plantations
are being promoted and established in vast areas  throughout
the world.
The present pattern of industrial tree crops is leading to a
number   of  negative  environmental  and  social   impacts.
Environmentally,   the  adverse  impacts  of   these   large
plantations  on hydrological basins are being exposed.  This
is  because the fast-growing species of trees commonly  used
in timber plantations consume huge volumes of water.
Secondly, there are concerns about the possible irreversible
changes of soils under plantations of exotic species,  which
could lead to desertification processes.
Furthermore,  these  large  plantations  modify  the  native
wildlife  substantially  .  This could lead to  a  chain  of
adverse impacts on the different ecosystems involved.
The   above  may  also  be  aggravated  by   the   polluting
processes  derived from transforming large volumes  of  wood
into  pulp and other wood products. It is likely  that  once
plantations become productive, these industries will move to
developing  countries,  given  the  growing  trend   towards
relocation of polluting industries from industrial countries
to  the  Third  World, where standards  in  legislation  for
environmental protection are much lower.

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