'Tree-Planting Incentives'

Gerry Lawson GJL at wpo.nerc.ac.uk
Fri Jun 7 08:35:25 EST 1996

POINT 1 'storm troopers'

Donald Mansius wrote the following on FUNET in response to Michael
Painter's request for information on tree-planting incentives  ........  "The
current system in many (most?) developing countries vests property
rights to trees (and land) in the (almighty) state.  Forest codes are
enforced by armed, paramilitary forest rangers who terrorize villagers. 
Storm troopers is not too strong a term to apply to some of them.  What
incentive do individuals have to care for something that belongs to the
state?  Providing incentives or handouts or whatever you want to call
them can increase planting and short-term survival rates, but I agree with
the development agencies that consider them unsustainable".

What Donald describes is partly true - but Forest Authorities in
developing countries are usually underfunded and demoralised.  Forestry
professionals in these counties know what is required to manage their
forests sustainably,  but are often denied resources (which may go to
their NGO counterparts), and operate in a system where professional
probity is not always encouraged.  Indigenous Forest Authorities and
Professional Forestry Associations need support from foresters
elsewhere, not blanket condemnation.  Community forest management
initiatives, and reform of land tenure and tree ownership regulations are
clearly needed, but what is also needed is respect for forestry
professionals in developing countries who are often doing their best to
protect areas of forest aganist overwhelming difficulties imposed both by
their political masters and by the need for farmland. 

POINT 2.  'The Northern View of Sustainability'
Another symptom of the lack of respect for foresters in 'developing'
countries is the tendency to promote certification schemes which
originate amongst environmental groups in North America or Europe and
involve direct certification by  private consultancy firms on behalf of
large international concerns.  This can easily bypass the laws and
regulations of the host country, and leave the local foresters even more
disillusioned.  (The concept of 'International Registration of Forests' -
administered through an organisation like ITTA by LOCAL Forest
Authorities has a lot to commend it in this regard - see

POINT 3.  'Farmers in developed countries seldom plant trees without
financial or fiscal inducements, but proposing the same for farmers in
developing countries is not 'sustainable'.

Is this not another example of double standards?  European farmers are
eligible for very large planting grants (UK up to 1300 ECU/ha, Denmark up
to  4100 ECU/ha, Germany 3180 ECU/ha, Ireland 2540 ECU/ha etc...), and
many countries give huge tax breaks.  So why are tropical farmers any
different? As Michael Painter's original question points out - farmers
everywhere face real shortages of land, money and labour.  A tiny
fraction of the European subsidies would cause private tree planting to
spread like wildfire throughout the tropics.  This was recognised in an
innovative scheme proposed by the World Bank for Nigeria, which would
have reimbursed farmers 75% of the notional planting costs.  Sadly the
World Bank was persuaded that this idea was not 'sustainable'.

Of course there are real problems with financial incentives: a) sustaining
the grants, b) ensuring farmers don't abuse the system, c) stopping
officials siphoning the money, d) planning where the trees should go, e)
providing land-tenure and tree-ownership certificates, and d) ensuring
that a market infrastructure exists for timber from small woodlots.  
None of these problems seem insuperable, however: a) many countries
divert a certain percentage of timber taxes to state regeneration
organisations, and this could often be better spent as a planting incentive
to farmers; b) payments can be made in installments depending on
sucessful establishment and growth, c) spot checks and performance
incentives for forest officials can work wonders against corruption, d)
mini farm-forest management plans could be introduced as part of the
incentive scheme, and linked to the issue of tree-ownership certificates
(e) for participating farmers who demonstrate accredited traditional land

Michael Painter has asked an interesting question and I'm sure he'll be
very grateful if a few more of us take the time to reply, or pass his query
on those funding agencies who may have 1st hand knowledge.
G.Lawson at ite.ac.uk                         Institute of Terrestrial Ecology
ITE Tropical Forestry Section             Bush Estate
Tel:  +44-131-445-4343                     Edinburgh EH26 OQB
Fax: +44-131-445-3943                     Scotland, UK

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