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SARID Staff, October 26, 2006

Preserving the world's rapidly shrinking tropical forests and improving the economic prospects of millions of poor people requires an urgent strengthening of national forest governance, the World Bank said in its policy research report issued on Monday.

Titled "At Loggerheads? Agricultural Expansion, Poverty Reduction and Environment in the Tropical Forest,” the report warns that deforestation contributes up to 20 percent of annual global CO2 emissions. It not only fosters global warming and smog pollution, and threatens biodiversity, but also harms the underprivileged and increases poverty throughout the world.

This ongoing problem, the report argues, is driven largely by economic incentives to expand agriculture, influenced by changes in agricultural prices. A majority of people in rural tropical areas live in or around vulnerable forests or woodlands, depending on them heavily for survival.

Kenneth Chomitz, a Lead Economist in the World Bank’s Research Department, suggests that “people destroy forests because they are poor, and that deforestation causes poverty-but generalizations are a poor foundation for policy. We find thatdeforestation is caused by both rich and poor people-and it can either destroy or create assets for poor people."

Compensation for avoiding deforestation could help developing countries to improve forest governance,notes François Bourguignon, Chief Economist and Senior Vice President at the World Bank, arguing that it would “boost rural incomes, while helping the world at large to mitigate climate change more vigorously. The idea of so-called “carbon markets,” he adds, has been already endorsed by the Kyoto Protocol and other carbon-limiting arrangements.

Nevertheless, the World Bank experts agree that there are numerous obstacles to such policies. As alternative, they point out to a number of workable solutions, such as identification of forest types-frontiers and disputed lands, along with setting up a mechanism for guaranteeing forest rights. It also suggests that sustainable forest management should be regarded as the integral part of the global effort for protecting the land from deforestation.

New technologies and institutions, they advocate, can be used to counterbalance powerful interests that dominate forest resources, thus helping society harmonize environmental and regional development goals. A good example would be found in Cameroon, where reforms include transparent allocation of forest concessions and royalties, and the employment of independent observers who use remote sensing to detect illegal logging.



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