• Brazilian rubber tappers are rapidly mobilizing to protect large areas in the Amazon Basin as extractive reserves. In this way they can work with the government to conserve major areas of tropical forest while continuing to maintain their livelihood.

  • China has replanted 30 million hectares with trees—an area more than double that established for fuelwood and tree plantations in all other developing countries. Although it is too early to judge the real success of this example, it shows what can be done in a short period given sufficient national resolve.

We need hundreds more of these examples. With only slight changes, many of them could be repeated elsewhere. But the information on how to conduct these projects needs to get out—it needs to be available to governments and NGOs everywhere. And of course the financing needed to get them started must begin to flow.


First, agriculture must be improved and intensified in many ways all over the world. Most losses of tropical forest can be attributed to land clearance by millions of families who are simply trying to eke out a living as you and I would do in their places (Furtado, 1986). Until they can get enough forest products to meet their daily needs, absolutely nothing will stop them from moving further into the forests. There are examples all over the world where conservation areas are threatened by people who need food, fuel, or simply a little more space to put in a crop.

Some of the more innovative agricultural technologies should be tried on a large scale. Efficient agriculture and agroforestry techniques, some new and others ancient, must become easily available everywhere in the tropics if the landscape is not to be turned into unproductive wasteland.

Second, forestry and forest management need to change in many ways (Whitmore, 1984). These changes are detailed in the Tropical Forestry Action Plan, and many forestry projects are incorporating them already. Management of natural forest for timber and for nonwood products (e.g., rattan, medicinal plants, wildlife) must be developed and used more widely. Plantation forestry should not be rejected, as some naively suggest, but it must be improved and expanded. Small, well-managed plantations can take much of the pressure off natural forests, and there are good examples of this in Kenya, Chile, and Thailand. Deforested areas must be replanted, and degraded lands must be rehabilitated. What we really need is a universal tree-planting ethic, a second but different type of Green Revolution, and this has already begun in India, Indonesia, and Colombia.

Third, conservation in the traditional sense must receive more attention and funding. The global system of conservation units must be much larger and better designed. Those of us involved in developing this system must be more flexible and innovative in how it is designed to conserve biological diversity. Larger, multiple-use conservation areas in which the local people can participate by managing and exploiting the resource should become a standard part of the conservation arsenal and land-use planning.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement