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4-8 October 1993, Bangkok

A.Z.M.Obaidullah Khan

Assistant Director-General of FAO
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

Distinguished Experts and Observers;

Friends and Colleagues; and

Ladies and Gentlemen!

It is indeed a privilege for me to welcome you on behalf of the Director General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), my colleagues in the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAPA), and on my own behalf. I would like to congratulate the Forestry Section of RAPA for organizing this Expert Consultation, since the reforestation programmes have been enhanced almost everywhere but still need to clarify many unsolved issues, such as Eucalyptus Planting.

Allow me first to describe in broad terms the state of forestry in our region. Deforestation continue to be a major threat even though there is better awareness among all concerned to reverse this process. According to the latest estimates made by the FAO's global project, "Forest Resources Assessment 1990 Project" (FAO, 1993), the annual rate of deforestation in this region has increased from 2.0 million ha during 1976-80 to 3.9 million ha during 1981-90. The crisis is well reflected in frequent floods, drought, and landslides; soil erosion and siltation; the loss of wildlife habitats; and in irreversible damage to bio-diversity. Already marginalized communities and people living around or inside the forests have been further impoverished.

Many countries have restricted or banned logging from the natural forests of the Region. Such restriction bans have resulted in conflicts of interests among the wood industries, local communities and conservation groups. Whatever be the pious intent of such policy measures, the powerful continue to exact what they want and the powerless grant what they must.

It is estimated that the population of the developing countries of the Region during 1990-2000 will increase by 472 million. If the population growth of only sixteen tropical countries (excluding China, Iran, and North and South Korea) is counted, there will be an increase of 290 million. This is going to put heavy pressure on releasing more forest land for agriculture.

In this context, most countries in the region have attempted extensive reforestation and undertaken social forestry programmes. In China, the annual afforestation rate is about 4 million ha. The total area under plantations in India comes to 18.8 million ha, with an increase of 1.75 million ha during 1990-92. The new plantations in Thailand cover 756,000 ha; in Indonesia 8.75 million ha and in Myanmar 335,000 ha. New Zealand and Japan have raised forest plantations of 1.3 million ha and 10 million ha, respectively.

According to the recent estimates of FAO, the total area of forest plantations in the Region is around 32.15 million ha, recording an annual increase of 2.1 million ha during 1981-90 in 17 developing countries of the tropical zone. If the figures of the temperate zone countries, such as China, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, etc. are added, the total manmade forest cover will be much more extensive.

This reforestation rate will be further enhanced towards the turn of the century according to our analysis of the various national forestry development policies and implementation programmes. This is because most developing countries recognize the importance of natural forests for sustained water availability, soil fertility stabilization, environmental protection - including conservation of the valuable flora and fauna, and more particularly for the livelihood of people in and around forests. At the same time, the governments of developing countries of this Region have been trying to meet the ever increasing demands for fuelwood, fodder, timber and industrial woody materials from the manmade forests. I strongly support this strategy as a logical sequence.

However, that may be, the gap between the reforestation of 2.1 million ha/year and the deforestation of 3.9 million ha/year, is still large. We are incurring a net loss of 1.8 million ha of natural forests every year as a whole. Moreover, we have to underline that the quality and functions of natural forests and manmade forests are not the same. In addition, while the resources of natural forests are "a gift of nature", the creation of manmade forests is the result of deliberate investments. Thus, in the case of establishing manmade forests, objectives, locations, management schemes, beneficiaries, land use and land related issues, social and economic aspects, financial arrangement, etc., must be carefully discussed and clarified - involving rural communities.

Now, the governments and rural communities of the developing countries have recognized the critical importance of tree growing on their lands through a participatory approach. Since the majority population in the countryside are resource - poor, they need access to resources for tree plantings as well as for processing and marketing. Fast growing species, including Eucalyptus species, which provide such access have ushered in a new era of forestry development in the region.

However, in India, for example, a serious debate took place on Eucalyptus plantations. One study said that Eucalyptus plantations benefitted only the rich and not the poor. Another said that eucalypts consumes too much water and disturbed the harvest of agricultural crops. Or, another said that they impoverished the soil fertility, etc. On the other hand, there has been a strong support for eucalypts among the forestry authorities and experts, as well as among tree growing farmers who have been extracting benefits from eucalypts. In Thailand, a similar controversy has been observed. In other countries, promotions of eucalypts are on-going on a large scale, such as in China.

To establish the truth about Eucalyptus plantings and put an end to baseless rumors, the FAO has been continuously analysing the issues and publishing its results. This Expert Consultation is a further part of our effort. We, in the FAO, felt that we should invite all parties concerned with Eucalyptus planting - ranging from the government sector to NGOs, rural community leaders, environmental protection groups, the private sector, and mass media - to openly discuss the Eucalyptus issues from every angle, based on the scientific facts and the real opinions of rural communities. Through such a review, FAO hopes to provide proper guidelines on the use of eucalypts in tree planting programmes. Thus, your responsibility is quite heavy, but it would be your pride in the future that your participation at this Consultation could contribute to producing these guidelines.

Growing trees takes a long time and policies, strategies, locations, management schemes, investments, beneficiaries, environmental safety, etc., which govern forestry and tree growing, will significantly differ from those adopted for a short-term production for field crops. Hence the need and urgency of this Consultation.

I hope you will deliberate upon various issues for appropriate transfer of knowledge on Eucalyptus planting to support tree growing by rural community. We are looking forward to your recommendations to guide us in providing support for community/social forestry and agroforestry programmes.

This Consultation was conceived several years ago by late Dr. Y.S. Rao, former Regional Forestry Officer in RAPA and also lately Senior Programme Advisor of the Regional Project "Forestry Research Support Programme for the Asia-Pacific Region (FORSPA)". Sadly however, he was killed by a bomb blast in Bombay in March 1993. He may not be physically present with us today, but his compassionate spirit will always be there to help and support our efforts. His colleague, Mr. M. Kashio has followed up the wishes of Dr. Rao. If this Consultation could result in a set of guidelines, which could help the rural poor in getting social, economic and environmental benefits, this would be our best homage to a great forester, the late Dr. Y.S. Rao.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in closing, I wish to acknowledge my gratitude to the FAO Regional Forestry Projects such as FORTIP, FORSPA and APAN to their kind contributions for sponsoring several participants. Through their collaboration, we have received many experts here as resource persons and participants. Your participation will surely contribute to enrich the five day sessions of the Consultation.

I wish you all a very challenging, rewarding and enjoying Consultation. I eagerly await the results and recommendations of your deliberations. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share some of my thoughts with you. Have a pleasant stay in Bangkok.



4-8 October 1993, Bangkok


Senior Forest Officer (Plantations)
Forest Resources Development Branch
FAO Forestry Department

I have been asked by the Assistant-Director General of FAO's Forestry Department, Mr C.H. Murray, to bring you his greetings and best wishes for the success of this meeting.

Our topic for discussion this week on the effects of Eucalyptus is not new. In 1985 FAO reacted to the debate that was being conducted at that time concerning the alleged adverse effects of species of the eucalypts on soil nutrient status and soil water relations, on soil erosion and on wildlife by commissioning a study, funded by SIDA, the Swedish International Development Agency, entitled "The Ecological Effects of Eucalyptus", by Duncan Poore and Jöran Fries. It was published as FAO Forestry Paper number 59 in English, French and Spanish and has since become one of the most quoted references in the Eucalyptus debate.

A more popular version of this paper was prepared in 1988 entitled "The Eucalypt Dilemma", which was also financed by SIDA and which also quickly became a much-quoted source. It was published by FAO in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish and Thai. Copies of this paper have been distributed to all participants at this meeting.

The publication of these two papers stimulated further discussion and some new studies on the effects of Eucalyptus. The scope of the debate was rightly widened to include the social and economic as well as the environmental effects. A truly enormous number of new reports on the subject have been published, as you will see from the lists of references to the papers being presented this week. One wonders indeed how much paper derived from Eucalyptus pulp was used to print the reports that condemned the use of the genus.

Sadly, many of these new contributions have not heeded the exhortation in the Foreword to Forestry Paper no. 59, from which I quote: "It is hoped that the study will be useful to foresters and other land use planners and managers to better understand the relations between eucalypts and their ecological environment and put in proportion those too definite statements either in favour or against Eucalyptus".

Let us therefore resolve that this week we will approach the debate on the role of the eucalypts in an open-minded manner, identifying those situations where they have a place in providing the goods and services that are required by human beings and those other areas where their use is not appropriate. Let us avoid condemning the genus for social consequences that may be caused by poor plantation planning or even by other causes quite outside the forestry sector.

The Proceedings of this Consultation will be published by FAO's Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific as partial follow-up to Forestry Paper no. 59, related to the role of the eucalypts in plantations in this region.

I thank you for your attention, and look forward to participating in your discussions.



4-8 October 1993, Bangkok

M. Kashio

Regional Forest Resources Officer
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Mr. Obaidullah Khan, Assistant Director-General of FAO and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific;

Mr. H. Tsuchiya, Deputy Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific;

Distinguished Experts and Observers,

Friends and Colleagues; and

Ladies and Gentlemen.

Good morning and Sawatdee Krap! On behalf of the Forestry Section of the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAPA), I would like to express my warm welcome to you all to the Regional Expert Consultation on Eucalyptus.

As stated by Mr. Obaidullah Khan, our ADG and Regional Representative for this Region in his Opening Address, the current situation of forestry in the Asia-Pacific Region is in a transitional stage from the conventional framework to a new one, reflecting the changing scenery of the forestry sector, particularly in the tropical countries. Further degradation and deforestation of natural forests and rapidly increasing manmade forests are observed in the context of a strong current of changing environmental, social and economic situations of developing countries of the Region.

I do not intend to repeat the same figures and consequences of deforestation or manmade forests that have been cited by Mr. Khan, but would like to just remind you of some key facts, namely that the rate of deforestation of the Region has been doubled from 2.0 million ha during the 1970s to 3.9 million ha during 1981-90, and the rate of annual reforestation has reached 2.1 million ha in the recent years in the tropical countries of the Region. Shrinking natural forests and malfunctioning forest ecosystems in the tropics have displayed a series of problems ranging from an increased occurrence of natural disasters to changing climatic patterns, water shortage, depletion of wood resources, extinction of plant and animal species, and so forth. Among them, the threat to our agricultural production systems is the most serious one, because they are the spine of life supporting systems of human-beings.

Ever increasing human populations, particularly in the agriculture based rural communities, are directly hit by such problems, and consequently the rural communities living around or inside the forests are suffering from further impoverishment. Why? Because over-populated agricultural communities push the marginal or landless farmers to the mountains slopes (which have previously been occupied by undisturbed forests) and force them to take up slash-and-burn agriculture for their survival. Since this activity violates the Forest Laws in most cases, they can receive no financial, technical and social assistance from the government authorities. Combined with other disadvantages, unsustainable land use inevitably invites environmental degradation. The slopes which have lost protective forest cover rapidly lose the fertility of soils and the water retention capacity and no more crops are available. Thus, marginal farmers become further impoverished.

Even on the relatively fertile flat plains, a similar phenomenon take place in the form of over-utilization of land resources. Cash crop oriented monoculture systems multiply the speed of depletion. In addition, national development policies often give low priority to the agriculture sector including forestry, and the small allotment given to the sector becomes subject to competition or fighting among the powerful and the powerless. The result is clear. The gaps between them - the rich and the poor, or the land owners and the landless - have been enlarged.

In human history, we can find many examples where a nation or community lost its vitality and disappeared from its territory or was replaced by other tribes. Historians attribute this decline to incapable kings or leaders, or strong invaders. However, here is an interesting observation made by one historian. He stated that the human communities expanded their society and the culture flourished in one place for one period and declined, leaving a vast wasteland behind them. It implies that the real cause of decline might be due to the destruction of forests and depletion of land productivity: no more water either from the sky or mountains, no more soil fertility, and consequently no more food production. When a country or community faced this grave constraint, its self-sustainable and self-defense capacities were weakened. Such communities became vulnerable to invading forces. Or, the people dispersed in migration to more promising land. This mechanism must be one of the fundamental forces to drive human history.

It seems to me that, in most tropical countries, such a process is taking place. The agriculture policies of these countries have tended to put an emphasis and priority on the expansion of arable land, and neglected the overall functions of forest ecosystems - the mechanisms of which were not known until recent years. When the forest resources were abundant and policy makers could concentrate decision making on how to feed increasing populations, conversions of forests into agricultural lands were justifiable. By human nature, it is hardly bearable to see people suffer from starvation. There was also a wide social consensus to support this decision. However, the whole situation seems to have changed. Forest resources have been continuously lost and their ecological functions to regulate water, soils and climate have also been affected to a critical point, beyond which there is no more recovery back to the original conditions within a short period.

In fact, many experts share the view that horizontal expansion of agricultural land has reached the potential frontiers or exceeded its safe limits. Countries which have high percentages of agricultural land have low coverage of forests and a large amount of wastelands. For example, the percentages of agricultural lands and forests are 70 % and 7.7 % in Bangladesh, 57 % and 22 % in India, 43 % and 26.6 % in Thailand; and millions of hectares of wastelands are commonly observed in these countries.

Thus, questions such as: "How to meet the growing demands for lands, timber, fodder, fuel, environmental security?", "Is it still possible to convert forests into agricultural lands?", "How to mitigate degraded forest ecosystems to restore their normal functions?", have been raised. And, people have gradually deepened their understanding on the issues concerned with tropical forestry, agriculture and sustainable social and economic development. This was the reason why the UNCED was held in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in June 1992. However, there seems to be no single answer, because conditions are different from one country to another, and one province to another even in the same country. Answers should address specific conditions.

However, there is one commonly applicable and workable solution that has been confirmed in many places of the world. That is to plant trees on the degraded land again. The problems have originally come from deforestation; therefore, to restore the land with trees is a logical sequence. There is only a difference in what kinds of trees to plant and for what, where to plant, how to plant, who will plant, how to manage them, and who will be the beneficiaries.

In this regard, the progress of tree planting that reached 32.15 million ha in the 17 developing countries of the Region in 1990, and indications that this trend will be further enhanced, are encouraging. My respected colleague, the late Dr. Rao used to say to me that at no other time in the history of forestry development has there been such a surge of public interest and national and international effort directed towards rebuilding the forest and tree resources of the countries in this region.

These efforts have assumed four different forms: i) block plantations funded and implemented by government agencies on forest land; ii) afforestation of areas other than forest lands either by the government or through community efforts; iii) plantations by private individuals and companies on land either owned by them or taken on lease or on communal lands; iv) homesteads and family wood lots, scattered trees, and trees in combination with crops. Fast growing species such as Eucalyptus species are usually engaged in these tree plantations.

As you know well, the natural distribution of Eucalyptus species is geographically limited in Australia, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and the Philippines. But they are now widely planted in most tropical and sub-tropical countries of the world. Eucalypts are, among many other species employed in such plantations, a leading group for several reasons such as: a wide adaptability to soils and water conditions (either over or short supply); quick growth and high yield; low susceptibility to pests and diseases; ready availability of seed and silvicultural know-how; and wide end usage and available markets.

The first large scale eucalypts plantations in the Region were introduced in India. These attempts invited serious criticisms for the negative impacts by eucalypts on: environment (water, soil fertility, bio-diversity); social affairs (cultural and traditional values, land owners and landless, restrictive forest regulations and peoples' demands); economic affairs (beneficiaries, rich vs. poor, forest industry and tree growing farmers); land use (agriculture vs. forestry, fertile land vs. marginal land, and land tenure); government forest policies, etc. In Thailand, many rural communities and NGOs expressed a concern against the strong control by foreign investors. Eucalypt issues are often over-heated by exaggeration of a piece of information and neglect of scientific findings. Controversies have become more political debate than seeking rational solutions for rehabilitations of degraded forests, socio-economic development of rural communities, as well as a long term fair benefit for every group of a country. Accumulated conflicts and distrust among different group of people may not produce any constructive solutions. That is why this expert Consultation has been organized here today.

Thus, in this Consultation, we will discuss all the aspects of Eucalyptus, ranging from the policies, strategies, land arrangements, location specific conditions, silvicultural treatment, institutional mechanisms, to environmental, economic and social justification. For this purpose, we have conducted many analytical studies on various aspects of Eucalyptus. We, in FAO, have provided reliable information as much as possible for your reference. Our wishes are to provide appropriate guidelines for the use of eucalypts in tree growing programmes, which are acutely required in many developing countries of the Region.

In this context, I hope that you will broaden the scope of your understanding of Eucalyptus and learn from each other during the sessions. Since this is a neutral forum of the United Nations, please feel free to express your opinions, whatsoever, on the issues of eucalypts from every angle. All the participants of this Consultation are attending in a personal capacity, and not in an official position to represent any authorities and organizations that you belong to. However, please keep in mind one important point, which is that your statements should be scientific, logical, and rational either supported by research works or facts that you have directly observed or experienced. Please avoid political propaganda, emotional arguments, and root-less rumors, because these are neither appropriate nor constructive to achieving the objectives of the Consultation.

In closing, may I acknowledge with grateful thanks the support we have received from the FAO Forestry Regional Projects such as FORTIP - "Improved Productivity of Manmade Forests through Tree Breeding and Propagation", FORSPA - "Forestry Research Support Programme in Asia and the Pacific", APAN - "Agroforestry Systems Research and Development in Asia and the Pacific (Asia-Pacific Agroforestry Network)", and the Forestry Department of FAO Headquarters in Rome. They have sponsored the study and travelling costs of resource persons and participants to make this Consultation possible.

I am also very grateful to the representatives of the many NGOs, private and state-owned companies, research institutions, UN/International and Regional Organizations and mass media who are present here. They have come from Bangladesh, China, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, the Philippines and Thailand at their own cost. I believe that this wide participation indicates a keen concern about Eucalyptus.

The task ahead of us seems rather daunting when I see the complexity of the subjects and the relatively short time that we have - only five days. However, scientific studies on Eucalyptus have shown great progress in recent years and the results obtained are fully utilized in the analysis of the resource papers which will be presented today.

To end this speech, allow me to quote a Japanese proverb, which says that "A journey of a thousand miles always starts with the first step."

Thank you very much for your kind attention.

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