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The work of FAO

International forestry and forest products conference for Latin America
Activities of FAO's subcommittee on unexploited forests
Third World Forestry Congress
International Poplar Commission

International forestry and forest products conference for Latin America

One of the greatest undeveloped forested regions in the world is found in South America. effort to develop these forests is being made and will be marked by the opening on 19 April 1948 at Teresopolis, near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, of the International Forestry and Forest Products Conference for Latin America. The Conference is the second in a series planned by FAO. The first conference, held at Marianske Lazne, Czechoslovakia in 1947, dealt with the emergency and long-term European timber situation.

Calling of the meeting follows the recommendation of the FAO Conference at Geneva last autumn, which emphasized that development of the vast timber wealth of Latin America would help raise living standards there and might contribute additional lumber supplies urgently needed for the reconstruction of war-devastated areas.

The Government of the United States of Brazil will act as host to representatives of all the Latin-American Republics and of certain other member countries with special interests in Latin

America or in the subjects to be discussed. Observers have also been invited from the United Nations and other public international organizations including the Pan American Union and the Caribbean Commission.

A Preparatory Committee has been established in Rio de Janeiro, and communications concerning the Conference can be addressed to AGRIRURAL, Para Comissao Floresta, Río de Janeiro, Brazil, or to FAO in Washington, D. C. U.S.A.

Activities of FAO's subcommittee on unexploited forests

The first meeting of the Subcommittee on Unexploited Forests was held at Geneva, Switzerland, 20-22 August 1947, just before the Third Annual Conference of FAO. The Subcommittee, working under the chairmanship of Tom Gill, Secretary of the Charles Lathrop Pack Foundation, was composed of tropical forestry experts for British territories Professor Stebbing and Mr.. Scott; for French territories, Mr. Terver and Mr. Fournols; for Belgian territories, Mr. van den Abeele, for Netherlands territories, Messrs Gonggryp, Sewandono, and Winkoop; and for the Latin American countries, Peru - Mr. Bazan, Colombia - Mr. Salazar, and Brazil - Mr. de Souza and Mr. de Fonseca. S. B. Show, chief of the Forestry Branch of FAO's Division of Forestry and Forest Products, attended the meetings. Pierre Terver wee appointed Secretary of the Subcommittee,

In view of the number and variety of points requiring study and of the great importance of some of them, it was decided that work should be confined to outlining the most serious and urgent problems calling for solution in tropical and subtropical parts of the world, so as to assist the branches of FAO in their tasks by providing them with technical data on problems peculiar to those regions. This will enable them to make suggestions and give advice, to countries desiring guidance in this sphere, on the broad lines of a rational and general forest policy.


Tropical and subtropical zones contain vast stretches of forest, the exploitation of which should be contemplated if the world shortage of timber is to be speedily reduced. One of the most important problems therefore concerns the measures to be taken the promote the large-scale use of exotic wood, hitherto practically unknown.

The Subcommittee, came to the following general conclusions:

1) It is vitally necessary to extend considerably the range of use of commercial exotic species, so as to increase first of all the yield of these forests and thereby satisfy to an appreciable extent the swollen demands of markets particularly for industrial timber and lumber. Once this has been done, it will be possible to mechanize exploitation, an essential requirement in view of the extreme scarcity of labor in some of these regions, moreover, the cost of production, which has hitherto been prohibitive, could also be reduced. These exotic species would thus be able to compete with native timber in consumer markets.

2) In order to encourage trade in exotic woods, it would seem necessary to standardize the terminology of forest species of economic importance. However, in view of the practical difficulties already well known to technicians, in the way of the speedy achievement of such a reform, the Subcommittee, feels that during the initial stage, it would be best for early work to confine itself to. the three following objectives:

a) the standardization of scientific names of species which are well known and clearly determined;

b) the compilation of tables giving the scientific and the corresponding vernacular and trade names used in different countries for these species

c) in the case of little-known, new species for exploitation and distribution, until such time as they are precisely identified, the compilation of a simple commercial classification arranging them by similarity of their technological characteristics and possible uses.

To this end, FAO should establish an identification and nomenclature committee consisting of the most highly qualified technicians in this sphere who are willing to undertake the task.

3) Study of the physical, mechanical and technological properties of all exotic woods of economic importance should be vigorously pursued and even intensified" and FAO should continue to collect analyze, and distribute all information on the subject passed on to it by existing laboratories.

The Subcommittee, does not favor the carrying out of a comprehensive program, of work in a joint laboratory, since it does not consider that FAO should supersede action by governments where this has already been taken. On the other hand, for countries not yet in possession of organizations capable of undertaking these researches, and in particular for the Latin American nations, it is of the opinion that FAO's most urgent task should) be to continue to use its good offices to arrange for work requested to be carried out in existing laboratories of member nations able and willing to undertake it should also encourage these countries to accept for training young technicians from other countries.

4) At the same time and with the approval of the Latin American countries concerned, FAO should take the initiative. in organizing the establishment of & joint forestry research laboratory for that continent.

5) Research on seasoning and steaming, parasite control, and the general conservation and preservation of exotic woods at the place of production, in transit, and during use are regarded by the Subcommittee as particularly important and should be intensified in all countries. In this sphere, FAO should continue to play its part as a world documentation center. The same applies to the study of conditioning rules and the determination of exotic wood standards.


In tropical and subtropical regions the three great enemies of forests, the ravages of which can adversely affect living conditions over immense areas and sometimes reduce the land entirely to desert, are shifting cultivation, annual firing, and excessive grazing. These factors have a direct bearing on the composition and even the preservation of forest stands, on soil fertility, and on water conditions; they are the chief cause of erosion phenomena, which are particularly serious in mountainous regions.

The Subcommittee has arrived at the following general conclusions as to the means to be taken to protect threatened countries from these scourges.

1) In those regions the agricultural problem is intimately connected with the problem of forestry; indeed in some places it is primarily a forestry problem, since agriculture in those countries is necessarily forest agriculture.

It is essential, therefore, on the one hand that foresters should intervene quickly to restore the now disrupted equilibrium between agriculture and forests, and on the other hand that their part in agriculture should be primary and not secondary as it is tending to become in some countries. The example of the Belgian Congo -where there is no hesitation to give forest specialists managerial posts of agricultural importance in certain threatened areas should not be overlooked.

2) As to the question of farming on forest soils it may be as well to reconsider our brutal condemnation of ancestral indigenous practices. Rather than try to establish agriculturists too quickly it would probably be better to canalize nomadism by the restoration of indigenous methods of cultivation, subject, of course, to the necessary improvements. This first stage of the operation can only be carried through effectively by agricultural and forestry experiment stations and by the establishment of permanent contact between foresters and agriculturists and the local population, in order that the former may become familiar with the people's mode of life and working methods and win their confidence.

In this connection the problem which undoubtedly dominates all others is that of fallow land since native farming has to be catch crop farming in fallow forest, with adequate crop rotation to maintain soil fertility and ensure conservation of the forest. Next come problems of soil fertility, and here the Main aim must be to conserve and increase the small quantity of humus existing in those soils still unstabilized.

3) Nevertheless, FAO cannot undertake to elaborate a standard system of agricultural methods for tropical and subtropical regions, in view of the extreme diversity of physical and economic conditions in those countries and the varying stages of development of their populations. It must therefore confine itself to the task, already very important in itself, of providing a center for study and documentation along the lines on which it has already embarked.

Moreover, it can use its influence to develop air survey, in countries which do not already use it, as a basis for forestry and land inventories, and for soil maps which will facilitate the appreciation of agricultural potentialities and consequent definition of agricultural and forest policies.

Finally, since questions of publicity and the education of the peoples are most important, it would be particularly desirable for FAO to request governments to secure for this plan of forest conservation the collaboration of all public officials, local landowners, village leaders, and the local people themselves, through the intermediary of local executive officers at all levels.

4) The problems connected with the control of forest and bush fires and soil erosion call for measures of a somewhat similar kind to the action that needs to be taken against shifting cultivation. The lack of effective provisions shows that legislation in this sphere must be decentralized and its application often left to the initiative of local authorities or even to the traditional native authorities. Here again FAO can play an important part and keep the various countries informed of the results achieved elsewhere. In particular it could serve as a channel of information for the Soil Conservation Service of the United States of America so that the very efficient methods of checking soil erosion adopted in that country can be brought to the notice of the member nations.

5) As regards the fundamental principles underlying the forest laws that should be drawn up in countries that as yet possess none, it is important in the first place to ascertain the results achieved in territories that have already had a fairly lengthy experience in this field and where the "period of 'development and testing" necessary for the framing of rational and effective provisions is already over.

These studies might bring out the main universal principles which are fundamentally the same in all countries.

Ample data could be furnished by the archives of the international organization for comparative colonial legislation at Brussels, the work of the second International Forestry Congress at Budapest, the documents on forest laws in the Indian peninsula and the French overseas territories and the researches and summaries already undertaken by the technical divisions of FAO. But before it is possible to draft legislation appropriate to a given country, many other data must first be obtained. If FAO wishes to help the Latin American countries to frame progressive forest laws it must possess a modicum of information about the different requirements affecting climate, water supplies, soil, economy, and population that must be met in each of the countries concerned. In particular, a thorough knowledge of the system of land tenure is essential, since in most cases the first thing to be done will be to map out a forest area.

6) It is self-evident that if forest legislation is to be in any way effective there must be a well organized, competent, and adequately staffed forest service in the country, The problem of the creation of such forest services in countries which do not as yet possess them is very similar to that of the creation of laboratories. Not only must the forestry schools already in existence open their doors to the young forest officers of those countries and provide them with training but the surplus technicians must also be put at their disposal.

All this, however, is only a palliative, and it is essential to provide for the setting up of new forestry schools for advanced training. In view of the various difficulties involved, and in particular the relative scarcity of able teachers with a specialized knowledge of tropical forestry problems, a joint teaching service might be contemplated for the Latin American countries. This teaching service should fit in harmoniously with the laboratories that need to be created, and the whole would form a suitable forestry research institute for Latin America, in the setting up of which FAO might take a hand, in conjunction with the countries concerned.


The Subcommittee confined itself to the following conclusions:

1) The questionnaires on the world forest inventory for 1947, as prepared by the staff of FAO, following the recommendations of the Washington and Rome Statistical Conferences, undoubtedly contain many imperfections from the point of view of countries with tropical and subtropical forests. Nevertheless, considering the very great difficulty of framing a single questionnaire to cover all types of forests in the world, every effort should be made to use the questionnaire.

This being the case, it is essential that governments reply to the questions put to them to the best of their ability so as to enable FAO to collect and collate in a systematic manner information on the subject of world forestry. Nevertheless, in order to remedy the imperfections and, above all, to fill in the gaps in the questionnaire, countries which are in a position to do- so should attach to their re plies a report containing additional in formation and explanations and bringing out the points peculiar to tropical regions. In this connection cartographic documents would be of the greatest value.

2) With regard to reafforestation, it is first of all necessary to ascertain in which regions deforestation must be checked and reafforestation urgently undertaken. As these zones may well extend over the territories of several countries, FAO could render governments the important service of aiding in the co-ordination of their efforts.

With regard to the actual technique of reafforestation, it is important to warn countries against certain practices which are always very costly and the results of which are doubtful and of ten definitely harmful. As the problem invariably depends on ecological questions, it is often necessary to recreate the forest climate. So long as a certain amount of vegetation still remains, one must allow the forest to re-establish itself, simply taking measures to protect the area. Finally, emphasis was placed on the cardinal principle in reafforestation-which is almost always to utilize local species - and also on the principle of creating mixed stands. In these circumstances an exchange of information between distant countries and the drawing up of a list of species suitable for reafforestation purposes are of relative importance only.

3) From the gamut of questions broached by the Subcommittee in the course of its discussions, it is apparent that FAO is not yet adequately organized to work out solutions for all the numerous and varied problems which have been submitted to it and which it should endeavor to solve region by region, not on a world scale. With regard to tropical and subtropical forests, therefore, the establishment of regional offices in Latin America, Africa, and the Far East, already recommended by the Copenhagen Conference, appears both essential and urgent

The following nine recommendations drawn up from the results of the discussions were unanimously adopted by the members of the Subcommittee on Unexploited Forests:


1. That FAO should assemble all existing documentation concerning tropical and subtropical woods, especially material on scientific identification and on laboratory tests; that it should digest this material and disseminate it to member governments; that the latter hasten to advise the Division of Forestry and Forest Products of FAO regarding all studies, either of a general or specific character, made concerning the forest products of the territories 'over which they have jurisdiction.

2. That FAO should establish a committee on the identification and nomenclature of tropical and subtropical species of economic interest; that the essential aim of this committee should be to standardize scientific nomenclature and establish concordance of common and trade names; and that the committee should also undertake the establishment of a commercial classification of species based upon technological characteristics.

3. That FAO should continue to collect all the literature bearing on shifting cultivation and its consequences and control in tropical and subtropical countries, digest it for the benefit of member governments, and encourage interregional contacts for the examination and solution of the problems arising; that FAO should stress the very urgent need for administrations to act. through their local executive officers, local landowners, village leaders, and the local people themselves against gross misuse of soil by shifting cultivation, excessive grazing, or annual firing.

4. That FAO use its influence to develop, in countries which do not already use it, air survey as a basis for forestry and land inventories, and for soil maps which will facilitate the appreciation of agricultural potentialities and consequent definition of agricultural and forest policies; act as intermediary with the Soil Conservation Service of the United States of America so that the anti-erosion measures adopted there may be communicated to the member governments; and that in this connection attention should be paid to agricultural equipment and legislation for erosion control.

5. That, FAO should establish contact with the Latin American countries wishing to draw up progressive forestry legislation, in order to frame a policy defining the different requirements affecting climate, water, soils, and social and economic conditions in each of the interested countries; that, having obtained this minimum of necessary information, FAO will do all possible to help the technicians of these countries in drawing up preliminary drafts of laws.

6. That FAO should take the initiative in organizing the creation of a forestry institute with research laboratories in the common interest of the Latin American countries, which urgently need such an institution, and, with teaching facilities for the professional training of foresters; that pending the setting up of such an institute, FAO should continue to use its good offices to have urgent work for Latin America done in existing laboratories of member countries able to undertake it, and to assure that those countries accept for training M their forest schools and laboratories the forest technicians of Latin America.

7. That FAO, in consultation with member governments who ask for assistance, should enquire into and specify the tropical and subtropical regions of the world in which it is essential to cheek deforestation or reforest immediately for climatic or social reasons or water conservation; that FAO should continue to collect and publish all available literature on the possibilities of using natural regeneration in these countries, and should list for natural regions the local species, and eventually the exotic species, suitable for reforestation, and for each of these species the correct technique to use.

8. That FAO request governments which have territories located in tropical or subtropical regions to furnish the most complete information possible in response to the forest inventory questionnaires sent them, and, since the headings of the inventory may not apply to particular regions, that the governments be asked to attach to the questionnaire form all reports, charts, and explanatory comments which could clarify for FAO specific details regarding the forests and forest prod nets of these regions.

9. The Subcommittee on Unexploited Forests, believing in the necessity for seeking local solutions of the silvicultural problems of the world, considers essential the creation without delay, under FAO's Division of Forestry and Forest Products, the regional offices already recommended by the Copenhagen Conference, to deal especially with the tropical and subtropical forests of. Latin America, Africa, and the Far East.

Third World Forestry Congress

The 1947 session of FAO's annual Conference, held at Geneva, passed a resolution calling for a World Forestry Congress in '1949. The Government of Finland has now informed FAO that it is willing to act as host to the Congress. An organization committee, of which Eino Saari is the chairman, has been appointed.

The Copenhagen session of the annual Conference had already urged continuation of the, plans, made before World War II, for a third World Forestry Congress to be held in Finland. It is, therefore, most gratifying that the Government of Finland should be able to resume its role of prospective host to this Congress at Helsinki.

The first World Forestry Congress was held in Rome in 1926. The second was convened at Budapest in 1936. These two conferences have been milestones in the development of international co-operation in forestry. The impetus which they gave has become evident in the ever-growing common effort for a solution of the many problems affecting forestry and forest products. When this third Congress reviews the progress made since 1936, it will be seen how greatly ideas and practice in various countries have benefited from international exchanges of view and experience.

International Poplar Commission

The International Poplar Commission met on 27 and 28 October 1947 at Brussels, under the chairmanship of Ph. Guinier (France). FAO was represented at this meeting.

After having prepared a statement as to the uses of poplar wood and put the finishing touches to a record of identification, the Commission studied a plan of nomenclature for poplars as well as other questions of great interest, particularly those of the exchange between countries of species of poplars, the fight against crust (canker), and the institution of control over the various species.

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