Previous Page Table of Contents Next Page

A regional TFAP for Latin America and the Caribbean

A. Contreras

Arnoldo Contreras is Senior Forestry Officer for Planning in the Policy and Planning Service, FAO Forestry Department, Rome.

Faced with perhaps the worst economic crisis of the pest half century, the countries of the Latin American and Caribbean region are beginning to look at their forest resources in a new light, in which sustainable development and more efficient economic use, rather than unrestrained exploitation, are the objectives.

A significant manifestation of this new attitude occurred at the Fifteenth Session of the Latin American Forestry Commission in October 1986 in San Jose, Costa Rica. The countries participating unanimously adopted the concepts of the Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP) as a framework for expanding substantially the level of economic activity in the forestry sector and for concentrating the attention of decision-makers on the relevance of the sector in attaining national development objectives.

The Commission also recommended the preparation of a regional Tropical Forestry Action Plan, adapted to the varied needs and circumstances of Latin American and Caribbean countries. In August 1987, under the joint auspices of the Brazilian government and FAO, experts from the region met in Brasilia to define and analyse the strategic issues involved.

This article, which is based on the work of that consultation, explores the potentials and constraints for forestry in the region and describes what it will take to turn resource deterioration into dynamic development within the framework of a Tropical Forestry Action Plan for Latin America and the Caribbean.

A TREE NURSERY IN PERU agroforestry and land rehabilitation are two objectives

With more than half the world's total of dense tropical forests (680 million ha), the greatest area of forest plantations in the developing world (7 million ha), plus 250 million ha of other forest types, the forest resources of Latin America and the Caribbean constitute a potentially important base for development.

In earlier times, a perspective of "frontier economics" was widely accepted in the region. Forests and other natural resources were exploited with little restraint since their natural wealth seemed endless.

That era is largely over for most countries. Accessible natural forests are no longer abundant and the impact of past mismanagement has become increasingly apparent in problems such as ecological deterioration, the continuing dependence on imports to satisfy regional forest products needs, and the alarming reduction of the genetic resource base.

Forest resources are disappearing at a rapid rate in the region. Between 1950 and 1980, deforestation affected more than 200 million ha. FAO estimates that every year more than 5 million ha of additional forest are cleared. One of the consequences is that fuelwood scarcity is becoming more widespread and projections show that, unless corrective measures are implemented soon, these problems will multiply rapidly in the next few years. Fuelwood scarcity and land deterioration from uncontrolled deforestation impose severe social costs, particularly on the poorest groups among the rural population.

The causes of forest deterioration are rooted in poverty - which is being constantly fuelled by high rates of population growth and economic depression; by the high concentration of land ownership; by low agricultural productivity; and by other factors, such as weak institutions and insufficient attention in government policies to the longer-term implications of a deteriorating natural resource base.

Most of the deforestation is caused by shifting cultivation practiced by landless farmers. Poorly planned settlement schemes have contributed to the problems in some areas.

The economic crisis affecting the region has sharpened the focus on the use and misuse of forest resources and brought a new pressure on using forest resources more effectively to help generate badly needed foreign exchange, to improve the relative position of the poor (who have been the most affected by the economic depression) and to help satisfy other compelling regional needs such as those for housing and fuelwood.

This growing concern with resource deterioration and sectoral underdevelopment has been accompanied by an increasing awareness in policy-decision circles that forests still represent a stock of considerable natural wealth which, if well managed, could play a much greater role in the sustainable economic development of the region.

However, unless there is a drastic change in forest policies and strategies, the sector will not contribute to the solution of the present regional problems, to the reactivation of economic activity or to future development much beyond its present marginal contribution.

MEASURING TREE GROWTH IN HONDURAS sustained resource management pays off

The economic crisis

It is useful at this point to include a brief description of the nature, causes and manifestations of the economic crisis that now dominates the regional picture, since in all probability it will continue to do so in the years to come.

Up until the end of the 1970s, Latin America and the Caribbean held a remarkable record of economic achievement, attaining one of the fastest growth rates in the world during the post-war years.

Economic expansion took place hand in hand with social progress. By 1980 life expectancy had reached 64 years, a figure which at that time was not very different from that of middle-income European countries. Literacy increased and income per caput doubled, despite the high rates of population growth. And even when the distribution of income remained skewed throughout the region, the poor saw their standards of living improve at least at the same rate as the rest of society.

The first oil shock of 1973 brought economic expansion in the developed countries to a halt with immediate repercussions on the region. Most of the countries of Latin America and the Caribbean still managed to keep economic growth in high gear, either by exporting oil or by making intensive use of the abundant supply of capital at low interest rates then available in international financial markets.

The second oil shock in 1979 killed the incipient recovery in the industrial world. Recession spread quickly worldwide. Monetary policies in the major industrialized countries, aimed at arresting inflation, resulted in soaring interest rates which had devastating effects on those countries that had massively borrowed in the international financial markets. International demand for Latin American exports collapsed and new credit virtually dried up.

During the early 1980s economic growth slowed and income per caput fell sharply in most countries of the region. Latin America began to transfer between 25 to 30 percent of export earnings to creditors in order to meet the obligations of an international debt that by 1986 had exceeded US$400000 million. Imports, including imports of capital goods, were sharply curtailed, thus threatening the possibilities of future increases in production and productivity. Unemployment increased and there is some evidence that the condition of the poor worsened steadily during the first half of the decade.

It is against this backdrop of economic stress and resource deterioration that forestry in the region must now be re-examined, and its role as an instrument of environmental stability and sustainable economic growth given higher political priority and attention. This is where the Tropical Forestry Action Plan comes in.

The tropical forestry action plan

The Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP), issued in 1985 by FAO in collaboration with the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Resources Institute, provides a practical framework for generating a much higher level of awareness and political commitment and for mounting major actions to conserve the forest resources and to use their full potential for development.

The global framework of the TFAP was used to develop a specific plan for the Latin American and Caribbean region. Some of the main forestry development issues are discussed in the next sections, following the basic structure of the TFAP. This structure is based on five interrelated areas of action: forestry in land use; forest-based industrial development; fuelwood and energy; conservation of tropical ecosystems; and institutions.

FUELWOOD TRANSPORT IN ECUADOR sixty percent of the region's people depend on wood for cooking and heating

Forestry in land use

This component of the TFAP mainly concerns the relationship between forestry and agriculture and aims at conserving the resource base for sustained agriculture; at integrating forestry activities into farming systems for a more rational use of the land and water resources in support of food production.

With growing rural populations, pressure in the region to use forest land for farming will continue to mount and will have to be accommodated. But many forest areas are used as a common property resource, regardless of their suitability to sustain agriculture and they tend to be exploited until their productivity is exhausted beyond the point of possible restoration.

FAO estimates that, as a consequence of land scarcity and land deterioration, 14 countries in Central America and the Caribbean, with an aggregate population equivalent to 25 percent of the regional total, will suffer critical food shortages at the end of the century unless corrective actions are adopted to increase substantially agricultural productivity.

As mentioned, the causes of excessive pressure on forest lands have their roots in poverty and the low productivity of the agriculture practiced by the small farmers. Because of this, arresting future degradation is in fact a formidable task: poverty and inequities have to be eliminated first and the prospects of that happening in the near future are virtually nil unless there are radical changes in rural development patterns. Furthermore, the problem of public land utilization is often compounded by ill-designed government policies, which foster rural migration and the spontaneous occupation of new lands in ways that are detrimental to the sustainability of the resources.

These forces combine to produce several critical situations throughout the region. In the highlands and upland watersheds, particularly in the Andes, peasant families without access to land in the valleys have to clear steep, ecologically fragile areas; this happens, with small variations, in Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Venezuela and in Mexico and Central America.

The potential role of NGOs extends to practically every aspect of TFAP.

Elsewhere, the humid tropical forest is being cleared by impoverished populations practicing shifting cultivation, by private corporations in search of new areas for extensive cattle raising and as a result of poorly planned resettlement schemes. Areas affected include the states of Veracruz, Chiapas, Yucatán and Quintana Roo in Mexico; the Petén in Guatemala; Zelaya in Nicaragua; Olancho, Ceiba and Mosquitia in Honduras; some areas in Costa Rica; and Darien and Bocas del Toro in Panama. In South America, the same situation can be seen in the Andean foothills, in eastern Paraguay and Misiones in Argentina, the Brazilian Amazon and Rondonia.

Deforestation resulting from population pressure has also led to desertification in many areas of the region. With deforestation, runoff increases, erosion accelerates and the water-table is lowered. Arid and semi-arid areas are particularly susceptible. There are large areas in the region including the dry Chaco, northeast Brazil, some areas in northern Venezuela and Colombia, Sonora, Chihuahua and Baja California in Mexico where the destruction of the woody vegetation and excessive land use accelerate the process of desertification to an irreversible stage.

Another situation is found in the Caribbean countries which are characterized by high population pressure and therefore experience particularly intensive competition for land.

All these situations present different characteristics that are important from the point of view of planning and mounting future development activities. Nonetheless, there are also common elements to be considered in any strategy for action.

A strategy for action A reformulation of agrarian policies, based on sound land use planning, and aimed at providing more opportunities and access of poor farmers to land, technology and capital must be given high priority. In tact the problem of forest degradation cannot be solved with policies and programmes only at the forestry sector.

Approaches that will guarantee the active and voluntary participation of rural people in self-help actions which integrate tree-growing and forestry activities in their production systems are a second essential. Forestry strategies will succeed only if the rural population can foresee a clear and beneficial impact in protecting and managing forest resources.

This, in turn, requires incentives, including security of land tenure and support mechanisms for the promotion of new development models including techniques, such as agroforestry, that allow tree-growing and management to support actively agriculture and food production and increase their productivity, in addition to the direct benefits of forestry itself.

Furthermore, since forest land degradation is usually caused by the need to expand agricultural production, future action must simultaneously focus on increasing productivity on agricultural lands. This can be done by increasing inputs to farmers, improving the performance of farming and raising land productivity: windbreaks, shelterbelts, upland reforestation, and tree planting in wastelands constitute the forestry components of such actions, the main element of which lies with me agriculturist and the livestock specialist.

Another prerequisite is an integrated conservation-based development strategy that takes account of future requirements for crops, livestock and forest products, using a balance-sheet approach to resolve the competition between crops, livestock and forest products mat arises when suitable land is in short supply.

All this requires strengthening institutions for more effective planning and policy-making, more relevant research and expanded extension and a public administration with me operational capacity to mount the necessary actions in rural areas.

The problem of forest degradation cannot be solved with policies and programmes directed only directed only at the forestry sector.

EXPERIENCE PROVES profitable and competitive forest industries are possible

Forest-based industrial development

A forest without industry is essentially of little financial value, although its other impacts such as those on environmental quality may still be very important.

Unfortunately, with few exceptions, forest industries in the region are still in an incipient state of development. Most of the industrial operations in the region use rudimentary and inefficient technology, function only sporadically and do not have access to the necessary financial and human resources. Their contribution to total national output is low in most countries. As a result, the Latin American and Caribbean region had to import more than US$14000 million worth of forest products between 1980 and 1985, thus contributing to the shortages of foreign exchange that plague the region.

Only in Brazil and Chile is industrial processing a relatively important activity. In these two countries, the governments have generated economic incentives for forestry industrial development, particularly for the creation of a sizeable base of forest plantations. These schemes can be models for the rest of the region, showing that profitable and competitive forest industries are possible and that they can have an important role to play - even on the international scene - with a sizeable contribution to national development objectives.

Not all forest-based industries are large-scale operations. In reality, the bulk of the enterprises operating in the sector are small and many are based on forest materials other than wood. Small and medium-size operations are efficient alternatives for satisfying local markets and to provide local income and employment opportunities. Although the region has just begun experimenting with this type of development scheme, the few experiences acquired to date are encouraging.

These schemes will have greater chance of success if they are implemented in an integrated fashion, involving industrial activities processing different types of raw material and producing different products in order to ensure a more intensive utilization of the wide variety of species found in the tropical forests.

The lack of trained labour is one of the main problems in the region, particularly at the intermediate level where many of the key operational decisions are made. Latin America does not have a centre for training intermediate managers for the forest industry.

Furthermore, technology has often been adopted without a critical examination of the alternatives available, which explains me low quality of production and the high proportion of unused capacity.

Marketing limitations are more noticeable in the simpler industries. Most are not able to compete internationally and in national markets their participation is restricted by weaknesses in marketing channels.

Because wood is a bulky material, transportation is often a critical aspect in industrialization efforts. Transport costs can represent as much as 60 to 70 percent of the total cost of wood raw materials.

Wood production for industrial use also needs to be improved. Natural forests that serve the needs of industry have not often been managed in a proper way. Even in the case of forest plantations, which have seen a rapid expansion in the last few years, there are few attempts to establish them in a planned manner. In many cases, plantations have been promoted as an objective per se, without proper consideration of the conditions of demand and supply, disregarding the important linkages with industry and with future consumer demand.

The technical and economic feasibility of forest management programmes and projects, even in the difficult conditions of the natural tropical forest, has been proved by numerous experiences in the region. Examples are the von Humboldt National Forest in Peru, the Tapajos Forest Reserve in Brazil, the Sierra Plan in the Dominican Republic and the Pilot Forestry Plan in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Moreover, examples of successful management of forest plantations are not scarce in the region. The technical expertise and experience are available to expand these activities and transfer knowledge to other countries or areas of the region.

In addition, many of me forest lands of Central America and the Caribbean, the Andean highlands and many of the coastal areas are degraded and, if rehabilitated, could support forestry programmes for industrial uses. The rehabilitation of degraded forest lands has been tried with success in Ecuador and Colombia. Chile has based a large proportion of the profitable industrial plantations on degraded lands with little or no alternative use. Similar experiences exist in Argentina and Brazil.

In order to accommodate intense population pressure, these schemes must incorporate the active participation of the local population and generate benefits in the short run at a low cost in terms of land requirements, money or labour. This can be best achieved with the promotion of forest species for multiple use and the promotion of agrisilvicultural methods.

Finally, most countries have an inadequate institutional framework which affects industrial development, such as the uncertainty surrounding inconsistent or uncoordinated government policies, inadequate lending programmes and the inability of governments to maintain control over forest policy-related issues, such as the utilization of forest concessions.

THE TROPICAL AMAZON FOREST OF BRAZIL more than 200 tree species in a single hectare

A strategy for action Analyses carried out indicate that a strategy to eliminate these constraints must consider the following objectives as a priority:

· intensifying the management of forest resources in order to increase and diversify their production and to link the resource with its industrial utilization;

· accelerating development of the efficiency and the competitive capacity of industry, both in internal as well as external markets;

· promoting integrated development schemes to increase the efficiency of small and medium-size enterprises; and

· rehabilitating degraded areas as a good alternative to secure adequate future supplies of raw materials. All this has as a counterpart the need to strengthen the institutional apparatus of the countries.

Fuelwood and energy

About one-fifth of total energy consumption of the region is generated from wood, worth about US$8000 million of oil equivalent per year. About 60 percent of the regional population, or 250 million people, depend on wood for cooking and heating. Fuelwood is the main source of energy to satisfy the needs of the poor and provides an important source of energy for many small and medium-size rural enterprises. It is also intensively used in larger industries such as steel and cement.

In several areas, however, fuelwood is already in short supply, and in others, the forces of population and poverty have already set the process of shortage in motion.

Acute fuelwood scarcity exists in the highlands of Peru and Bolivia, in the arid and semi-arid zones of Peru and Chile, in deforested areas with high population pressure In El Salvador, Haiti and Jamaica, and near large urban centres. In all these cases, affecting some 25 million people, population growth, poverty and a continuous dependence on wood have led to situations where available supplies have fallen far behind demand.

There are other situations where present supplies can only satisfy demands at the cost of depleting forest resources and threatening future availability. These occur in several areas in Central America and the Caribbean, in central Mexico, Guatemala, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago and in certain populated areas of central Colombia, Chile and Peru. About 200 million people are affected in all.

In other areas, demand and supply are balanced, but population growth will cause shortages in the near future. These comprise areas in the interior of Venezuela and Ecuador, central Brazil, eastern Paraguay and Uruguay and northeast Argentina, involving about 50 million inhabitants.

As fuelwood sources are depleted, and no alternative fuels are at hand, more intensive use is made of agricultural residues as fuels, thus depriving soils of essential nutrients. As a result, fuelwood shortage is more than just an energy issue it is both ecological and social.

Remedial actions must face several constraints. First and foremost is the failure of most people to recognize me nature and seriousness of the fuelwood situation in the region, which translates into a lack of political willingness to take the necessary action to head off future shortages. Second, the information and planning base on the subject is weak, since little work has been done in the region.

Programmes which would produce a sizeable impact must secure the participation of the rural population. This in turn requires a good understanding of local values, priorities and constraints. Thus, solutions must involve complex economic, sociological and cultural dimensions which are not always well understood by planners and other professionals designing and implementing projects and programmes.

A strategy for action An action programme to combat fuelwood shortages, present and future, should consider the following strategic elements:

· increasing supplies of wood for energy through the protection and the more intensive management of existing resources, including a more complete utilization of biomass, and through the increased production of fuelwood by fostering forest plantations carried out by rural people;

· reducing consumption by using wood energy more efficiently, by means of promoting more effective distribution and marketing, and the more intense utilization of adequate technology in domestic as well as industrial uses;

· diversifying supplies and uses of energy, through energy substitution or, in certain cases, complementing sources;

· bringing to the attention of political decision-makers the need to take corrective action, and the social, economic and environmental costs of failing to do so.

Currently there are about 350 protected areas covering about 53 million ha in the Latin American and Caribbean region.

Conservation of tropical ecosystems

The tropical forest is one of the richest ecosystems on earth. A single hectare in the Amazon, for example, can contain more than 200 species of trees, or about 15 to 20 times those of the temperate forests. This immense variety provides a base for generating valuable options for further development.

The region is a centre of diversity for present little-known forage legumes and some arid/semi-arid zone woody genera. It is also rich in wild relatives of major crops (cacao, beans, chilies, oil-palm, potatoes, rubber, tomatoes, tobacco, etc.), of which plant breeders usually have tested only a few accessions, developing widely used varieties based on narrow genetic material. Such narrowly based crops are vulnerable to changes in the environment and to disease, and future breeding and improvement will be dependent on availability of genes from the wild.

Currently there are about 350 protected areas covering about 53 million ha in the Latin American and Caribbean region. However, their geographical distribution is far from satisfactory and there are ecosystems which are presently under-represented. Many are suffering rapid destruction and alteration.

Protected areas frequently do not provide direct benefits to local populations. In fact, in many cases the opposite may be true: their establishment often restricts the access of rural people to certain lands. Furthermore, conservation of ecosystems and genetic resources is often considered a low-priority objective by decision-makers, compared with the more immediate and visible needs of local populations and national economies.

This reflects the widespread lack of awareness among politicians and the public in general as to the importance of conservation for sustainable development.

The situation is not helped by the fact that scientific knowledge about forest ecosystems is still imperfect in the region. There is, for example, a large gap in the knowledge about intraspecific variation, which is of vital importance for adaptation of species to varying environmental conditions (climate, soil, pests and diseases, etc.), and to improvement and domestication. Loss of variation within a species will, eventually, also lead to its extinction at the species level.

The conservation of ecosystems and of inter- and intraspecific diversity can best be accomplished by a number of complementary actions. These are: the protection and management of carefully selected reserves or production forests; certain graded controls (zonation) on the management of the land outside these reserves to buffer them against the adverse influences of incompatible land use in surrounding areas and enable wildlife populations to persist in reasonable numbers in the countryside at large; and legislation to regulate the utilization of fauna and flora.

For the great majority of plant species, a range of national in situ reserves is needed, covering not only the main distribution area of the species, but also outlying populations and special habitats, and in which species and populations have developed special characteristics in response to natural selection (e.g. drought resistance, wind firmness, etc.).

It is likely that a series of in situ reserves of a given widely distributed species, will involve more than one country or even more than one geopolitical grouping of countries. As ecological criteria must be used in siting of the reserves, coordination and cooperation at a regional or subregional level are generally essential for success.

A strategy for action The main components of the action programme should be the following:

· protected areas: (i) at the national level, assistance in the planning, management and development of individual protected areas and in promoting the development of appropriate management for conservation systems and techniques on a pilot demonstration basis for protected areas, and for in situ reserves; (ii) at the regional and subregional levels, the development of networks of protected areas to meet needs for the conservation of tropical forest ecosystems and of genetic resources of target species, covering the whole of their natural distribution range. In the case of the former (networks of protected areas), this will continue work which has already proved its worth in the past;

· in situ conservation of plant genetic resources. Within a regional framework, the establishment of genetic resource centres, based on existing national institutes, to plan, develop and coordinate activities in this field; and to relate them cheery to complementary ex situ conservation and to forest management activities;

· promotion of the management of tropical forests at a national level for sustainable production consistent with the conservation of species diversity and of genetic resources; the establishment of demonstration areas; and the wide dissemination of techniques.

Training, research and institution-building are important components in all of me above activities, and should be promoted and intensified by individual countries, in regional and subregional contexts.

A strategy for institutional development must be based mainly on changes in the ways in which forestry development is being conceptualized.

HAND-SAWING IN NICARAGUA even the smallest operations help serve local needs


Forestry development in me region can be achieved only if adequate institutional capability exists. Therefore, institutional strengthening must be one of the top priorities of TFAP implementation.

Forestry institutions in the Latin American and Caribbean region are relatively new. It was only at the beginning of the 1950s that some institutions were created. During this decade forestry offices were established, policies were designed and laws were issued to administer better the resources of the sector. Research was carried out and the level of knowledge about the sector increased rapidly.

Although institutional development accelerated during the 1960s and 1970s, a slow-down has been noticeable in the recent past. Furthermore, forestry institutions are still affected by a number of deficiencies that effectively constrain their proper functioning.

In many cases forest policies and laws are obsolete and suffer from a lack of harmonization with policy priorities of other related sectors such as agriculture, energy, industry, etc. Because of this, their relevance is limited as is their status in the national context.

Weaknesses in policies and laws are also reflected in public forestry administrations which tend to have a low rank within the administrative apparatus of the state and operate in a condition of relative isolationism. Many forestry administrations operate without adequate integration with other public agencies that are relevant for the management and development of forest resources and forest-based development. Consequently, government action lacks the unity of purpose which is required to promote effectively forestry activities. In some cases two or more public agencies may have openly conflicting goals.

Public foresters often lack contacts with the rural populations. This is, of course, a very serious limitation, considering that rural participation is a condition sine qua non for generating a determinant and lasting impact. In the last few years, some countries, including Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Honduras, have experimented with development projects based on local participation in different degrees and in many cases have obtained encouraging results.

Most of the public forest administrations lack effective contacts with the corporate private enterprises and non-governmental organizations that are often the main actors in the sector. In a few cases, countries have designed effective policies toward the private sector which have helped in fostering and shaping sectoral development. These cases include Brazil, Chile and Mexico. But working contacts with NGOs are still weak in most cases.

Forestry education at the university level has been intensified during the last one or two decades and today the region has 57 centres as compared with 25 ten years ago. But the quality of education is very unequal and there are often serious deficiencies. In particular, university education in most cases lacks the necessary social science components to implement participative programmes and to develop economic arguments in support of forestry investment projects.

With respect to technicians' schools, there are 28 such centres in 17 countries in the region. Analyses show that their capacity is substantially lower than that required to satisfy needs and that their level corresponds more to what would be necessary to replace higher-level professionals than to supply operational managers. Training at the workers' level is very scarce. Thus, the emphasis on university level education has not been complemented by corresponding efforts in vocational or technical training.

Another key to development is the quality of research. There are about 400 institutions in the region which carry out research related to forestry aspects. However, 90 percent of them are concentrated in only seven countries: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru and Venezuela. Furthermore, in Latin America and the Caribbean, forestry research has almost exclusively focused on large-scale utilization of natural forests and the creation of industrial plantations and other large-scale commercial activities. Other aspects such as those related to the contribution of forestry activities to rural development, forestry and rural sociology, the utilization of resources other than wood, etc, have been neglected. Moreover, communication, coordination and collaboration among these research centres are inadequate and interdisciplinary research is therefore scarce.

TOYMAKING IN COSTA RICA small-scale forest-based enterprises are important economically

Strategy for action A strategy for promoting institutional development must be based mainly on changes in the ways in which forestry development is being conceptualized. Alterations in the structure of pubis administrations mean little if they are not accompanied by changes in the thinking of their staff. Unless changes take place in the ways in which forestry development strategies are conceived, then old concepts would be merely superimposed on new structures with very meagre practical results. Thus, the following elements should be the basis for a strategy for institutional development:

· increase the capabilities and efficiency of public forest administrations through a better design of sectoral policies, revision of forestry laws and more effective integration with national priorities and the action of other agencies in the public sector. Design channels to facilitate integration of action with the private sector;

· develop planning approaches, information systems and applied research programmes to support the design of specific development projects and their evaluation in terms of national priorities and objectives and not exclusively in terms of narrower forestry sector goals. In particular, economic arguments should be used in a very prominent way in the justification of actions proposed to be undertaken in the sector. Research should also focus on aspects that would allow a better knowledge of the forest resource and its management, the identification of appropriate technology alternatives and the sociological aspects of forestry development;

· overhaul the forestry educational system in order to make it compatible with the needs of and opportunities in the sector, including strengthening graduate education and, above all, vocational and workers' training. At all these levels, efforts should be made to incorporate effectively the components of social sciences that are required to plan and execute projects adequately with local participation and investment options with a sound financial and economic result. Emphasize adequate integration of agricultural and forestry activities in mutually reinforcing development programmes and projects;

· design and implement a more effective extension programme that would secure efficient communication with, particularly, the rural people.


Forests are a critical element in the ecological stability of the Latin American and Caribbean region and despite an alarming rate of destruction, they still constitute a large potential contribution to economic growth.

The forestry sector thus has a major role to play in the battle against the current economic crisis, and must also continue to ensure future sustainability of economic activities, particularly agriculture, through its considerable ecological beneficial impacts. It should also contribute substantially to employment and income for me poorest in the region who are suffering most from the economic recession.

But this can only happen if wise use is made of the remaining resources for sustainable development. This requires carefully planned action on a much larger scale than ever before and across a much broader front than just the forestry sector. The contributions of the forestry sector to economic growth and environmental stability must be recognized by and linked to related sectors of the national economy, in a coordinated system of sustainable utilization of the natural resource base for development.

Technical solutions exist. What is needed is the mobilization of public support and its translation in political commitment on a level commensurate with the magnitude of the task at hand. There are indications that the international community would be prepared to support this effort but, fundamentally, action must be based on national efforts and recognized priorities.

The challenge is enormous, but so are the opportunities. Much has been achieved since the Latin American Forestry Commission meeting in San Jose just over a year ago. Regional and national initiatives are being mounted and many more will be implemented in the near future. Hopefully, those within the forestry sector can use the TFAP to generate the critical mass of action needed to sustain the acceleration of forestry development in the region within the framework of a regional Tropical Forestry Action Plan.

Implementing the TFAP in the region

The countries of the region have expressed considerable interest in implementing concrete actions to achieve the strategic objectives briefly outlined in this article. During the last session of the Latin American Forestry Commission, FAO's Tropical Forestry Action Plan was accepted as the overall conceptual framework for action and recommended activities at the regional as well as the national level to ensure the prompt implementation of the plan.

What will it cost?

Implementation must rest on adequate supplies of funds. Estimates indicate that, under different scenarios, about US$975 to 1180 million would be required each year between now and the year 2000 to manage forest resources for different uses (see Table). About US$440-450 million would be needed to supply industries while the rest would be dedicated to increasing fuelwood supplies and to establishing plantations with other purposes such as agrisilvicultural systems, erosion and desertification control, watershed management and conservation of forestry ecosystems. In addition, some US$2500-4200 million per year would be needed to finance industrial development schemes and to replace obsolete installations. About US$150 million per year would be dedicated to improving physical facilities and the efficiency of public administrations and US$70 million to technical assistance projects.

These are sizeable amounts. With proper policies, the private sector would cover most of the financial needs. Others will have to be satisfied by government action. Thus, initiatives are taking shape in the region to mobilize the necessary efforts for the planning and implementation of programmes and projects.

What's happening?

At the country level Concrete action must be implemented mainly at the country level and in this respect activities within the framework of TFAP are already under way in a number of countries in the region. These range from multidonor sector reviews to preparatory consultations or preliminary discussions with governments.

Two basic principles govern the implementation of the TFAP at the country level.

First, the degree and manner in which the TFAP is applied is a decision to be made by the government of the participating country and the implementation of TFAP remains primarily the responsibility of national governments who must be willing to give the fullest possible political and practical support to the programme.

Second, the TFAP will fail if it is approached and treated purely as a forestry sector exercise. To succeed, the plan must be closely linked with other land-use sectors, such as agriculture, livestock and energy, and accepted politically as a component of the national rural development strategy.

These two elements are reflected in the flexible approach to implementation which has characterized TFAP actions to date in Latin America.

The first step in the process is a government request for technical assistance. This request is followed up by FAO or other participating development agencies, who send senior specialists to meet with government officials to explore in detail the range of TFAP options available to the country. From these discussions the government can assess how TFAP can best be utilized within the context of its own needs and priorities.

In a number of cases, countries have elected to request a multidonor sectoral review mission. These missions normally comprise a "lead agency" from the development assistance community which in consultation with the host country organizes a review team made up of national specialists and representatives from participating assistance agencies. The mission may last for several weeks, sometimes in several phases, following which a report is presented to the government. Often a follow-up seminar is scheduled to discuss the report with top government officials. The purpose of the review is to formulate a national forestry sector plan within the overall framework of TFAP.

Missions are financed by the host government and by the participating donor organizations, often with support from UNDP.

Countries in the region where such missions have been carried out or are in preparation include Bolivia, the Dominican Republic, Panama, Peru and Guyana.

A number of governments have elected to prepare the national plan themselves, with technical assistance from FAO forestry officers or consultants. Countries that are pursuing this approach include Argentina, Costa Rica, Colombia and Mexico. In the case of Colombia the national TFAP is being prepared by national experts with financial assistance from the government of the Netherlands.

Again, a follow-up round table or seminar can be used to involve potential donors in the process. In Honduras, for example, a National Forestry Development Plan was prepared with the assistance of FAO technical consultants. With the support of UNDP, a set of priority projects was identified. The government then invited donor agencies to participate in a roundtable meeting to discuss the National Plan and the proposed priority projects.

At the regional level FAO prepared during 1987 an adaptation of the TFAP to the conditions of Latin America and the Caribbean. The Regional Plan of Action was discussed at a meeting of experts which took place in Brasilia from 4 to 7 August 1987. The analysis of strategic issues outlined in this article is a main result of this effort. The Regional Plan provides a general frame of reference to investigate common problems and potentials and identify areas for priority action in the region.

The next step in the process of developing a regional approach to the TFAP will be in April 1988, when the Forestry Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean meets in Jamaica for its sixteenth session. The TFAP and the opportunities it offers for regional implementation will be one of the major items on the agenda.

Annual investment requirements until the year 2000: TFAP for Latin America and the Caribbean (in millions of US$)


Scenario 1

Scenario 2

Scenario 3

FAO projection

Constant self-sufficiency

Full self-sufficiency

Forest resources development and management




Industrial wood supply




Watershed management




Fuelwood and other tree planting




Conservation of tropical ecosystems




Industrial development




Institution building




Technical assistance








Previous Page Top of Page Next Page