Government policies and deforestation Brazil's Amazon region
D. J. Mahar. Washington, D.C., World Bank. 1959.
This small, concisely written publication describes the development policies of the Brazilian Government on the Amazon region as seen by Dennis J. Mahar, an adviser on the economic advisory staff of the World Bank.
According to Mahar, the principal message is that "attempts to reduce or stop tropical deforestation are not likely to succeed if economic incentives encourage people to do the opposite".
The author traces the evolution of regional policies and concludes that rapid expansion of the region's agriculture frontier over the past two decades appears to be the most important factor in deforestation. Cattle ranching has been the number one cause to date, accounting for clearing of 11 percent of the Brazilian Amazon as of 1980 (most recent available figures). Land diverted to annual crops and fallow was the second major cause, covering 5 percent of the region.
According to Mahar, government policies designed to open up Amazonia for human settlement have played a key role in the deforestation process. For example, specialized government fiscal incentives and subsidized credit lines have enabled a relatively small population to have a large impact on the forest. Despite huge subsidies, many of the livestock projects are producing far below projected levels and some are not producing at all.
Mahar argues that although construction of the trans-Amazonian highway failed because of poor soils, the presence of malaria, and the high cost of inputs, completion of the highway into Rondonia produced a wave of migration. It was hoped that tree crops could be developed, but instead, most clearing has been for pastures. To the small farmer, cattle are a form of social security. To the land speculator, it is easier to keep land in pasture than to grow other crops.
An added problem is that the federal Institute of Forestry Development (IBDF) has not been able to enforce the so-called 50 percent rule, which prohibits landowners in Amazonia from clearing more than half their holdings. Furthermore, INCRA (the National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform) accepts land clearance as evidence of improvement. Migrants in settlement areas can obtain rights of possession simply by clearing the land.
As evidence that environmental controls can work under the right circumstances, the author cites the case of the Carajas Iron Ore Project (partially financed by the World Bank), in which environmental activities were incorporated, including land reclamation, the creation of natural reserves and the promotion of environmental awareness and training. However, according to Mahar, the larger Greater Carajas Programme, of which the iron ore project is a part, lacks an environmentally sound development plan.
Mahar concludes with several recommendations on steps the government could take to address the challenges of deforestation, including putting rainforest land with low agriculture potential off limits to all but "environmentally benign" activities, such as rubber tapping and subsistence timber harvesting.
In fact, since this book was written, the Government of Brazil has issued a new environmental policy for Amazonia, created a number of "extractive forest reserves" for rubber tapping and eliminated some of the development incentives that were found to produce negative results. The IBDF has also recently been disbanded and most of its functions have been transferred to the new Brazilian Institute for the Environment and Renewable Natural Resources.
Elsevier's dictionary of the world's game and wildlife
G.R. Ferlin. Amsterdam, Elsevier Science Publishers. 1989.
Do you know the German name for willow grouse? Would you prefer a bourstkas or a kruis of the Dutch roe deer you have just shot? If you can't answer these questions, consult Elsevier's dictionary of the world's game and wildlife, compiled by Guy Ferlin. This reference work, prefaced by Jean Dorst of the Institute de France, will be of value for anyone with a need to translate scientific text or popular writing on fauna, wildlife conservation or hunting for sport.
The book is divided into three sections:
· A list of the common names of 1800 animal species and subspecies, presented in systematic order and by continent or region. The classification is based on the most frequently used English common name, followed by the Latin scientific name, and then the French, German, Dutch, Spanish and, where appropriate, Afrikaans and Kiswahili names.
· A list in English and translations into the above-mentioned languages of principal terminology, including that of venery (hunting with hounds) and falconry, anatomy, reproduction, game management and pathology: more than 1500 terms classified by subject, and complemented by 13 illustrations and charts produced by the author.
· An eight-language lexicon, with numbered references to the two previous sections. Two-hundred bibliographic references, classified by subject, are presented at the end of the book.
Out of the pages of Elsevier's wildlife dictionary
Congratulations to Guy Ferlin for the success of this enormous undertaking. One complaint: the high cost of the book (US$ 158) may keep this valuable volume out of the hands of many potential users.
Indigenous peoples and tropical forests: models of land use and management from Latin America
J.W. Clay. Cultural Survival Report No. 27. Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cultural Survival, Inc. 1989.
This small book is the ultimate in interesting reading for persons concerned about the future of the Amazon as well as other areas of Central and Latin America. Written in a clear, concise manner and drawing on a large and varied body of data, the book describes simple and complicated resource management systems and techniques for hunting, fishing and agriculture, both swidden and permanent. Practices illustrated run from ritual seasonal protection of animal or fish breeding grounds to labour-intensive swamp drainage or enrichment planting in order to increase wildlife or plant production in fallow or forest lands. The author stresses the dynamic quality of local management practices as longtime residents and, in some cases, newcomers strive to enlarge the sustainable potential of production systems with available resources. Readers will be both impressed by the creativeness and energy used by the forest and wetland dwellers and encouraged by their successes.
The author does not present his evidence as if making a romantic attempt to idealize the past; rather, he raises difficult questions. Can practices developed in one system be transferred to others with differing approaches to nature and agriculture? Can systems which are labour-intensive endure when a portion of the residents obtain access to higher technology, thereby facilitating accelerated destruction of resources for short-term gains?
The book also details how local systems may break down, and notes that they are not always useful to retain. Several attempts to spread successful resource management systems over larger areas are illustrated, including some supported by external aid.
Traditional land use patterns - are they sustainable?
Throughout, the author emphasizes the need to document traditional knowledge before it is lost and stresses the inadequacy of understanding of the physical, social and institutional aspects of current practices. The book challenges social and biological researchers to work with informed residents to broaden understanding of the potential and the limits of current practices, and to identify the institutional and other inputs needed to support or extend the development of valid resource management approaches. One shortcoming of the book is its failure to also challenge scientists to analyse the economic aspects of resource management. Economic information is crucial if government planners are to make informed decisions on medium and long-term strategies for management of limited natural resources.