An International Analysis



RESEARCH PAPER NAME: Deforestation Cases

DRAFT AUTHOR: Kevin L. Hagan

  1. Abstract
  2. Issue Background
  3. Related TED Cases
  4. Comparison and Contrast
  5. Policy Implication
  6. Further Information

I. Abstract

Deforestation is occurring around the world at an unprecedented pace. Throughout the forests of virtually every continent, people are destroying valuable forests either for purposes of living or trade. International trade and the build up of the industrial complex are causing rapid deforestation. With the recent discovery of the damage to the ozone layer, numerous world wide organizations and governments have taken strides to reduce the actions of humans that damage, not only the ozone, but the environment. Deforestation is a vast and widespread phenomenon. As can be seen in this case analysis, the examples of deforestation are not limited to one geographic region or one set of cultures, but instead are a shared problem of the global community.

II. Issue Background

The main historical problem with international trade has been the correlated destruction of the environment. This is especially true when it comes to the issue of deforestation. Cities and countries have continuously ,throughout time, cut down the forests of the world in order to build facilities for industrial complexes or to provide products for industrial development. No greater place can this be seen than in areas that are relatively undeveloped In these undeveloped areas the cost of deforestation may be considered minimal, if it is providing the livelihood of the community. Rapid globalization and relatively free trade has led to the opening of new markets. Unfortunately, more often than not, these new markets inevitably leads to a greater demand for land and products which causes deforestation. No longer is it possible for the people of the world to ignore deforestation. The forests of the world , not only provide habitat for some of earth's most endangered species, but it also has a powerful positive effect on the living environment of earth. Recent discoveries of damage to the ozone have prompted international action to clean up the environment, in which a vital part consists of slowing deforestation.

III. Related TED Cases

The following deforestation cases were chosen from the TED database. All of these cases deal with the aspects of trade and deforestation. The cases were chosen in order to give a breadth to the analysis and represent wide range of issues as well as locations. The locations of the studies demonstrates the widespread problem of deforestation and lends credence to the fact that deforestation not only occurs worldwide, but truly is a world problem.

A. Case Listings and Brief Descriptions

  1. Deforestation in Madagascar (MADAGAS)

    ( Madagascar Case) Biologically, Madagascar is one of the richest areas on earth. Approximately five percent of the world's species reside in Madagascar, and the island has 8,0000 endemic species of flowering plants alone . However, this rare jewel of earth is in grave danger. Rapid deforestation, caused predominantly by the large population boom of the developing country, economic downturn, and mass migration to cities, is destroying much of the natural habitat of Madagascar. Since 1896 when Madagascar gain became a French colony, the Malagasy forests have been rapidly depleting. Logging has occurred for shifting cultivation, grazing, fuel wood gathering, logging, economic development, cattle ranching, and mining (Economic Geography, 1993). Prior to 1950 most deforestation that occurred was done by farmers on a very small scale, however, deforestation since 1950 has increased tremendously. From 1950 to 1985, one half of Madagascar's forests disappeared. In 1985 only 34% of the original forests existing in Madagascar remained. Much of this destruction is for economic reasons; values which many westerners cannot agree. With a per capita national product in 1994 equal to $740.00 and population rate of 3%, the island nation is left as one of the poorest nations in the world. Unfortunately, due to the hardship in Madagascar, citizens often resort to exploitation of their natural resources to find income. The people of Madagascar are attempting to survive and conservation of biological diversity is not a priority. In addition, corporations have significant influence in dealing with the problem of deforestation because the government of Madagascar wants their investment. Due to the extreme debt incurred by the Malagasy government, the country is exploiting its wood resources to pay off money owed to northern countries.

  2. Deforestation in Columbia (COLDEFOR)

    ( Coldefor Case) Colombia's forests account for 49 percent of its total land mass and 10 percent of the world's biodiversity, taking it the second most biodiverse country in the world in terms of species per land unit. Yet the country is experiencing large-scale deforestation due to its ambitious plans to develop its economy in order to become a competitive trade partner in the international market. Between 1.5 to 2.2 million acres are deforested each year and, at this rate, Colombia's woodlands will be depleted in forty years. Such deforestation has increased the rate of extinction for many plant and animal species, many of which are endemic to the country. Furthermore, the social and economic fabrics of indigenous peoples who inhabit the forests are rapidly being destroyed. Each year, a total of 1.5 to 2.2 million acres are lost to deforestation (168 acres each hour). At this rate, Colombia's woodlands will be depleted in 40 years (World Press Review, 43). Already one-third of the country's original forest lands have been felled (Republic of Colombia National Planning Department, 4). More than 100,000 acres are deforested each year to grow coca, marijuana, and opium poppies. Paradoxically, the drug war waged by the US and Colombian governments has exacerbated deforestation and loss of biodiversity. Growers have been pushed higher up the slopes and in to more remote, virgin forests of the Andes (aided by an increase in opium cultivation which favors higher altitudes) as a means of escaping the law. Seventy three percent of the Andes, an area that is vital to the conservation of Colombia's water supply, has been deforested as a result of both migration and drug cultivation (World Press Review, 43) Competition for access to the Colombian market has increased and transnational corporations are already taking an active role in Colombia's deforestation through oil extraction and mineral mining. The Japanese government is currently financing the construction of a road which links the Pacific coast to inland forest regions, allowing for easier trade access between the two countries. Furthermore, the road will increase the influx of people in to the area, spurring economic development and deforestation (UNCED, 56).

  3. Cambodia Timber Export Ban (CAMWOOD)

    ( Camwood Case) On September 22, 1992, Cambodia's provisional national council agreed to a moratorium on log exports. One reason for the moratorium was that intensive deforestation caused massive flooding in Cambodia. Severe floods damaged the rice crop and led to food shortages in this poor country. Another objective of the moratorium was aimed at depriving the Khmer Rouge--an extreme Maoist guerrilla faction -- access to funding. Khmer Rouge guerrillas benefited from uncontrolled deforestation. The guerrilla faction exported timbers to Thailand that banned logging in its own territory following the severe flood in 1988. This moratorium brought about a dispute on the relation between trade, environment, and politics in Cambodia. This disastrous flooding resulted from long-continued deforestation.

  4. Brazil Deforestation and Logging (BRAZIL)

    ( Brazil Case) Although the primary cause for deforestation in the Amazon Basin lies in domestic forces -- agricultural production, cattle ranching, commercial logging and local demand for fuelwood -- trade does play an important marginal role both in destroying the rain forests and possibly saving them. Exports of non-raw wood products are permitted in Brazil and is a widely traded commodity. International demand for forestry products also plays a large role in the process of deforestation. Beginning in 1990, Brazil has tried to eliminate all non-tariff barriers and reduction of tariffs on exports of wood and wood products. On the other hand, other tradable products taken from the rain forest, such as nuts, can provide important economic benefits to indigenous peoples and encourage the saving of trees. The five million square kilometers of Amazon tree cover make up the largest continuous expanse of tropical rain forest remaining in the world. Although such forests cover only 7 percent of the planet's land surface, they are inhabited by some 50 percent of the plants and animals found on the globe (estimates of which range from a total of two million to 30 million species). Most disturbing of all is the fact that the total is unknown. As many as 27,000 species may be consigned to extinction every year, calculates Harvard University biologist Edward O. Wilson. The impact of these extinction is multifold: the rain forests have profound philosophical, spiritual, cultural, scientific and economic significance. Because Brazil is considered to have the highest species diversity on the earth, it is the epicenter of efforts to stem deforestation. One alternative to harvesting wood is harvesting products of the tropical rain forest. The principal harvest product in Brazil is nuts. A well-known product derived from Brazil nuts is a candy bar called "Rainforest Crunch." The candy was originally sold with the following claim on its packet: "The nuts used in Rainforest Crunch are purchased directly, with the aid of Cultural Survival, from forest peoples."

  5. Thailand Logging Ban (THAILOG)

    ( Thailog Case) On January 10, 1989 Thailand banned harvesting of timber in the country following the worst flooding there in nearly a century. Thailand had long been a traditional exporter of raw logs and in more recent years had begun to develop a competitive furniture industry. Despite the ban on harvesting, Thailand's furniture industry has continued to climb in terms of total output and export value. The country now imports large amounts of raw teak and other wood from Myanamar and Cambodia. This trade is not documented nor is it always even carried out with the permission of the governments in Yangoon and Phnom Penh, respectively. In fact, these two countries are now experiencing some of the highest deforestation rates in the world.

  6. Solomon Island's and Deforestation (SOLOMON)

    Solomon Case) The Solomon Islands, a country of the western South Pacific, have seen drastic increases in logging in recent years, to unsustainable levels that could decimate the nation's tropical forests within a decade, endangering indigenous flora and fauna. The government has moved to regulate the logging companies, which are principally Malaysian, instituting a moratorium on new export licenses and planning a ban on log exports. However, the extent of the problem, and the necessary countermeasures, are matters of political contention in the country. This was the result of Indonesian and especially Malaysian companies turning to external sources after their own governments placed restrictions on exploitation of local forests. Locked into long-term contracts with Japanese and South Korean importers, the companies had to look abroad, and found ready sources in Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu. The World Bank estimated that the Solomon Islands would deplete its current forests in eight years at the rate achieved by the early 1990s, potentially devastating fauna, flora, and the overall living conditions of the country. Amidst growing external concern, Australia offered in the fall of 1994 to engage in a $2 million debt-for-nature swap, to protect the Morovo Lagoon from logging. Meeting in the fall and summer of 1994, the South Pacific Forum, a group of fifteen independent South Pacific countries including the Solomon Islands, sought to establish common regulations that would reduce the ability of foreign companies to play countries off on each other, and established the goal of sustainable forestry in the region. The government of the Solomon Islands, under Prime Minister Hilly, also took action, announcing a moratorium on new logging licenses, and declaring that a ban on logging would go into effect in 1997.

  7. Thai and Burmese Timber Trade (TEAK)

    ( Teak Case) Timber (specifically the hardwood teak) trade along the Thai- Burmese border from 1988 to present has grown significantly. Dramatic events in these two respective countries in late 1987 and 1988 led to a monumental shift in the scope and amount of trade among these two partners and their trade relations abroad. The trade has brought about untold suffering to the peoples of the region both through state sanctioned human rights abuses and the loss of a once vital and abundant ecosystem that provided for tribal agricultural practices. Many unilateral policies have been pursued by the Thai government but the recalcitrant authoritarian SLORC (Burma's ruling party) has profited from the trade and utilized the proceeds for its long standing dispute with Thailand over border territories. More recently, ASEAN has taken interest but so far to no avail. The changes in Teak trade have led to substantial deforestation with accompanying soil erosion and flooding that has not only damaged the land for years to come but has resulted in deaths of hundreds of citizens.

  8. Mexican Deforestation in the Sierra Madre (MEXDEFOR)

    ( Mexdefor Case) The forests of the Sierra Madre Occidental are being deforested at an unprecedented rate. The Mexican government is legitimately taking millions of acres of board feet from the forest to export abroad to earn some hard cash and to help solve their terrible foreign debt crisis. Nearly twenty percent of the timber logged in the Sierra Madre is sold to the U.S. as plywood, paper, or pulp. Many other thousands of acres are being logged illegally or burned by narcotraficantes who then plant acres of marijuana and opium plants in their stead. Usually, the drug traffickers force the Tarahumara Indians into growing the crops for them, oftentimes, under the penalty of death if they refuse. These drugs, once processed, are worth hundreds of millions of dollars at their final destination -the streets of the United States. The forests are being destroyed with little attempt at reforestation, and currently, both plant and animal species are starting to disappear, erosion is becoming a larger problem, and the Tarahumara Indian tribe is facing the destruction of their culture. The Sierra Madre boasts some of the richest biodiversity anywhere in North America and contains about two thirds of the standing timber in Mexico. Twenty three different species of pine and some 200 species of oak reside within the Sierra Madre Occidental. So far, over cutting of the forests in this area since the early part of this century has caused the extinction of the imperial woodpecker (the largest woodpecker on Earth) and has lead to several other species becoming critically endangered such as the Mexican gray wolf, jaguar, and thick-billed parrot. Currently, all but 300,000 acres or about 2 percent of the old- growth forest is gone, most without approval or permits from the Tarahumara tribe (Shoumatoff , 92). Potential erosion of the Sierra Madre Occidental due to logging also threatens the headwaters of the Rio Conchos, the Rio Grande's largest tributary. In the rainy season, with no forests to protect the exposed slopes, the area could face floods, extensive siltation of the river followed by a drying out of the riverbeds (Mardon and Borowitz 1990, 99). Instead of slowly filtering into underground aquifers, water quickly gets swept away leaving traditional underground springs dry and depriving the Tarahumara of a vital drinking source.

  9. Nigeria Deforestation (BENDL)

    ( Bendl Case) Nigeria's tropical forest is being rapidly depleted because of human influence. This is a problem at the macro and micro -level; such depletion is the result of government activities such as road development, arable farming, and land clearing for pasture. Statistic has shown that there is a negative correlation between exploitation of the forest and conservation in Nigeria, and according to Osemeobo, "the deficits in timber supply increased pressures on logging and the illegal trade (Osemeobo, 319)." This is one of the controversial issues in international trade. While some individuals and states encourage such trade in order to generate revenue, others are campaigning against such trade on grounds that deforestation is devastating to the environment. The case of Nigeria is pathetic because the most vulnerable group in the society (women and the poor) use some of the wood as fire wood for cooking in the absence of cooking gas. Deforestation is a form of disinvestment for the future generations because the nutrients in the soil would have been lost in time and space.

  10. Deforestation in Cote D' Ivoire (IVORYWD)

    ( Ivorywd Case) French colonialism is renowned for the policies that it used to change the way of life of the people in its colonies. Not unlike other European colonialists the French did not reinvest in Cote D' Ivoire to the level that would have insured its development into a diversified western type economy. Although the country is seen as wealthy and stable in relation to other African countries it is completely dependent upon a small number of primary industry goods. The French colonial legacy is evident today in Cote D' Ivoire which continues to hamper the country and keep it tied to a select number of goods. The countries market was never diversified and subsequently it has been plagued with economic stagnation when world prices for cocoa and coffee decrease. This was the case in the 1980s and early 1990s forcing the country to become even more reliant upon the export of wood and related products to make up the difference. Such an ingrained policy has lead to large areas of deforestation in the country to the level that Cote D' Ivories rainforest is now in danger of extinction. During the 1960s and 1970s Cote D 'Ivoire emerged as one of Africa's most prosperous and well managed states. The period was attributed to the leadership of president Houphouet-Boigny. He was, until his death in 1993, heralded as Africa's most successful free-market capitalist. Cote D' Ivoire was used as an example for other African countries to follow as they were thrown into ideological and ethnic disputes.

  11. Ghana Deforestation (GHANA)

    ( Ghana Case) Deforestation has claimed an enormous toll through the ages in environmental damage, economic deterioration and human misery. For various reasons such as logging and clearing for cash crops cultivation, the rainforest in Ghana has been decreasing rapidly and significantly. Since 1981, the annual rate of deforestation in Ghana has been two percent/year or 750 hectares each year. Ghana's tropical forest area is now just 25 percent of its original size. The major buyer of Ghanaian timber is the European Union. The impact of deforestation is widespread, affecting the livelihoods of local people, disrupting important environmental functions and severely disturbing the biological integrity of the original forest ecosystem . There is a serious concern in the region about climatic change, soil erosion and large-scale desertification. Since the colonial era, the exploitation of timber for commercial purposes has been part of the Ghanaian economy. But it is only since the start of the economic reform program known as Economic Recovery Program (ERP) in 1981 that deforestation has become a serious concern for the environmental balance of the region. Today, timber is Ghana's third most important export commodity after cocoa and minerals. Timber exports have increased in terms of volume and revenue since the start of the ERP, rising from $16 millions in 1983 to 100 millions in 1988. The main causes of forest loss in Ghana are timber trade, clearing forest for cocoa, and fire wood.

  12. Cote D 'Ivoire Cocoa Trade (COCOA)

    ( Cocoa Case) Cote D' Ivoire is the world's largest producer of cocoa. In addition, it is the third largest producer of coffee in the world. It is a typical example of an export oriented economy that relies for its foreign earnings on the proceeds of primary products. This vast reliance on primary commodities to the exclusion of secondary ones negatively affects the country's environment. For purely economic reasons, millions of hectares of tropical rainforest have been devastated fore the creation of cocoa and other primary commodity plantations. Over the last thirty years, the impact of such destruction has significantly altered the eco-system and affected the flora and fauna as well as human living conditions in rural areas.

    IV. Comparison and Contrast

    When looking at all of the above cases, there are numerous similarities and differences that begin to appear. First and foremost it is obvious that most all of the countries in the analysis are underdeveloped or developing countries. Brazil, probably the most developed in the study is having the same deforestation problems as Madagascar, arguably the least developed nation in the analysis. In addition, most of these nations have very high unemployment rates and low per capita incomes. There are various other similarities as well.

    1. Loss of Bio-Diversity

    Deforestation is causing a depletion, not only in forest, but in the species that reside in them. This is one of the most brutal side effects of deforestation. Madagascar is a prime example of how deforestation increases the loss of bio-diversity. Approximately 5% of all the world's species reside in Madagascar. The same is true in Columbia where its forests account for 10% of the word's biodiversity. If these forests are lost then a large part of the world's species would be endangered of becoming extinct. For example, in Mexico, deforestation has caused the extinction of the imperial woodpecker (the largest woodpecker on earth) and has led to several animals becoming critically endangered such as the Mexican grey wolf, jaguar, and thick-billed parrot. In addition, twenty-three different species of pine and some 200 species of oak reside within the Sierra Occidental. In the Brazil case, deforestation in the Amazon Basin has brought about considerable publicity. The Amazon area makes up the largest continuous expanse of tropical rainforest remaining in the world. Although such forests may only cover 7% of earth's land surface, they are inhabited by roughly 50% of the plants and animals found on the globe.

    2. Increasing Likelihood of Natural Disasters

    With the rapid deforestation that is occurring in some areas there are numerous side effects that may not be seen immediately. One such change is the change in the landscape and the effects that it may bring about later. One such example is in the Camwood Case where rapid deforestation caused mass flooding in Cambodia. In addition, severe flooding damaged the rice crops and led to food shortages for the country. In another similar case, THAILOG, the Thai government banned harvesting timber following the worst flooding in nearly a century. The same scenario is suspected in Mexico where the deforestation is expected to affect the headwaters of the Rio Conchos , the Rio Grande's largest tributary, which may inevitably affect the drinking water source for the Tarahumara.

    3. Development

    The final similarity in the cases are that the deforestation is caused by development. Each of these countries are attempting to develop their economies either with coffee production (Madagascar, Columbia, Cote d'Ivoire) or by exportation of logging (Cambodia, Thailand, Nigeria, Solomon Islands, Ghana). This is due in part to the fact that most of these countries are poor and undeveloped. In many instances (Madagascar, Mexico, and Ghana) the government may also be exploiting the natural resources in an effort to raise money, in order to pay off debts owed to larger, more developed nations.

    V. Policy Implications

    Although most of these cases have been recognized internationally as problematic areas of deforestation, there has been relatively little action on behalf of the governments to alter the situation. Those rare exceptions have been when natural disaster such as flooding has occurred that it directly contributable to the deforestation. A second scenario for action has been when third parties became involved, such as the Australians in the Solomon Island Case. At this point in time. International trade and money transfer has become so important that it is often difficult for peoples or governments to respect their natural habitat when it is survival of the people or government at stake. It is very difficult to tell a man with a starving family that he can not cut down forest to plant food. Likewise it is hard to tell a government with debt and starving people that they can not cut down a forest to export for money. It is also difficult for third parties to exert control over an area of natural resources in another country. It is for these reasons that the international community must come together in order to provide the lesser developed regions either with the technology or money to help save the forests. The Rio Convention of Forests was a good start in the discussion of slowing deforestation; however, there is more that can and needs to be done. Education must also play a vital role in the elimination of deforestation. People must understand that what they are doing is hurting not only themselves, but the environment for the entire world. Due to these circumstances, it would be most beneficial for government in the developed regions to support non-governmental agencies in the fight against deforestation while aiding and encouraging lesser developed nations to pass legislation to prevent deforestation.

    VI. Further Readings

    Cleary, David. Anatomy of the Amazon Gold Rush. University of Iowa Press, 1990.

    Corry, Stephen. "The Rainforest Harvest: Who Reaps the Benefit?" The Ecologist 23/4 (July/August 1993).

    Deforestation bad for the environment, warns Environment minister." The Cambodia Times 124-30 Sep. 95.

    De Palma, Anthony. "Dying Babies are Witness to Proud People's Crisis." The New York Times, 31 October 1994, sec. 1A, p. 4.

    De Palma, Anthony. "Mexico's Indians Face New Conquistador: Drugs."The New York Times, 2 June 1995, sec. 1A, p. 6.

    Dobbs, Leo. "FAO chief reviews tasks facing Cambodia." Reuter News Service, 1 Sept. 1995.

    Gilbert, D. and Colchester, M. "Indigenous Peoples and the International Biodiversity Programme: Some Implications". Survival International (London, 1989)."

    Hammond Ross and Lisa McGowan, The Other Side Of The Story, GAP Press, Washington DC 1993.

    "Increasing aridity in Ghana" The Ecologist v. 20 no2 1990 p.50.

    Mann, R.D. "Time Running Out: The Urgent Need for Tree Planting in Africa" The Ecologist v. 20n2, 1990p.50.

    Mardon, Mark and Susan Borowitz. "Banking on Mexico's Forests."Sierra 75 (November/December): 98-100.

    Marks, Scott. "Starvation, Isolation Killing Children of Mexico Indians." The Los Angeles Times, 25 November 1994, sec. 1A, p. 5.

    Shoumatoff, Alex. "Trouble in the Land of Muy Verde." Outside 15 (March 1995): 56-63.

    Shoumatoff, Alex. "Hero of the Sierra Madre." Utne Reader 70 (July/August 1995): 90-99.

    UNCED. Colombia National Report for UNCED, 1992.

    Weisman, Alan. "The Drug Lords Versus The Tarahumara." The Los Angeles Times Magazine, 9 January 1994, 10.

    Whetham, Edith and Currie, Jean, The Economics of African Countries, 1969, Cambridge University Press, U.K.

    Whynes, David K. "The Colombian Cocaine Trade and the War on Drugs," The Colombian Economy: Issues of Trade and Development, Westview Press Inc., 1992, pp. 329-352.

    Wickins, Peter, An Economic History of Africa From the Earliest Times to Partition, 1981, Oxford University Press, Cape Town, South Africa

    The World Bank: Africa Region, A Continent in Transition: Sub- Saharan Africa in the Mid-1990s, November 1995.

    The World Bank. Trends in Developing Economies, World Bank Publishers: Washington, DC, 1994.

    World Press Review. "Colombia's Vanishing Forests," World Press Review, v40n6, June 1993, pp. 43.

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