The principal causes of deforestation include the following:
increasing population pressure and the need for additional land for cultivation;
land ownership patterns that force peasant families and landless people into forests and marginal lands;
commercial agriculture operations (particularly plantation agriculture for crops such as palm oil, rubber, and coconut); and
commercial logging, which opens up previously inaccessible forests to cultivation and fuelwood harvesting at a rate far exceeding the regenerative capacity of the forests.
Some of the solutions to deforestation will have to come from outside the forestry sector. The three key areas for intervention are:
measures aimed at increasing agricultural productivity and providing the Region’s 100-million forest dwellers and people living adjacent to the forests with an alternative to further forest encroachment;
intensification of forest management and creation of compensatory plantations of fast-growing species that can provide an alternative to continued exploitation of natural forests; and
a vigorous forest-conservation policy that will set aside substantial areas of the remaining tropical forests as ecological reserves to be protected from all forms of encroachment.
Support for land reform and land-titling programs that address the issues of inequitable land distribution and encourage a more permanent and sustainable agriculture could do much to relieve pressure on forest land. A government assistance program is under way in northern Thailand to achieve this. Intensification of perennial tree crop yields (mainly oil palm, rubber, and coconut) on plantations that cover some 20 million hectares in the Asian Region is receiving high priority in the agricultural development plans of Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. While from one point of view it can be argued that the establishment of such plantations has contributed to deforestation, there are some positive aspects to this development. Malaysian experience, such as that in the Jengka Triangle, has demonstrated that well-managed agricultural tree crops can provide attractive income for settled families and help to reduce dependence on shifting agriculture. From an ecological viewpoint, such tree crops do a good job in protecting soil and water resources. A well-thought-out government land-use plan for that region carried out in the 1960s demarcated more favorable bottom lands for agriculture and set aside some 60% of the area as forest reserves. After some 20 years, the village population of the Jengka region remains relatively stable. Furthermore, the forests originally excluded from settlement have been protected and are still there today.