Compared to only 5 years ago, the public is much more aware of the value of conserving biological diversity and the need to stop the deterioration of major ecosystems. This growing awareness reaches into all levels of government and the private sector. Recent campaigns in Europe, North America, Brazil, and Indonesia have been very effective in bringing these issues to the public’s attention. But we need similar movements in all countries.


There have been several proposals to stop destruction of tropical forests. A few years ago, for example, Rubinoff (1983) proposed a scheme in which major development assistance would flow from developed countries into the tropics to conserve and protect tropical forests. Similarly, Guppy (1984) recently proposed an Organization of Timber Exporting Countries—a plan to force timber prices higher and to account for the real costs of managing the global timber resource sustainably.

In 1985, a global Tropical Forestry Action Plan (FAO, 1985; WRI et al., 1985) was developed jointly by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, the development agencies, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), and representatives from more than 60 countries in which most of the tropical forests are found. This plan looks at the solutions needed in five areas: fuelwood and social forestry, conservation of forest ecosystems, and institution building, which includes research, education, and training. For 56 tropical countries, specific recommendations were made for the types of projects needed to slow or stop deforestation. The Action Plan has gained considerable international attention, and although it is far too early to judge its success, there are several very encouraging signs that at last we may have a concerted international effort to meet the problem.

The Plan recommends that $8 billion be spent in the areas just mentioned over the next 5 years to substantially reduce or eliminate forest loss in the tropics. This figure may appear enormous, but it would be only a doubling of current levels of developing assistance in forestry and related fields of agriculture. There are signs the agencies already are moving. For the first time, the development agencies are coordinating their grants and loans in forestry. This reduces waste and duplication in development assistance, but more important, it also is resulting in more funding for forestry and conservation projects. As part of this effort, Forestry Sector Reviews are now planned for 30 tropical nations in the next 23 years. These reviews already are under way in 11 countries, and reviews for the Sudan, Kenya, and Ghana have already been completed.

National Forestry Plans are being written or revised in more than a dozen countries with technical and financial help from the international development agencies. By July 1986, forestry and agriculture projects designed to meet the demand for forest products while also conserving the remaining tropical forest were being planned and developed in over 24 countries.

In July 1987, a high-level forestry conference of more than 15 nations was held in Bellagio, Italy. The goal is to get commitments to solve the deforestation crisis and to put tropical forest management and exploitation on a sustainable basis in

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