Political and Economic Development Strategies for Sustainable Forest Development

Improved management techniques and plantations that mimic the native forest cannot alone solve the problem of tropical forest loss. For sustainable forest development, there must be capital that frequently comes from development approaches of the top-down type, but capital is not enough. There must be cultural acceptance that can only come from approaches to development of the bottom-up type. The capital necessary to finance successful development is more readily available through the financial connections that arise through globalization.

Until recently, however, and even yet in many cases, the type of development stimulated through globalization has been destructive to both the environment and the local culture. The cultural acceptance necessary for successful implementation is more likely to occur through localized, integrated natural resource management (INRM).

Localized INRM approaches to development offer a feasible alternative. INRM aims to identify land-use practices that increase agricultural and forestry production while at the same time maintaining natural capital and continuing to provide environmental services at local and global scales. Once such practices are identified, their adoption by large numbers of people can be facilitated by a combination of educational campaigns and policy changes.

Ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable development of regions with tropical forests can come about only with a combination of top-down and bottom-up approaches to management. Community forestry may be an example of an appropriate blending of the two approaches. Community forestry projects have been successful in several regions of the world.

In conclusion, tropical forest ecosystems have many characteristics that render them more fragile than forests at other latitudes. At the same time, tropical forests are generally less protected from human disturbance than temperate zone forests, and often are subjected to more intense pressure for development. Therefore, it is important that special care be taken to manage tropical forests in a way that enables their continued existence. In order to ensure sustainability, it is important that forest managers understand the limitations of tropical forest function, and design their management strategies in accordance with these limitations.

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