(PANeL News – 4)
news for forests?
Some important facts
Forests cover 30% of the world's total land area
Deforestation rate: 13m hectares per year
Iceland has three native tree species, Brazil has 7,780
The world's trees store 283 giga tonnes of carbon, 50% more than there
is in the atmosphere
An international team of researchers say
its Forest Identity study suggests the world could be approaching a
"turning point" from deforestation.
The study measures timber volumes,
biomass and captured carbon - not just land areas covered by trees.
The findings are being published in the
US journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Professor Kauppi, from the University of
Helsinki, said data from the Forest Identity methodology offered a more
sophisticated view than previous studies.
He said this approach offered a better
understanding of the natural resource: "When we look at changes in
both areas covered and biomass, we can get a more complete picture of the
When the technique was applied to data
from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation's (FAO) Global Forest
Assessment report, the researchers found that forest stocks had actually
expanded over the past 15 years in 22 of the world's 50 most forested
They also showed increases in biomass
and carbon storage capacity in about half of the 50 countries.
But the data also revealed that forest
area and biomass was still in decline in Brazil and Indonesia, home to
some of the world's most important rainforests.
The report also showed a correlation
between a nation's economic growth and "forest transition", in
other words, a shift from deforestation to net gains in tree cover.
The researchers found that when Gross
Domestic Product (GDP) per capita reached $4,600 (£2,400), many nations
experienced forest transition and saw an increase in forestry growing
stock (volume of useable timber).
promises and goals that are unrealistic is bad; you have to set demanding,
yet achievable aims
Professor Kauppi said no nation
intentionally destroyed forests; people did it out of necessity.
"Rural populations, which are poor
and growing, have to convert new land to agriculture and subsistence
farming," he observed.
"So the pressures on the forests
ease if people have other job sources. We are not saying that people,
because they are wealthier, do not destroy forests but it is a sign that
societies have good law enforcement and rural policies."
But there was a risk that a misleading
picture was being created by rich nations importing raw timber or
wood-based products from poorer nations, rather than destroying their own
"This is a serious problem,"
Professor Kauppi said. "It is called 'leakage' or 'exporting
ecological impacts' and it exists, unfortunately."
But he emphasised that, overall,
international trade was not bad: "If agricultural production takes
place in highly productive regions, then land elsewhere can be protected
He hoped the Forest Identity formula
would be used as a tool to help governments and policymakers to formulate
"For example, you can set goals by
analysing the changes in forest area and forest density and then make
projections of alternative futures.
"You cannot change things
overnight. Making promises and goals that are unrealistic are bad; you
have to set demanding, yet achievable aims."
Professor Kauppi said he was hopeful for
the long-term future of the planet's forests, but warned that appropriate
action was essential.
"Critically, it is about how people
live in rural areas in developing nations," he concluded. "Can
their living conditions be improved? If they can, then there is reason to
interesting footnote from Ethiopia – for some of you this may be
Jonathan Clayton in Addis Ababa
POVERTY is by far the biggest business
in Africa. Now
Thanks to Tony Blair and Bob Geldof it
is boom time
again. Whatever happens at G8, one thing
is certain a
Tsunami of fresh money is about to come
the aid pipeline. The aid business is
open arms. Ethiopia may rank near the bottom of virtually every
league table for child mortality, per capita
incomes, life expectancy, despite more
than two decades of western largesse
but when it comes to the aid game, the country plays in the
Among the charities, aid groups,
development agencies and donor organisations that make up the so-called
international humanitarian community, Ethiopia is
queen an honour resulting from the 1984
famine and the unprecedented international reaction.
The legacy of Bob Geldof Live Aid
charity record ‘Do
They Know Its Christmas’? and the Band Aid concerts, which raised
an estimated £150 million, lives on. Many
of the organisations that flooded into
the country then are still here, joined by others as new problems have
The shabby streets of the capital, Addis
dotted with billboards of
non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and aid groups from the Christian
Right to liberal Left dealing with everything from
adoption to female genital mutilation to
Ethiopia has a cachet among aid workers,
said. The country is a particular favourite among young western idealists keen for
It is also good fun. At night, the car
parks of trendy bars and fancy restaurants opened by yuppie Ethiopians
returning from abroad with money made in
private sectors not allowed at home
are packed with duty-free 4x4 vehicles.
Inside, lively debates take place.
Prices, though way beyond ordinary Ethiopians, most of whom live on £60 a
year, are cheap even by the standards of the most
modest western salary. Through a mix of
German, Scandinavian and American accents, terms such as poverty
alleviation, projects, capacity building and gender balance, keep
One issue, though, rarely has a hearing
in this politically correct world: why doesn’t it work? Why is it that
after an estimated trillion dollars of aid to Africa over the last four
decades, average per capita income across most of the continent is,
the World Bank, lower than at the end of
Some of that answer lies in the aid
business itself. One report recently estimated that some 70 per cent of
all money raised went on NGOs administration cars, salaries, equipment,
and the all-important workshops and seminars.
There are some notable exceptions Save
Fund and Oxfam among them but much money
high streets never reaches those for whom it was intended.
African governments cream off some while
local businessmen charge exorbitant prices for supplies, ex-pat salaries
take another chunk, as does the running of the head offices back home.
Tenders, particularly for UN contracts, are rarely conducted
Most British aid charities try to keep
administrative costs to about 10 per cent. Care International says that 91
per cent of funds are spent on its 130projects worldwide. Cafod said that
it also spent less than 10p in the £1 on administration.
But the big boys are the development
gurus of the organisations and relief and development agencies of donor
countries. In Addis Ababa, these experts peer
Down on shanty town from gleaming modern
glass and chrome towers housing the United Nations, World Bank, The
African Union, and the European Union. They rarely
venture out of what one leading African
commentator has termed their bubbles.
A report by Action Aid which infuriated
Government said that consultants and western companies benefited to the tune of 60p for
intended to go towards eradicating poverty.
Last May, the World Bank itself admitted
for the first time that consultants were taking $20 billion (£12 billion)
from global aid budgets 40 per cent of the total amount given by the
industrialised world for overseas development.
In his seminal 1989 work, Graham
Hancock, a British author, termed these beneficiaries the Lords of
Poverty. “It is aid and nothing else that has
provided hundreds of thousands of jobs
boys, he wrote. Since
then, he told The Times, matters had got much, much worse. Yet it is
ordinary Africans who are often its biggest critics. It is quality, not
quantity. If the projects and mechanisms are not there to
absorb it properly it will just be wasted or stolen, said Abebech Gobena,
who cares for homeless children in an
Addis Ababa orphanage.