Magazine article American Forests

A Talk with World Forestry's New Top Gun

Magazine article American Forests

A Talk with World Forestry's New Top Gun

Article excerpt

AMERICAN FORESTS: Throughout the world there is a great deal of concern about large-scale damage. and destruction of tropical forests. How is this to be addressed?

Hollis Murray: Much of the pressure on forests, even their destruction, is coming about because people have basic needs that must be satisfied.

In other words, poverty is one of the great underlying causes of forest destruction. Politicians, policy makers, governments must bear this in mind and take the necessary action to expand the opportunities people have to improve their lives. That is the way to remove pressure not only on the forests but on other resources as well,

It is now well-recognized that if you are going to improve the lot of the people and maximize the resources, the most important thing is to involve the PeOple. They know best about these resources because they and their forebears have been living and working in the forests.

The forester of today, especially in international development work, has to be conscious of the needs of the people to whom this resource is important. Sometimes it is their only source of living.

AF: Something historically new is taking place in tropical forestry. I refer to the Tropical Forestry Action Plan (TFAP) in which 20 donor governments, four multilateral assistance banks (see box in November/December LOOKOUT column), and 15 international organizations have come together to stop the wasting of the tropical forests. In four years they have increased their involvement from $600 million to $1 billion. The FAO Forestry Department is the central coordinating agency for the Tropical Forestry Action Plan. How do you see FAO's role?

MURRAY: First of all, we must understand that the Tropical Forestry Action Plan is not a plan in the traditional sense. It is not intended that we gO tO gOvernments and say: "Here is a blueprint, a plan that should be a panacea for your problem. "

The Tropical Forestry Plan is a process which, when put in motion, will help identify bottlenecks and other difficulties. In seeking to answer the question why the forest is not making a bigger and better contribution to the economy of a particular country, the TFAP will eventually lead to traditional forestry plans.

But along the way, in order to answer that question, the forest service of a country must be involved, and so must the highest levels of government planners, economists, and, above all, the policy makers, because that's where the decisions must be taken.

In these ways TFAP is different from anything that has taken place in the past. There are all sorts of plans sitting on shelves, drawn up by well-meaning professionals, that exclude other sectors and are ignored, even by the planners who should be taking them into account.

But in the TFAP the planners, the policy makers, the potential investors are brought in at an early stage, so that all of them can make an effort in attempting to solve the problem.

No government likes to be told by outsiders what to do with its own resources. How does FAO, as the focal point of TFAP, propose to bring governments around to changing their ways regarding tropical forests?

MURRAY: I don't see it exactly as telling governments what to do.

Governments have specific objectives. By and large, they are trying to improve the quality of life of their people. They have different ways and different methods, but when you get down to it, that is what they are trying to do.

The job we have is-by discussion, by education even-to convince the powers that be in a given country that forests are important resources which have value. This value in many instances can be quantified in monetary terms. But it is a value that is also important in terms of the well-being of the people who live near the forests.

In many instances it is rather difficult to quantify some of these values- It is a matter of demonstrating to the best of our ability to political leaders that their forests do have these values and that they can be utilized through sound management. …

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