Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Why We Need Forests

Magazine article UNESCO Courier

Why We Need Forests

Article excerpt

The conservation and management of tropical forests are matters of vital importance for the peoples of the countries in which they are situated (some 1,600 million people, about a third of the world's population, live between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn).

With their unique diversity of plant and animal life, tropical forests represent an immense, renewable source of food, fibre, medicines and fuel. If properly managed they can provide a wealth of useful products and values.

They provide timber and paper and are an important source of foreign currency earnings for tropical countries.

The inappropriately-named minor forest products (all products other than timber) can also be of considerable commercial importance. Rattan, for example, has an estimated annual value in world trade, of $1,200 million and tends to benefit local villagers much more directly than many timber operations.

Other forest products include bamboo, resins, food, medincinal plants, pharmaceutical products, mushrooms and honey. One conservative estimate values the annual trade in these products at $10,000 million.

Tropical forests fulfil other important functions. They help in the regulation of the quality and flow of water and they protect soils from erosion. They are also of great cultural, spiritual and aesthetic significance to the peoples of the tropics.

Forests are of concern to the world community as a whole. …

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