Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Protecting Forests - Profits Prevail

Across the Congo Basin it is more profitable to cut down the forest and replace it with cash crops, and REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) schemes are of little help to reverse this trend, according to a new study. Enforcing sustainable logging and assigning a monetary value to the carbon stored in forest concessions managed under the REDD+ mechanism will not be enough to curb deforestation in Central Africa. Given the importance of the forests in the Congo Basin in mitigating climate change, a study highlights that even when the value of the carbon stored by a hectare of sustainably managed forest concessions is added to the value of the timber, the economics of the production don’t change. The net present value of carbon stored on a hectare of forest concessions is just USD 113, still not enough to give sustainably managed forest concessions a financial edge over agro-industrial expansion in the Congo Basin.

Research from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and CIRAD, a French agricultural and development research center revealed the extent to which concessions in Cameroon and Congo are threatened by the push for agro-industrial plantations, primarily rubber and oil palm.  In Cameroon, for example, 10 forest logging concessions, 14 forest reserves and six protected areas are under threat from existing industrial plantations seeking to expand. The threat is smaller and less immediate in Congo, involving just two significant projects to promote cocoa and oil palm plantations. But it is likely that in both countries, future agro-industrial projects will intensify the risk to and the loss of, permanent forests.

There are many reasons for the dramatic expansion of cash crop production—both industrially and by smallholders—in the two countries.
“First of all, industrial agriculture is seen as a major driver of economic development strategies that countries in the Congo Basin have adopted in recent years,” Lescuyer said. “It’s seen as a way to generate formal employment opportunities, increase government revenues and exports, and as a contribution to national development.”

Many national and multinational companies are ready to invest large amounts of money in agro-industrial oil palm and rubber projects in the region and profit from rising prices for these commodities on international markets. But there is more to it than that. Cash crops also offer the opportunity to secure—and sometimes to grab—land holdings, with the aim of making a profitable investment.  As a result, projects involving agro-industrial expansion can garner favor with national authorities and other potential investors. Cash crops are generally more profitable than logging if the timber from a forest concession is harvested sustainably, the study found. In Cameroon, for example, the rubber from one hectare of an industrial plantation was nearly six times as valuable, at USD 8,045, as the timber from a hectare of a sustainably managed forest concession, with a value of USD 1,408. With the exception of smallholder cocoa production in Cameroon, cash crops were more profitable than timber harvested from sustainably managed concessions. Since 2009, Cameroon has witnessed a sharp rise in the number of investors seeking land for palm oil plantations. At least 6 companies are applying for the allocation of over 1 million hectares of land in the forest areas of the southern part of the country, which is about 4.7 per cent of the country’s total forest area of 21,245,000 hectares, says a 2012 report. With industrial palm oil production being a key element of the Cameroonian government’s poverty reduction strategy, it is willing to offer concessions to companies demanding large acreages of land in forested zones for oil palm production. http://blog.cifor.org/10285/palm-oil-development-in-cameroon-an-urgent-need-for-a-national-strategy#.VOLYavmUeJY

No comments: