Subsistence vs forest conservation

Subsistence vs forest conservation

Can tropical farmers reconcile subsistence needs with forest conservation?

Authors: Thomas Knoke, Baltazar Calvas, Nikolay Aguirre, Rosa María Román-Cuesta, Sven Günter, Bernd Stimm, Michael Weber, and Reinhard Mosandl

Front Ecol Environ 2009; 7(10): 548–554, doi:10.1890/080131 (published online 11 Mar 2009)

If tropical farmers cannot be provided with sustainable land-use systems, which address their subsistence needs and keep them gainfully employed, tropical forests will continue to disappear. We looked at the ability of economic land-use diversification – with reforestation of tropical “wastelands” as a key activity – to halt deforestation at the farm level. Our ecological–economic concept, based on land-use data from the buffer area of the Podocarpus National Park in southern Ecuador, shows that stopping deforestation after 10 years is possible without violating subsistence demands. Tropical, farm-level diversification may not only reduce total deforestation by 45%, but also increase farmers’ profits by 65%, because the formerly unproductive wastelands have been returned to productive land use. We therefore conclude that a “win–win” scenario is possible: the subsistence needs of people can be reconciled with conservation objectives. However, inexpensive microcredits (at interest rates below 6%) and experience on alternative land-use opportunities must be offered to farmers.

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