|Amazonia: Resiliency and Dynamism of the Land and Its People (UNU, 1995, 253 pages)|
|1. Amazonia under siege|
A central theme of this study is that Amazonia is indeed a rich realm of nature and culture and that some of the land-use changes under way in the basin could ultimately have regional or even global implications. In order to help avert any large-scale ecological catastrophe in the future, however, the productivity of farms, ranches, forests, and plantations will have to be raised and sustained. Some scientists have called for a doubling of crop yields over the next few decades to help slow deforestation rates (Pimentel et al. 1986).
As population increases in Amazonia, the need to intensify agricultural production becomes more urgent. Shifting agriculture based on annual crops will gradually be replaced by more permanent systems, such as agro-forestry, and, in some cases, by high-input cropping (fig. 1. 1). Extractive activities, long an important source of livelihood for Amazonian people, are becoming less important. In later chapters we explore the trend lines for activities in farming and forestry.
By raising and sustaining agricultural and livestock yields, pressure to encroach on parks, Indian reserves, national forests, extractive reserves, and biological preserves will be mitigated. Some 30-40 million hectares in Amazonia have already been altered by human activities, mainly farming and ranching, which is equivalent to the farming area of France, England, and Italy (Homma 1990a; INPE 1990). Better utilization of already cleared areas should certainly enable farmers and ranchers to feed the region's roughly 10 million people; even without adopting many of the intensive techniques of Western Europe, it should be possible to strive for increased productivity. Improving agriculture and raising rural incomes must go hand-in-hand with conservation efforts in Amazonia, as in other developing regions.