|GATE - 1991/04 - Environmental NGO's (GTZ GATE Magazine, 1991)|
Conference in Panama
by Jurgen Carls
Tropical deforestation is one of the major fragile land issues of the 1990s. The Humid Tropical Lowland Conference (17 - 21 June 1991) in Panama had therefore been organized to examine strategies for and management approaches to the sustainable development of humid tropical lowlands in Latin America and the Carribean.
The Republic of Panama was chosen as the conference venue because it is one of the few countries in Latin America within the humid tropical lowlands and has accessible sites for field visits.
The conference was organized by Development Strategies for Fragile Lands (DESFIL), a US non-governmental organization. DESFIL assists US-AID (Agency for International Development) in their regional program to arrest the degradation of natural resources in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Although the conference focused on the Latin America/Caribbean region, the participants and presentations also considered promising practices from Africa and Asia. Approximately 200 participants from 18 countries attended the conference, including a few representatives from Europe. In five sessions the conference worked out recommendations on natural resource management.
· Natural resources and sustainable development:
Population growth in the last decade exceeded 2 % in almost all countries in tropical Latin America, so competition for land and natural resources has also increased.
The causes of nonsustainable use of tropical forest resources fall into three broad categories: poverty, ignorance and institutional failure, which has two facets: market failure and policy failure.
High deforestation is a result of the interaction among these causes.
The reforms needed to rectify institutional failures, particularly
policy failures, are:
- correction of constant underpricing of
tropical forest resources;
- initiation of environmental accounting within national income frameworks;
- reduction in infrastructure projects encroaching upon topical forests.
Activities designed to cope with natural resource degradation, such as incentives for reforestation and soil conservation, should be functionally integrated into a particular country's economic development model. All potential economic development policy effects must be indentified before designing and implementing programmes and projects to stop and reverse the processes of natural resource degradation.
Management of protected areas and national parks:
A broad definition of "protected areas" must be used to describe examples that range from low-impact agriculture to national parks.
The "protected areas" and "natural parks" concepts are accepted in Latin America as important tools for the establishment and management of large areas in Panama for example 13.9% of the national territory is protected in 11 "Parques Nacionales", two "Refugios de Vida Silvestre" and two "Areas Recreativas". The aim is to increase these protected areas to 18 % of the national territory.
The basic requirements for developing the human and physical
infrastructure needed to manage natural park areas are as follows in order of
- on-site staff with adequate professional
- organizational and management planning;
- protected area policy, Laws, regulations and fee collection;
- environmental education outreach program;
- research facilities.
Case studies from Latin America demonstrate that the funds and
facilities available are not usually sufficient to guarantee the protection of
Non-timber forest products and ecotourism
Central America has 250 "wild land protected areas" covering 13% of the region's land mass. About 75 areas are homelands to or exploited by indigenous populations.
A wide array of products can be extracted from these forests without adversely affecting the ecosystems e. 9. medicine, germplasm, fruits, nuts, craft materials, products for industrial uses (e. 9. fibre), ornamentals, fish and game.
Small-scale, tropical rain forest cultures developed a complex system of subsistence technologies that have permitted hundreds of years of continuous exploitation of the forests. Political, economic and technological changes in the last two decades have disturbed these traditional patterns of exploitation.
The protection and management of the tropical lowlands must therefore involve the participation of the peasant and indigenous societies that exploit these fragile areas.
Indigenous management appears to be the next best thing to primary forests for species diversity, and the best for ethnobotanical species.
Apart from extracting products from forests, ecotourism could also be promoted as an instrument of sustainable development.