Cover Image
close this book Forestry training manual Inter-America Region
close this folder Session XXXI Working with groups as an extension worker
close this folder Unasylva
View the document Can farming and forestry coexist in the tropics?
View the document Some observations about agricultural plantations and agri-silviculture

Can farming and forestry coexist in the tropics?

John S. Spears

Five World Bank projects are examined from the point of view of how they answer human needs for the kind of sustainable forestry and farming that are harmonious with tropical forest ecosystems. How can forestry benefit people as well as conserve increasingly endangered forests? These studies are taken from Malaysia, Colombia, Kenya, Indonesia and the Philippines.

During recent years environmental agencies, particularly in the United States. have done a valuable job in drawing public attention to the rate of tropical forest destruction and mobilizing awareness of the need for more effective forest protection policies. During this century the area of tropical forest of the world has declined by more than a half. FAO's latest estimates expect a further 10 to 15 percent decline by the end of the century, and it is possible that, unless something is done to reverse the present trend, by the middle of the next century, the bulk of the tropical forest ecosystem as we know it could disappear. Botanists, ecologists and environmentalists have pointed out the irreversible loss to mankind which would result, citing, in particular, the loss of genetic material and the potential contribution to human welfare of drugs and medicines available from tropical woody plants. Many international conferences have been held to help create better political awareness of these issues.

However, a deliberate shift in the emphasis of conservation and development strategy is needed. If we are to ensure preservation of a significant part of the world's remaining tropical forest ecosystem, we should focus more on how to improve the incomes and quality of life of the 200 million subsistence farmers living in a state of shifting cultivation in tropical forest areas. Only the briefest glance at the history of agricultural settlement in Europe, North America and elsewhere is needed to suggest that any policy aimed at halting the present process of forest destruction while completely excluding people from the tropical forest areas is unlikely to succeed. Attacking the root cause of forest destruction - rural poverty in forest areas - and providing small farmers with a viable alternative to shifting cultivation are the key issue. An essential first step would be the recognition that a large part of the "forest destruction" taking place in tropical developing countries, which has generated such an emotional response from agencies in predominantly temperate-zone developed countries. is, in fact, a logical shift in land use to more productive agriculture.

What can be done in practical terms to make it possible for small farmers to abandon forest cutting and shifting cultivation, to adopt sustainable farming systems and to become part of more stable rural communities? What are the most appropriate choices and techniques?

A few examples of project experiences, some successful and some less so, financed partly by the World Bank may help in the search for solutions for reducing the risk of continued ecological degradation.

In reviewing these project experiences. I have set up three criteria:

What impact have these projects made on rural incomes'? In particular, have they been effective in stabilizing rural communities and in arresting shifting cultivation ?

Was adequate provision made in project design for protection of part of the forest area or for establishment of compensatory forest plantations, and has this happened in practice?

Are the cropping patterns being developed likely to be sustainable in the light of what we know about the soil structure and capability in the forest areas being settled?

Two agricultural land-settlement projects, both of which involved forest clearing followed by, in the first case. agricultural tree cropping and in the second, livestock development, are examined below.

Malaysia: the Jengka Triangle Land Settlement Project

The Jengka Triangle in the state of Pahang covers about 120 000 ha, of which about half are considered suit able for agricultural development. The area was identified in the early sixties as favourable for large-scale tree-crop development and settlement. While earlier land settlement took place in smaller schemes scattered throughout Malaysia and close to existing infrastructure, the Jengka Triangle was to be the largest attempt at that date for the development of virgin tropical forest lands.

In 1965, a technical assistance grant was made by the World Bank to the Government of Malaysia to help finance a land-use study of the area and the preparation of a regional development plan. The "master plan" completed in 1967 called for comprehensive development of the Triangle, comprising settlement, in a first phase. of some 9 000 farm families cultivating about 40 000 ha of oil palm and rubber; systematic exploitation of forest resources prior to settlement; urban development, including the establishment of three new townships; and extensive infrastructure development.

A first Jengka Triangle Project, commencing in 1968, planted 12000 ha of oil palm and 1600 ha of rubber. A second project, commencing in 1970, developed a further 7 000 ha of oil palm and 6 000 ha of rubber. Physical works included clearing of forest land, construction of houses, offices and stores to accommodate settler families, and recruitment of management and support staff. A palm-oil mill was constructed together with appropriate roads, water systems, and educational, health and other social services. About 300 ha were developed for crop diversification trials on a commercial scale. Each settlement comprised about 4 ha of planted oil palm or rubber, and a house lot of 0.1 ha for growing food crops. A third loan, made in 1973, will complete the programme.

According to the three criteria defined earlier, the project can be judged successful. Rural incomes of the 9 000 families settled in the first phase have shown a four-fold increase. Settler turnover rates are low (two percent) and the village communities are expected to remain stable. By careful forward planning and the carrying out of appropriate land-use and soil-capability surveys prior to settlement, about 80 000 ha of forest, comprising 60 percent of the project area, were excluded from agricultural settlement. Cultivation was confined to the flatter areas and hill slopes, and river banks were retained under forest. The higher levels of rural income and stable communities in the project area have reduced the risk of shifting cultivation and further forest destruction. Also. it seems reasonably certain that the cropping patterns developed in Jengka, based on perennial tree crops, are sustainable, given appropriate fertilizer application. The economic rates of return have been higher than expected. and Malaysia's exports of palm oil have been a very significant source of foreign exchange earnings.

On the negative side, there were several problems. Settling families had difficulty in protecting their crops from wild pig and other animals because of the close interrelationship of forests and settled lands: attempts to increase revenues from salvage logging in the area prior to settlement, by establishing a sawmill and plywood mill, have not been very successful. Finally, controversy arose over the relatively high cost of the project (US$15 000 per settled family) and the extent to which this type of project is replicable. Lower cost criteria have now been introduced for future World Bank involvement in settlement projects.

To maintain at least part of the remaining tropical forest ecosystem intact, the Malaysian Government in 1976 created an Environmental Ministry and prepared a comprehensive environmental plan for the country, aiming at setting aside more than 1 million ha of forest as permanent biotic reserves and national parks. Of this, 0.5 million ha have already been reserved.

As a model for replication in other countries, the intensive land-use and soil-capability surveys carried out prior to the Malaysia Jengka project are particularly noteworthy. The perennial agricultural tree crops being grown provide an effective soil protection and catchment area cover, and the prospect of sustainable income for the farmers. Such perennial agricultural tree crops already cover about 25 million ha of the world's former tropical forest lands; market prospects for most of these crops are good and further expansion of something in the order of an additional 2 million ha can be expected between now and the turn of the century.

Colombia: Caqueta Settlement Project

In this project, land settlement was spontaneous, less formalized and less successful than in Jengka, and was based mainly on a livestock farming system.

Colonization of the tropical forest areas of Colombia started in Caqueta during the rubber boom, earlier in this century. In the late thirties large numbers of settlers began to move in as word spread that they could take possession of public land and that the area was very well suited for livestock. Government support starred in 1959 with a directed settlement scheme organized by Caja Agraria, which failed because of poor selection of settlers and inadequate supervision of credit beneficiaries.

In 1969, the Government of Colombia requested World Bank assistance in development of a continuation of the settlement programme. A loan of US$8 million was made in 1971 for a first-phase Caqueta Project, which was to be developed over three years and administered by a new settlement agency, INCORA. It was to benefit the 8 000 settler families living in the area. The first phase provided long-term livestock loans for 4 500 settlers, construction of 380 km of roads, 90 primary schools, six health centres and improvement of INCORA's administration. Settlement costs were estimated at US$20 million.

In practice, the project suffered from a number of problems including considerable price increases in all fields, unexpectedly difficult physical conditions affecting, in particular, the road construction programme, and lack of participation by settlers in constructing schools under self-help programmes. Toward completion of disbursement, the project design was changed and, in 1975, a second loan was made taking into account difficulties encountered under Phase I. It was concluded when defining the second phase that, while it was premature to observe any improvement of beneficiaries' incomes, the possession of a basic livestock herd had enabled participants to maintain themselves on their current holdings (averaging 85 ha) instead of continued dependence on shifting cultivation. By importing 60 percent of the breeding cattle into Caqueta, the project had "markedly improved the development prospects of an area designed to play a major role in Government's efforts to develop livestock production".

Outstanding problems, such as the lack of technical assistance to farmers, inadequacy of road maintenance, and the provision of social services were to be rectified in the second project phase.

The Caqueta project has been controversial. Kirby, for example, has commented in Pacific "Not only are most farmers operating a farm unit smaller than that regarded as viable in a beef breeding/ fattening economy, but that the tendency toward a bimodal structure is accentuated by the inability of small farmers to buy cattle. Credit is available for the purchase of foundation stock, and, with an inflation rate of more than 20 percent, credit bears a negative rate of interest of 12 percent per annum after a three-year grace period. But new colonists are very wary about credit for cattle purchase, for, if animals die, or are rustled, the loan must still be repaid. Credits for land clearance or pasture are rarely sought since the value of the improved land will be directly dependent on grazing animals not necessarily available to offset its cost. In addition, the Caja de Credito Agrario has an understandable tendency to lend money to established farmers, where supervision is easier and repayment guaranteed by the collateral security of an existing herd. In summary, the situation in Amazonia is one of very slow improvement in the lives of the new settlers. In 1971, only 55 percent of Medina's sample, in Caqueta and Putumayo, would have stayed on their farm if the possibility existed of their moving elsewhere. For the majority, life is one of shifting cultivation of subsistence crops, living on informal shopkeeper credit.''!

It would be premature to draw any firm conclusions about the project's possible long term impact on rural incomes. But this project does highlight the major issue concerning planned settlement in the Latin American tropical forest regions - that of the extremely poor quality of some of the forest soils and the difficulties of ensuring sustained livestock and crop production. Much publicity has been given to the degradation of former tropical forest lands in Brazil, caused, for example, by badly managed livestock schemes. By contrast, Sanchez has presented a body of evidence from trials carried out by the Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical, Cali, Colombia (CIAT), 2 and other agencies that, given appropriate fertilizer treatment, stocking density and agronomic management, a considerable proportion of the acid latosols of the Amazon region is capable of sustained agricultural crop or livestock production. Several fairly large-scale pilot programmes are under way, the results of which could be highly significant for future development in the Amazon

In The World Bank's new forestry lending policy stresses watersheds, energy reforestation and smallholder cash-crop tree farming.

Regarding the extent of adequate provision for protecting the forest resources in this settled area, the Caqueta Project experience was an acknowledged failure. At the outset of the project, a deliberate attempt was made to set aside an area of 20 000 ha as a permanent forest reserve, but within a year, despite expenditure on forest guards' housing and protection services, the area was invaded by colonizing families.

To ensure an adequate supply of fuel, building poles and timber for incoming settlers and to maintain the protective role of the forests, the Caqueta Project area which was originally part of an officially declared "Amazon Forest Reserve" was made the target of special resolutions 3 aimed at ensuring that colonization should take into account the need to preserve the forests. The law required recipients of more than 50 ha of public lands to keep 20 percent under forest and it allowed the Government to maintain 10 percent of the area as a protective zone. In practice, the farmers' obligation under this law proved impossible to enforce; the experience on fully developed farms showed that, on average, settlers would maintain not more than five percent of their land under forest for the protection of a spring, or for the supply of housing and fencing wood.

This experience suggests the need for greater flexibility in defining forest laws which decree that an arbitrary percentage of settlement areas should be retained as forest cover, a common feature of land-settlement projects. The Caqueta farmers' decision to protect only five percent of the forest land in order to ensure basic needs for fuelwood and other forest products would seem quite rational in the light of experience elsewhere, which suggests that an average rural family might need something between 250 and 500 trees (less than 0.5 ha) to maintain basic domestic needs. The relevant point is that the main beneficiaries of the various government resolutions aimed at protecting a larger area than this would be farmers situated downstream from the Caqueta Project area, who would benefit from protection of the river head-waters, reduced flooding and sedimentation. These "external" benefits have little relevance to farmers living within the Caqueta Project area. and it is hardly surprising that they should regard the 20 percent restriction primarily as an obstacle standing between them and the possibility of increasing family income by developing additional food food cropping areas or acquiring more livestock.

The broader issue raised here is whether, in fact, retention of, say, 20 percent forest cover is the only way to ensure effective catchment area protection. While there is plenty of scientific evidence to show that undisturbed natural forests provide an optimum cover for ensuring adequate soil protection and regulating downstream flow. there is also evidence from many parts of the world, including tropical areas, that other forestry, agriculture and livestock farming systems can also provide adequate catchment protection (see Kenya project below) provided care is taken over soil conservation measures, and livestock numbers are maintained in balance with the carrying capacity of the land. Seen in this light, an alternative approach to designing the Caqueta Project might have placed greater emphasis on soil conservation measures and on the back-up extension services needed to ensure adequate husbandry practices. For protecting forests on very steep slopes and along river banks in the project area, greater flexibility in selecting areas for protection and closer consultation with incoming settlers on this aspect might have produced different results. Recently, the project's forestry component has been revised along these lines and progress is being monitored to assess the impact of these changes in project design.

A second major issue which arose during the formulation of the Caqueta Project. and which has considerable relevance to settlement schemes in other parts of the tropics, was the question of how to increase returns from logging operations prior to settlement. Before 1975, land-clearing operations in Colombia had resulted in the felling and burning of 500000 ha of forest. At the time of project preparation, clearing was proceeding at the rate of 30000 ha a year. Every year, it was estimated that 2 million cubic metres of mature timber were being cleared. only one percent of which was sawn and sold, and the rest burned. Of total standing biomass volume of something between 250 and 300 cubic metres per ha, only 25 trees averaging 40 cm diameter or more were suitable for processing into lumber or plywood - and of that, only 17 cubic metres were of species which were marketable. Although a further 30 cubic metres (40 percent) were suitable for charcoal burning and fuelwood production, they could not be used for this purpose because both local and nearest potential export markets were saturated. After intensive study of this issue, it was concluded:

"It is considered quite impractical, if not impossible, to rationalize felling at the present stage of development of the Caqueta Project. Whatever benefits could be obtained from a rationalized forest exploitation should be weighed against the delays it would cause in developing the area through spontaneous colonization. The studies carried out show that, under these conditions, rationalized forest exploitation would not be economic".

Kenya: the taungya system

Kenya's plantation forestry programme has a number of features of general interest including the role which plantations could play in reducing pressure on the natural forest ecosystem; the provision for the setting aside of specified nature reserves; the fact that some of the past shift in land use from forestry to agriculture was based on systematic long term catchment area studies of the likely impact of different cropping patterns on stream flow and downstream agriculture.

Kenya's forests cover about

2.5 million ha (about four percent) of the country's total area (16 percent of the land area receiving more than 850 mm of rainfall). Over the past 50 years, the indigenous forest has been continuously exploited for the production of sawntimber and other forest products. Because natural regeneration of indigenous forest species takes between 60 and 100 years to produce timber of usable size, the Government, over the last 30 years. has been replacing some of these forests with faster growing exotic softwood plantations. To date, a total of about 160000 ha of industrial plantations have been established, representing seven percent of the total forest area.

In 1969, the World Bank made a loan of US$2.6 million to finance part of the costs of a six-year time-slice of this plantation development programme. The aim was to establish 28 000 ha of plantations during this period and it was successful in meeting the target. In 1976, a second loan of US$10 million financed the continuation and expansion to cover the whole of the industrial plantation programme of the Forestry Department. This project is due for completion in 1980 and a third phase will, simultaneously, concern rural afforestation and industrial capacity needs for processing the expanding raw material base.

Most of Kenya's afforestation programme has been carried out using the "taungya" system. In Kenya, forestry workers grow mainly maize, beans or potatoes for a period of four or five years, after which the plantation is grown on as a monoculture forestry crop until ready for harvesting. Pines and Mexican cypress were the main species used.

With respect to the three main criteria used in this paper the project can be regarded as successful. The forestry plantation programme provides sustained employment for some 5 000 persons. Kenya's forest villages, more than 100 of which have been established over the last 30 years, sustain stable forest communities dependent on a combination of agriculture and forestry work for their livelihood. Many of the forestry workers are second-generation forest villagers. As the forestry programme has proceeded, secondary employment opportunities have been generated in logging, sawmilling, pulp and paper and furniture factories.

The new forestry plantations have a wood productivity some 15 times greater than that of the indigenous forest which they are replacing. The deep volcanic soils on which the plantations are being established are capable of sustained cropping, although recent research work suggests some fertilizer application may prove necessary between rotations.

Two points of general interest arise from this project experience. The first is the role which such compensatory plantations can play in relieving the pressure on indigenous catchment protection forests. It is from the 2.4 million ha of indigenous forest that most of Kenya's important rivers and streams originate. Prior to the fifties, more than 90 percent of timber production came from these indigenous forests. Timber-concession licences had been allocated under longterm contract arrangements covering most of the accessible forest area. Today. in 1980, the compensatory plantations which have been established in Kenya - and cover less than 10 percent of the former indigenous forest area - are supplying more than 80 percent of Kenya's industrial wood demands for both domestic consumption and export. The net effect has been to reduce the intensity of exploitation in the remaining 2 million ha of indigenous forest, the primary function of which remains that of catchment protection.

The second point is that, as part and parcel of this overall forestry development programme' the Kenya Forestry Department. some 20 years ago. established 43 000 ha of nature (biotic) reserves. In the second forestry project financed in 1976, one condition of the loan was that these reserves would be extended by a further 7 000 ha, so that they would become fully representative of Kenya's biological and botanical ecosystems. This was done.

A third point of general interest relates to Kenya's enlightened land-use policies in the area of forestry. Because of intense population growth and the fact that much of the forest is situated on soils of high agricultural potential' the indigenous forest areas have always been under pressure for agricultural settlement. In the fifties, a series of long-term comparative catchment area studies was carried out by EAFFRO4 to compare the impact on stream flow, soil erosion and downstream sedimentation of alternative land-use systems, including natural forest in an undisturbed state, plantation forestry, tea plantations, livestock and intensive food cropping. It was clearly established, given appropriate soil conservation measures, planting spacement and other husbandry techniques, that tea, for example, could provide an effective catchment cover without adversely affecting downstream flow and sedimentation. This longterm experiment was used as a basis for a deliberate decision by the Government of Kenya to excise some 10 000 ha of forest land in the southwest Mau Forest for subsequent tea production. Tea exports have now grown to be Kenya's second largest export earner after coffee, generating foreign exchange earnings which account for 25 percent of agricultural exports and 10 percent of total exports. Most of the tea industry which has enabled some 20 000 farmers to move from a subsistence to a cash crop farming system is located on what used to be indigenous forest land.

Indonesia: Transmigration II

The Indonesia Transmigration Project, as the Colombian Caqueta Project, concerns the settling of small farmers on acid tropical forest latosols. In Indonesia, the emphasis is on arable crops, whereas in Colombia it is on livestock.

As part of a long-term transmigration programme, the Government of Indonesia requested World Bank assistance in 1973 for a project to help resettle incoming families from Java and Bali on four sites along the transsumatra highway in the Province of Jambi and to upgrade the standards of living of existing families already settled at a site in the same area.

The Indonesia Transmigration scheme is one of the largest resettlement programmes in the world. Since 1905, successive governments have sponsored the migration of poor farmers from the overcrowded islands to relatively under-utilized neighbouring islands, particularly Sumatra. All told, government programmes have transferred nearly a million settlers, and an estimated 2 million Javanese residing in the Outer Islands are there as a direct result of government resettlement and associated population growth. Much of the earlier settlement provided workers for rubber estates in Sumatra.

In January 1974, FAO undertook a study to identify a possible transmigration project suitable for external assistance, and in 1976, based on the results of this study, the World Bank undertook a brat-phase transmigration project intended to upgrade the living standards of 12 000 settled families and to establish a new community for 4 500 new settlers. New migrants were provided with five ha of land, of which 0.5 ha was already cleared and 1.0 ha already planted to immature rubber. A second-phase project is now in progress, building on the experiences gained. A smaller farm size (3.5 ha) is being adopted.

The most controversial issue has been the question of the sustainability of the cropping pattern, taking into consideration the highly acid nature of the forest latosols, deficient in nitrogen and phosphorus and possibly low in potassium. Earlier research showed that soil structure is favourable to plant root formation and that by adding regular fertilizer inputs some of the forest soils would become suitable for upland food crop production. To combat the high phosphate fixation, the initial phosphate application should be heavy. Nevertheless, no technical package involving a high degree of dependence on annual food crops has yet been proved over a long period of time.

The cropping pattern originally envisaged under the project allocated 3.5 ha of land per family, of which two ha were for food cropping and about 1.5 ha for tree crops (mainly rubber?, the latter to be grown as a monoculture. Land clearing was to be carried out by a combination of mechanical and hand methods and 500 kg per ha of rock phosphate harrowed into the soil just prior to settlement. The main food crops to be grown were rice, maize and cassava and it was assumed that settlers would establish house gardens containing vegetables and tree crops such as coconuts, cloves, coffee and bananas and different fruit trees. Special provision was made in project design for ensuring that farmers would have adequate supplies of fertilizer, that there would be a framework for close coordination of the various government agencies involved in providing extension support, and that seed and planting materials would be readily available for the farmers as and when needed. A staffing ratio of one agricultural extension worker per 500 families was planned (higher than in similar projects elsewhere), as well as a strong emphasis on training.

Despite these provisions, a recent review of project progress has highlighted the fact that incoming settlers are having difficulty in producing enough food crops to ensure subsistence and in securing the necessary inputs, such as fertilizer and improved seeds.

The key policy issue is whether there is any practical alternative to forest settlement in Indonesia in the light of increasing population pressure on the limited areas of good soil. The "alang-alang" grassland 5 areas and the "Cerrado" region in Brazil, for example, could in theory provide a short-term alternative to continued forest settlement and allow more time needed to develop sustainable farming systems for the tropical forest latosols. However, in practice, a sustainable farming system for the "alang-alang" grasslands has not been developed. The scope for more intensive research in this area is a matter of high priority.

The question has sometimes been raised by environmental and other agencies as to why the World Bank supports such settlement projects in situations where there are significant ecological risks? Part of the answer is that spontaneous settlement as a result of population pressure is a fact of life in many tropical situations, has been going on for many years and in some cases is beyond government control.

By actively working toward improvement of existing farming systems, upgrading of extension services, assurance of a ready supply of agriculture inputs, and supporting more intensive agricultural research, the chances of preventing ecological degradation should be enhanced. The alternative - allowing spontaneous settlement to proceed unchecked - would leave farmers with inadequate inputs, and without extension services, roads, social services and marketing and other facilities.

As was noted earlier when dealing with the Malaysia Jengka project, it seems important to keep in perspective the fact that part of the remaining tropical forest ecosystems could be put to more productive and sustainable land use, for example, by converting it to perennial agricultural tree crops and thereby providing thousands of small farmers with a viable alternative to shifting cultivation.