Forest degradation in the tropics


In small village communities, local resources are often not used sustainably

In small village communities, local resources are often not used sustainably

To conduct the analysis, the UFZ researchers used standardised data from the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR- PEN project), based on surveys of village communities in 233 representatively selected villages in tropical regions of Africa, Asia and South America between 2005 and 2010. The interviewees were inhabitants from mostly small rural communities who depend in various forms on firewood, timber, food resources, animal feed or medications from nearby forests, mostly on a subsistence basis. Villagers were asked, for example, what natural resources from the forests they used and how their availability had changed in recent years. 

In 209 of all the analysed communities, or about 90%, interviewees reported that the availability of at least one forest resource had declined. One example is timber for construction purposes. In more than 75% of villages in Africa and South America in which people were interviewed, they reported a decrease in this resource. In Asia the percentage was almost 60%. In around 75% of the villages studied in Africa and more than 50% in Asia, local populations reported declining availability of firewood. In village communities in Asia and Africa, all other forest products such as food, medications and animal feed were also reported to be scarcer. "In some places forest resources are not being used very sustainably," says Dr. Kathleen Hermans, the first author of the study and a social geographer in the UFZ’s Department of Landscape Ecology. That this situation was so clearly in evidence was surprising, she adds. However, there are exceptions, especially in South America. Here, interviewees in many communities reported that resources such as firewood, medicinal plants and animal food had somewhat increased or remained stable over the last five years.

Read more at Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research - UFZ

Photo credit: Nick Hogarth, CIFOR