Sunday, 7 January 2007

Buying rainforest IS the best way of preserving it

Trawling the internet for sites dealing with rainforest issues a few months ago I came across the following site

And in their 'kids corner' there was a Q & A, and among the questions and answers the following:

Q: Why not buy rainforest land instead? Isn't that better?
A: Rainforest Action Network believes that, in most cases, buying rainforest land is not the best way to protect it. Most "buy-an-acre" programs ignore the fact that there are people who live in and depend upon the forest. We believe that the best way to protect rainforest land in the long run is to allow the indigenous peoples who live there to control what happens to their own land. Because indigenous peoples depend on the rainforest for their survival, they often do the best job of protecting it. Besides, it would take a lot more money to buy fifteen thousand acres of rainforest land than it would to protect it through the Protect-an-Acre program.

Now I am afraid this is simply NOT TRUE. The World Land Trust is one of the relatively few organisations involved in land purchase, and 'most' buy an acre programs do NOT ignore the fact that there are people who live in and depend on the forest. In fact I don't know any organisations that ignore this so-called fact. So in May 2006 I challenged the authors of this text to identify the projects which have bought land inhabited by people. And also justify all their other claims. Another fact is that huge areas of forest are not inhabited by indigenous peoples, or anyone else.

The WLT is currently investigating two major land purchases in South America, with our local partners. Both these areas have populations of indigenes living in or around them, and it is of critical importance that their needs and aspirations are taken into account when developing a strategy for managing these forests. However, since the lands are already privately owned, there are very real problems that have to be addressed.

However, the Rainforest Action Network have never responded to my emails -- and I strongly suspect that this is because they cannot find any evidence to justify their claims. However, I don't see any point in arguing about the pros and cons of purchase versus lease because, in fact, both have their place.

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