The recent article "Brazil Tree Farm Uses Rain Forest and Also Saves It," April 27, is a welcome contribution to the reassessment of large-scale development's role in improving and sustaining human welfare in tropical forest areas. Projects like Jari will often be integral parts of successful regional development strategies in the developing world, and when successful deserve credit.
Several important issues, however, are overlooked in the article. First, profitability is claimed, but on what basis? The use of pricing schemes that fully reflect resource use costs is essential, but rarely used in practice.
Second, the article mentions, but does not focus on, employment generation. Employment opportunities generated by such projects are usually quite small: The Jari Project, as the statistics presented suggest, has generated only one job for every 545 acres in the project. At that rate, clearing the entire Amazon world would make only a small dent in rural poverty in the northeast of Brazil.
Finally, if such projects are really profitable but do not benefit many, then methods must be found to transfer the wealth tapped from the tropical forest to those driven by poverty to occupy the forest margins and use them in less sustainable ways, preferably before such occupation takes place.
Until these critical resource costs, employment, and income distribution issues are effectively incorporated into regional development strategies, even the most successful Jari-style project will not solve the growth, sustainability, and poverty problems that plague environmentally fragile areas in the developing world. S. A. Vosti, Washington Research Fellow International Food Policy Research Inst.
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