Catalysts OF Deforestation

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   Despite sensitization campaigns by conservation bodies and massive awareness projects by Governments and NGOs, deforestation seems to persevere. Today, forests cover a mere 30 percent of the world’s land area, less than half their original size, and yet every single year 13 million hectares are lost (FAO report 2005 forest resource assessment). Many conservation organizations work towards preservation of forests. But unless more support is realized in reforestation and the current rate of forests disappearance is checked, Earth’s future is still at stake.
   Forests are important contributors to the smooth flow of earth’s vital cycles. Trees maintain humidity by recycling water back into the atmosphere; they regulate greenhouse gases by absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and sustain life by providing animals with clean oxygen, food and habitation. Other benefits include maintaining soil fertility and cubing erosion, fuel and raw materials etc. The importance of trees can not be overemphasized, especially now with increasing risks of global warming, Desertification, the world’s changing weather and the ever growing list of extinct or endangered species. 
     As a response to the alarming global changes, a number of both governmental and non-governmental bodies have embarked on conservation projects and reforestation efforts.  Their efforts are starting to show positive results, but several factors are hindering forest conservation by catalyzing deforestation.
   One of the main drivers of deforestation is profits. Deforestation is a way of making money. Timber is sold as a building material or as fuel and illegal logging is especially rampant in the Amazon and the Congo forests. Due to depleted forests and restriction of logging by conservation bodies and organizations, the price for timber has gone up. This has motivated some greedy, money¬-minded individuals to further plunder the remaining forests for high profit.
    In developing countries, charcoal burning is a booming business despite efforts by governments to limit the trade. In Somalia, with no stable government, charcoal is exported in shiploads to foreign markets. The native forests are diminishing unrestricted.
    Use of wood as a means of fuel for large scale processing is another hindrance to forest conservation. For instance, Brazil and most of Africa and some other countries cure their tobacco crop by burning wood. According to rippleafrica.org, drying an acre of tobacco in Malawi requires up to three acres of woodland.
.  Despite participation in reforestation activities, some Governments also contribute to deforestation by licensing of forested land to companies or individuals who have money to buy or lease. The buyers usually strip the land naked and sell the timber for short term profit. Tourism is a much friendlier way of utilizing the forests for profits, but some poor economies opt for lease as a way of earning the much needed income
   Corruption in high profile government individuals, mostly in third world countries, is responsible for massive ‘land grabbing practices.’ huge portions are usually fenced right out of natural forests as private land. An example is the Mau forest situated in the heart of Kenya’s Rift Valley. Mau is the largest of the five ‘water towers’ of Kenya. It has been severely depleted by land grabbing. It is currently under rehabilitation efforts as the government tries to save it before it becomes completely irreclaimable.
  Urbanization and the need for constant development also encourage deforestation. Forests are usually cleared for mining or oil drilling purposes; large scale farming and ranching.  Industries are important, as they create employment for the ever increasing populations and lead to development, but they need large tracts of cleared land and only careful selection of proposed sites for industries can minimize loss of forest land. Unfortunately the drive for development seems to be blind on this fact.
Population increases are booming world wide and, obviously, all these people need to be fed. This means more land is required for growing more food both for local and export markets. Commercial cash crops for export market usually use large plantations for production. Countries whose economy and community depend on agriculture have a very high demand for land. Deforestation is usually rampant in such places.
   One of the most important tools for fighting deforestation is public awareness. Most people are not fully sensitized and aware of the importance of trees to our planet. Conservation efforts will be more fruitful if more people are aware of the importance of trees. Everyone should have a picture of the consequences of a world without trees. They should know that every year the world produces 300million tons of paper, and every ton of paper comes from 12-15 trees, depending on quality of paper.

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