Feature Book Review


by J. Gradwohl and R. Greenberg

Given the dire statistics, it is difficult to attempt constructive approaches to the tropical forest issue without an attitude of impending doom. Saving the Tropical Forests does not spare the reader from the grim predictions, but it does sketch the 'Spectre of Deforestation' concisely. The second part of the book, a collection of 38 project case studies which are signposts for the rescue task at hand, is perhaps more important. In his preface, Michael Robinson suggests that saving the forest will require a scientific/political endeavor equivalent to a modern day Manhattan Project. If so, the policy-makers, scientists, and extension workers involved should read this book carefully. The case studies demonstrate that it is possible to set up viable forest-preservation projects. Local people and governments often recognize their value and must play key roles. What is needed at the implementation level is 'a land ethic that combines an understanding of the ecological value of tropical forest with an acknowledgement that forests should be used for peoples' benefit.' The success of grass roots projects is a common thread in the case studies, which are able to reach their goals because of their small size and the local involvement. The authors describe promising efforts in four chapters entitled Forest Reserves, Sustainable Agriculture, Natural Forest Management and Tropical Forest Regeneration. Within each chapter, key qualities shared between case studies are identified.

Of particular interest to agriculturists is the argument that farming systems in and around forests need not be destructive. Case studies examine such traditional systems as Mayan agriculture, which maintained high human populations near pristine forest, and swidden-fallows of the Bora Indians in Peru, where diverse varieties of annual, perennial and tree crops are productively managed in long-term rotations. Examples of innovative techniques are highlighted, such as experimental iguana ranching in Panama, and conversion from beef to dairy farming for local milk production in Costa Rica. Another case study is the Extension Service for Shifting Agriculturists in New Guinea, which attempts to improve small farmer slash-and-burn management by introducing regenerative soil improvement methods. Not all will agree with the approach taken by each of these case studies. The utility of this book is that it ventures beyond problem assessment and identifies hands-on approaches to solution implementation.

207 pages, £6.95 (U.K.), $11.95 USA


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