Inappropriate government intervention in agriculture

The criteria underlying the planning of interventions lack an ecological orientation and are often dominated by short-term considerations, thus encouraging environmentally unsustainable farm practices. Agricultural policy tends to operate within a national framework (uniform criteria; prices and subsidies) which is insensitive to regional variations and needs, especially with regard to environmental vulnerability. Overprotection of farmers (subsidies, tax relief, price controls), and the associated overproduction, encourage the degradation of the agricultural resource base.
Government intervention in agriculture is widely practised in both industrialized and developing countries. In industrialized countries it tends to be overprotective of agriculture whereas in developing countries such intervention tends to be weak and provide inadequate incentives to farmers, exposing them to a high degree of uncertainty.

Of a special nature is the government sponsored Mega-Rice Project in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. The project was known to be President Suharto's pet project. It started in 1996 to reclaim approximately 1.5 million hectares of fragile and ecologically important tropical peat-swamp forests for a large rice-cultivation programme, in the face of warning by scientists, agriculture practitioners and non-governmental organisations. The project, now a vast grid of canals, which drain and dessicate the peat-swamps, turned out to be a disaster: fires have been used as the cheapest method to clear the land. The vast canal systems which have to some extent destroyed the local Dayak's traditional rattan and fruit gardens and fishery, cuts the peat areas into patches of dried-out and dying forests and also is the cause of the death and agony of many wild animals. Hundreds of the endangered orangutans have fled from the fires and smoke. As soon as they enter local communities in search of food, adult orangutans are killed for their meat by the local people who are being confronted with famine. The orphaned baby orangutans were captured and put in tiny wooden cages in abominable conditions. Timber felling in the area took place at an increased pace by companies and by local people who have no other choice than to earn some money in order to survive. Powerful and well connected timber companies gained huge profits from the exploitation of this province's remaining peat-swamp forests. In 1997 forest fires resulted in extreme health hazards to approximately 50-70 million people in Southeast Asia. The fires also resulted in losses of hundreds of millions of US dollars to the region's economy.

(E) Emanations of other problems