Rapid depletion of forest reserves and the growing scarcity of wood for cooking and tree products for other household uses have emerged in recent years as a growing concern of development planners and specialists in most countries and development institutions.
This strategy features in the framework of Agenda 21 as formulated at UNCED (Rio de Janeiro, 1992), now coordinated by the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development and implemented through national and local authorities.
Agenda 21 recommends:
(a) formulating scientifically sound criteria and guidelines for the management, conservation and sustainable development of all types of forest;
(b) reviewing and, if necessary, revising measures and programmes relevant to all types of forest and vegetation, including other related lands and forest-based resources, and relating them to other land uses and development policies and legislation;
(c) promoting adequate legislation and other measures as a basis against uncontrolled conversion to other types of land use;
(d) developing, testing and applying appropriate methodologies/approaches in implementing forest programmes and plans;
(e) establishing, expanding and managing protected area systems, as appropriate to each national context, to include systems of conservation units for environmental, social and spiritual functions and values. Such systems would include: conservation of forests in representative ecological systems and landscapes; primary old-growth forests; conservation and management of wildlife; nomination of World Heritage Sites under the World Heritage Convention; conservation of genetic resources. In situ and ex situ measures and supportive measures would be undertaken to ensure sustainable utilization of biological resources and conservation of biological diversity and the traditional forest habitats of indigenous people, forest dwellers and local communities.
The UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) coordinates the Tropical Forest Action Programme (TFAP), a multi-partner undertaking which helps developing countries reorientate their national forestry policies to stress both protection and sustainable use. TFAP promotes tropical forest conservation through improved resource management, involving in the process technical experts, policy-makers and foresters.
The Kayapo Indians of Brazil's Amazon Basin are described as effective managers of tropical forest, utilizing an extensive inventory of useful native plants that are concentrated by human activity in special forest areas (resource islands, forest fields, forest openings, tuber gardens, agricultural plots, old fields, and trailsides). Long-term transplanting and selection of plants suggest semi-domestication of many species. The overall management strategies of forest also includes many manipulated animal species (birds, fish, bees, mammals) utilized as food and game. Forest patches (apete) are created by Indians from campo/cerrado using planting zones made from termite and ant nests mixed with mulch. Indigenous knowledge of subtle similarities between conceptually distinct ecological units allows for the interchange of botanical material between microclimates to increase biological diversity in managed areas. Indigenous knowledge is extremely important in development of new strategies for forest and campo/cerrado conservation, while improving the productivity of these ecological systems. Such knowledge is not only applicable for Amazonian Indians, but also has far-reaching implications for human populations throughout the humid tropics.
Existing agroforestry systems in the tropics may provide valuable insight for sustainable tropical forest management. The basis for understanding such land use lies in the accumulated knowledge of generations of farmers as expressed in the design of their agroforestry systems. The forest gardens of highland Sri Lanka are dense, species-diverse systems. These analogues of natural forests provide their owners with food, fuel, fodder, timber and cash crops, and the native flora and fauna with habitat. The forest gardens have persisted through centuries of socio-political upheaval and economic change, while the natural forests surrounding them have been felled for timber and to make way for large scale plantation agriculture. Natural forest regeneration on abandoned plantations land is hindered by recurring fires during the dry season. Today, in the largely deforested highlands, the villages with their gardens resemble forest islands in a sea of degraded grasslands. The farmers in the traditional villages hold the key to reforestation encoded in the management of forest gardens which are planted in the grassland as villages expand. Principles from the farmers' knowledge, particularly patterns of vegetation change over time, may also provide insight for reforesting marginal lands with ecologically and economically viable agroforestry systems elsewhere in the highlands of the tropics and for buffer zone management of forest reserves.
On 1 February 1999 Ecuador's president Jamil Mahuad issued a decree blocking planned and future oil exploration, mining, logging and colonization in the Cuyabeno-Imuya and Yasuni national parks. Together, the parks total 2.7 million acres, an area twice the size of the state of Delaware. The two parks contain a vast system of environmentally sensitive rivers and lakes and provide a home for some of the world's most endangered plants and animals. The two parks are the ancestral homeland of 10,000 indigenous peoples. The parks will remain open to ecotourism.
World Bank financing of infrastructural projects (e.g. roads, dams and mines) that may lead to loss of tropical moist forest and other primary forests will be subject to rigorous environmental assessment as mandated by the World Bank's operational guidelines for projects that raise diverse and significant environmental issues. A careful assessment of the social issues will also be required.