The Economics of Rainforest Harvesting
The largest factor contributing to the destruction of the rainforest is the yearn for profits. Clear cutting of trees is a common occurrence for the timber industry and to make room for agriculture. But is this the only way?
Agriculture brings in a yield of $60 per acre per year. The practice of shift farming (also known as slash and burn) depletes the ground nutrients and crop sites are abandoned after a few seasons. To continue, more land must be cleared and the process repeated. This is done in demand of industrial countries for cheap agricultural products such as rubber, cocoa, and low cost meat.
Timber sales hold a value of $400 per acre. Timber is used for commercial furniture and local villagersí fuelwood. While timber sales hold a high market value, it is a market that does not last. This economy is not sustainable as it takes years, if not centuries for these trees to replenish.
Harvesting the rainforest for natural resources such as fruits, nuts, rubber, medicinal plants and other renewable resources can offer a value of $2400 per acre yearly. This is a significant increase and tribes can earn five to ten times more from wild harvesting than from agriculture and silviculture. Sustainable harvesting does depend on stable and accessible markets for the products and without these the value drops because products will have to be sold at local markets for significantly less. Even still, this affords the greatest long-term profits.
Looking solely at the monetary value of the renewable resources in the rainforest, there should be little question which is more beneficial. Factoring in the benefit to the environment as well as to the local people and investors, there should no question at all. Harvesting these types of resources not only creates awareness, but also creates an incentive to further protect this fragile environment.