Local and global benefits of subsidizing tropical forest conservation Hunt, Colin

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Hunt, Colin
The article describes and quantifies the financial benefits of small-scale community forestry, conducted on an ecologically sustainable basis - 'eco-forestry', by customary landowners in Papua New Guinea. Through economic modelling the article also attempts to quantify the global benefits generated. Eco-forestry is subsidized by donors directly and through NGOs in its setting up and certification. Financial modelling suggests that, with a subsidy, eco-forestry is capable of generating a return to landowners that is comparable to industrial logging. While the return to logging followed by conversion to agriculture is much more attractive than eco-forestry, agriculture is an option available only in some locations. Economic modelling finds that the external economic benefits emanating from tropical forest conservation that replaces logging in Papua New Guinea are far greater in scale than the financial benefits to landowners. However, the lack of reliable data on the environmental benefits of forest conservation means that economic analysis is somewhat inconclusive. The need for further research to quantify environmental benefits is thus highlighted. The subsidization of forest conservation directly, instead of indirectly through small-scale forestry, is investigated and found to generate a similar level of economic benefits to eco-forestry. However, the cost of direct subsidization is greater. Moreover, mechanisms for direct subsidy are undeveloped in Papua New Guinea. Donors may prefer to continue to subsidize small-scale forestry where it replaces logging because of its apparent conservation and side benefits and because it is operational, while at the same time exploring and extending cost-effective models of direct conservation that have the advantage over eco-forestry of being applicable in more remote areas. Compared with industrial logging, eco-forestry contributes little to consolidated revenue. Therefore it is to be expected that eco-forestry will meet government resistance if it makes significant inroads into the allocation of logging concessions.
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