World Rainforest Movement

Plantations’ impacts are always social

Impacts of tree monocultures are usually analysed under two broad headings: environmental and social. The former involves impacts on water, soil, biodiversity and landscape, while the latter includes social and economic impacts. Though useful as an analytical tool, such division can however hide the fact that all impacts are -in the short or in the long run- social, since it is local people who live nearby plantations or who are displaced by them who suffer the consequences.

When tree monocultures cause a deficit in the hydrological cycle this is not just a negative figure in the water balance, which naturally will affect natural attributes of the ecosystem, but a shortage in the water supply for local people, for whom it is an essential resource for drinking, agriculture, cattle raising, fishing. When the soil is eroded or its fertility levels decrease under plantations, it means that the future alternative use of the land is under threat. When the populations of plant and animal species are altered in their number and composition it is not just something to be registered in a species census. It means that gathering and hunting to provide food and other needs for local people will diminish or even that important imbalances can occur, giving rise to pest outbreaks that will affect local peoples’ crops and animals.

The above and other aspects related to impacts of and resistance to plantations were addressed in a presentation made recently by WRM’s International Coordinator in Ecuador at a seminar held in the framework of the Friends of the Earth General Assembly.