Explaining Agricultural Land Expansion and Deforestation in Developing Countries
Posted: 19 Apr 2005
In developing economies, especially those without oil and natural gas reserves, the most important source of natural wealth is agricultural land. In these economies, the agricultural land base is expanding rapidly through conversion of forests, wetlands and other natural habitat (Barbier). Lopez identifies most of Sub-Saharan Africa, parts of East and South East Asia and the tropical forests of South America as regions with abundant land and open-access resource conditions that are prone to agricultural expansion. Widespread land and resource conversion is occurring in many of these areas, mainly due to the high degree of integration of rural areas with the national and international economy as well as population pressures. Agricultural land expansion in many tropical regions is also spurred by the poor intensification of agriculture in many tropical developing countries, where use of irrigation and fertilizer is low (FAO 1997 and 2003). This article explores further the economic factors underlying agricultural land expansion and tropical deforestation in developing countries. The main focus is on land use change in the tropics, as this is where the majority of the world's poorest countries are located. The paper first provides a brief summary of global tropical forest and land use trends. This is followed by an overview of cross-country analyses of deforestation and agricultural land expansion, and from this review an empirical analysis is proposed and applied to a new cross-country data set.
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