By 2015 we had felled 46 percent of the world’s trees
since humans first began cutting them down. In many rainforests, the rate at which we are destroying them is increasing, which is a disaster for the people who live there, biodiversity and the climate.
There are many causes of deforestation, but economics play a big role. Local governments in poor regions encourage forest clearings to make way for farmland which produces food and animal feed that is exported to the UK, EU and USA. Similarly, permissions are granted for unsustainable practices like logging, mining and oil extraction. Poor communities also rely on cutting down trees to use as fuel or to sell. It will be impossible to prevent deforestation without addressing local inequalities. Some countries have even argued that wealthy nations should pay
for the services provided by healthy rainforests, such as rainfall generation and carbon storage.
Responsible tourism is one of the best long-term ways to sustain local economies in rainforest areas. It has also been successful in regenerating areas of damaged rainforest, helping to protect the rights of indigenous people and funding wildlife conservation projects. The importance of tourism in conservation has been highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Covid-19 has caused a massive problem,” says Aled Evans from our Africa travel specialists Undiscovered Destinations. “The guides, park rangers, security – they’re all paid for by the tourists. If the protection teams aren’t there, then poachers are going to go in. And it’s not just the Congo; it’s elsewhere. It’s vital that people start traveling again.”