What if Sweden had received forestry assistance?


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In the middle of the last century Swedish forest cover appeared to be irreversibly disappearing. In Southern Sweden, where population pressure was the highest, forests were rapidly transformed into farmland. In the central parts of the country, mining activities created a tremendous demand for timber and charcoal. Loggers cut down large areas of forest in Northern Sweden to feed English industrial development.

For decades, the Swedes made little progress in stabilizing their forests. The need for government regulation was almost continuously discussed but there was little action, in part due to widespread corruption.

Eventually though, things changed. Locally-controlled County Forest Boards began to exercise strong control, while providing incentives for forest management. Broad changes in Swedish agriculture and society reduced pressure on forests. Gradually, Sweden’s modern forestry sector, based on sustainable timber production, was born.

In a recent paper, titled ’From Industrial Forestry to National Resource Management – Lessons Learned in Forestry Assistance’, CIFOR researchers Reidar Persson speculates on what might have happened if Sweden had received forestry assistance back in the 1860s when its forest resources were in crisis. He then goes on to review forestry assistance more generally, based on his many years of experience as one of the Swedish government’s top forestry advisers.

In the case of Sweden, Persson feels that support to education and research could have produced some results – but not in the short-term. Temporary efforts to strengthen Sweden’s forest administration could probably not have been maintained after foreign support was terminated.

Foreign assistance for the elaboration of new forestry legislation would have yielded very limited results. Support to local organizations propagating tree planting might have speeded the process up – but it could have also undermined individual and private initiatives. The same goes for support to the national forestry organizations that already existed but were still very young.

What does Persson propose? Read his paper…..

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Further reading

If you would like to send comments about the topic of this message to the author or request a copy of his paper, you can write Reidar Persson at mailto:r.persson@cgnet.com