‘Harvest Moonshine’ taking you for a ride

Chief Raoni, the famous Kayapo indigenous leader and spokesman for the protection of the Amazon rainforest, joined hundreds of people in a protest against the development of infrastructure such as the Belo Monte dam, which will devastate their way of life, Altamira, Brazil, 2013. © Antonio Bonsorte/Amazon Watch

A critique of the ‘rainforest harvest’- its theory and practice

This is an excerpt from an article that was first published in 1993 but is still relevant today. Many of the big conservation organizations still see timber products as a useful way to conserve forests. To view the full article click here

…and believe this of me: there can be no
kernel in this light nut; the soul of this
man is his clothes; trust him not in matter
of heavy consequence…
Shakespeare – All’s well that ends well II.v

Some say that the “harvesting” of rainforest products and their marketing on an international level can save the forests and their inhabitants. Others, including the author of this article, believe this is at best a money-making gimmick and at worst a harmful idea which could have exactly the opposite effects and lead to more destruction. Focussing on the predicament of tribal peoples, the author argues that it is vital for their future that the “harvest” ideology is rejected and that support for them is channelled, not into purchasing power for forest products, but into a worldwide outcry demanding respect for their rights. These beliefs have been attacked by the companies promoting the “harvest” and the debate has become a very serious difference of opinion, the eventual outcome of which could shape the way rainforests and tribal peoples’ issues are seen by the general public for years to come.

Five hundred years ago, when Columbus sailed the ocean blue, he was seeking new ways to trade, or at least a new artery to trade along. And he found what he was looking for; it was not China of course, but it was a new trade route which led to immense profits and the birth of major world empires. Columbus was a man of vision seeking wealth. When selling his audacious idea to his Spanish backers, he argued that it would be enormously beneficial to the “civilised” world – Spain. He was right. Half a millennium later, Spanish is second only to English as the world’s most spoken European language.

Of course everyone knows the consequences for the Indigenous peoples of the Americas.

The parallels with today’s situation should not be exaggerated but they are nonetheless there. Trade remains supremely motivating and the importance it has acquired is not only economic. It is invested with powerful symbolic values, linking it to concepts of prosperity, security and even freedom. Trade (or the rules of trade – which is the same thing) recently brought violence onto the streets of Paris – a quarter century after the riots which toppled de Gaulle. Demonstrations which were held this time not by radical students externalising their youthful rebellion and their new found political philosophy, but by farmers directing their ire at the US government’s attempts to secure the profits of American companies.

With the demise of the Soviet empire, the US must rely increasingly on trade to maintain its position as the world’s most powerful country. Together with its devotional attitude to the “market”, and by no means unrelated to it, goes the fundamentalism of much of the American establishment’s political and religious thinking; in this the USA is perceived, often literally, as God’s chosen land. In the richest country in the world these allied and closely linked philosophies make for a potent stew indeed.

The first rule of Trade (as it is perceived in the West) is of course to make profit. Who trades deliberately at a loss?

This is the stuff of the American Dream and it is never effectively challenged. When environmental and ecological concerns are brought into the picture, as they have been in recent years, they are usually reduced to questions of recycling. That essential sine qua non of “real” eco-thought – to consume less – is quietly shelved. “Consume less” is unlikely to be a rallying cry for any company from the nation which consumes most.

Over half of all new products, and many old ones, marketed in the US over the last few years are packaged and advertised as “Earth friendly”. From dog food to petrol, hair conditioner to nuclear power, advertising men and women are consistently trying to fool consumers into believing that by buying their product they are helping the world. In most cases the only thing that really is green, of course, is the colour of the dollar profits.

So it should come as no surprise that the “rainforest harvest” idea should have originated in the US and be promoted, almost entirely, by US organisations and the government. Their world view would subsume everyone, everywhere, to a market-led future in which the companies control the purse strings.

What is the “rainforest harvest”?

“Rainforest harvest” is a clever expression. It starts with the current craze for rainforests, which everyone thinks are good things (except the governments and some of the people in the countries which actually have them). It links this new fad with the ancient and highly charged symbol of the harvest which has many of the same connotations as “motherhood” and as few detractors.

Strip away the hype, put the idea under serious scrutiny and it begins to dissolve very quickly indeed.

The bare bones of the theory appear simple; if it can be shown that forests contain more value if left standing than if they are felled, then they are more likely to be preserved. The “value” is taken to be the monetary price of products which can be extracted from forests. These are mainly fruits and nuts although timber has also been mentioned, albeit very quietly (see “Logging – tomorrow’s harvest?” p. 8, below).

Advocates of this theory are far from quiet. The idea was forcefully sold to the US press starting in 1989 when it was given widespread publicity. The concept was itself marketed as a key, even_ the _key, to the future for both rainforests and tribal peoples. Its virtues were extolled in glowing terms and compared with other projects which were denigrated as “handouts”; for example, “Trade is much better than a handout and it will be far more effective at protecting forest people… It’s good business, not just for business, but for human rights and the environment.” Or, and more recently, “One of the best ways to help Indigenous groups preserve their native lands is to discover markets for… products.”

So what’s wrong with the theory? Value and profit are not the same thing

A little thought about this rather bizarre idea that a natural area can be preserved by foreigners eating more of its produce – will quickly throw up some rather difficult and complex questions; particularly if the enquirer bears in mind that a lot of rainforest areas, as with many zones of the rural third world, are used to provide subsistence, and not monetary gain, for millions of people. These folk may have very little cash income or even none at all. But anyone who has lived with those who grow or gather their own food will know that they have a much better deal going for them than the urban poor – who grow poorer and poorer as the years pass.

This “subsistence value” of the rainforest is not generally given a monetary equivalent – how can it be, what scale of values would be applied, the price of a daily meal in the nearest village, in Rio, in New York? It is excluded from the “rainforest harvest” equation in the same way that many of the things which people value very deeply are cut out from the so-called “development” process promoted by governments and companies the world over. Where people were born, where their kin are buried, the location of their sacred sites, the complex web of relationships which form a community, even the view from the window, and so on; all these things can be tremendously important to people and all are regularly swept aside by planners who are, themselves, invariably far wealthier than those they are planning for.

How can a price be put on these facets of our lives? But does it not dehumanise us all to ignore them?

The real rainforest harvest is the one which is gathered daily by people who live with and from the forest; and which they eat and use themselves. The new jargon does not refer to this however but only to what can be sold for money.

History teaches something else

The “harvest” concept is rooted in two theses. The first is that increasing the income produced by so-called wilderness areas, in this case rainforests, is fundamental to their protection. The second is to project the future of the inhabitants of these zones as producers of raw materials for North American and European consumers, arguing that forest dwellers will become more secure and empowered as a result.

But in all the publicity which the “harvest” advocates have gained, not one piece of evidence has been presented to support either of these assertions. On the contrary, the historical record shows that neither is probable and that the real effect is more likely to be the exact reverse of what is claimed. If a particular product, say a resin, is found to be more valuable from live trees than is the wood from dead ones, the most likely outcome is the increased cultivation or exploitation of those particular trees and not the conservation of the forest itself.

The principal threat to tropical rainforests is not mining or even logging, but colonisation and settlement. If a forest plant is suddenly found to be valuable to outsiders it will simply attract more colonists and companies into the area to exploit it. Far from encouraging conservation, international marketing has resulted in products being over-exploited to the point of extinction. For example, the extraction of rubber and ivory – the basis for the brutal colonial penetration of the Congo basin in the late 19th century – all but eradicated the rubber vines and elephants over vast areas. The same is true in southeast Asia, where the trade in hornbill ivory, rhino horns, bear paws, bezoar stones, gaharu incense and birds’ nests has led to over-extraction and eventually the local extinction of the species and so the demise of the trade itself.

Rattan has become a very important cash crop in southeast Asia (worth more than $3 billion a year). It is Indigenous to the rainforests and is now collected from huge cultivations by labourers who eke a poor living out of lands which were once their own and which once provided everything they needed.

On the other side of the world the story is the same. Although the first European incursions into the South American rainforest were in search of gold, certain plants were also recognised by the very earliest invaders as being of especial value. For example, the first Christian mission established in Amazonia is still named Canelos; after the cinnamon which attracted the Spaniards who were searching for their own “rainforest harvest” of rare spices which could be sold for great profit in Europe.

Coffee grows moderately well in western Amazonia in Peru, an area of stunning beauty where the forest gains altitude before it dramatically folds into the sky to form the Andes. The inevitable result has been the widespread clearing of the rainforest, and eviction of the Indians, to grow coffee. The fact that it is not an Indigenous plant counts of course for absolutely nothing at all.

Perhaps the most notorious of all rainforest products in history was Amazonian rubber which was once essential for making tyres for the growing motor car industry. The rubber “boom” in the first decade of this century was built on the deaths of tens of thousands of Indian slaves. For example, in just one of the exploitation areas – the Putumayo – 80% of the Indian population was destroyed and several tribes were utterly annihilated within a few years of contact with this “harvest”.

Rural inhabitants, including Indigenous peoples, have not become more secure or empowered by becoming suppliers of raw materials for foreign markets. At best they have become exploited and dispossessed. At worst, dead…

A stale integrationist idea trying to look fresh and green

There are other reasons why the conceptual framework which produced the current “rainforest harvest” hype is ultimately disastrous for tribal peoples…

Over the last quarter century an immense amount of work has been done by Indigenous peoples and their supporters in opposing the main threat to their survival – the invasion of their lands by outsiders and the denial of their land rights. However, when organisations were first formed in Europe in the 1960s to support tribal peoples’ rights, the philosophical debate centred not on land but on what were seen as the opposing poles of “integration” versus “isolation”. “Integration” was the philosophy promoted by governments. Generally fearful of anyone with a separate identity and eager to appropriate tribal lands, governments of all political persuasions declared that Indigenous peoples were to be “elevated” into the rest of national society and “integrated” or “civilised”.

Indigenous peoples’ supporters knew that “integration” spelt death for societies and individuals. But it was not until the emergence of Indigenous peoples’ own organisations (initially in North America, and in Colombia in 1971) – federations which were at first designed to make a stand for their moral and legal rights and later to publicise their struggle to outsiders – that support groups realised that the real fight was not against integration and for isolation, but was really to support Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination. And self-determination was inextricably bound up with, and dependent on, the recognition and enforcement of their right to the lands they use and occupy. Indeed, what self-determination actually means is largely the right to control one’s own land and resources – and so one’s own future.

Support groups were slower to recognise this than either Indigenous peoples themselves (not surprisingly) or the governments of the countries in which they live. For a century and more, the laws stacked up against tribal peoples; from the infamous Dawes Act in the US in 1887 which laid down the conditions under which a Native American would cease to be legally regarded as an Indian and so not be “protected” by any treaty, to the notorious Chilean laws brought in by the Pinochet government in 1979 which legislated for the breaking up of communal land holdings, the onslaught on land rights was universal and all encompassing. What the introduced diseases and military and missionary invasions had not completely achieved, new integrationist laws would finish.

The fact that “integrationism” has been pretty well killed and buried must be judged one of the most successful aspects of the campaign for tribal peoples since the 1960s. In 1989, twenty years after the formation of groups such as the International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs and Survival International, tribal people and their supporters even succeeded in changing the international law at the ILO in Geneva.

In Brazil, where the campaign started and where much of it is still focussed, recurrent attempts to revive the “emancipation” of the Indians through new laws (designed to deny their identity and special status) have been repeatedly defeated. Today, integrationist thinking rears its head only in the most extreme political doctrines, both right and left, and in the most repressive regimes, such as Indonesia and Bangladesh. The push for land rights has taken a quarter century to really enter public awareness. But it has succeeded. Nowadays, all serious observers of these issues, and much of the concerned general public, are well aware that the survival of tribal peoples hinges on land rights.

The ideologies of both integration and isolation should have disappeared from thedebate; and certainly the terms themselves are hardly ever used in serious discussion. But on examination the “harvest” ideology reveals itself to be essentially an integrationist argument dressed in snazzy, green clothes; a retrograde philosophy which, if allowed to gain momentum, could set the campaign for tribal peoples back 25 years or more by playing right into the hands of those who want to oppose the movement for land rights.

The principal objection against recognising Indigenous peoples’ land has come from the governments, land owners and military forces of the countries concerned, and the main plank in their argument is that the tribes are asking for far too much; tens of thousands of hectares for thousands of people. They argue that the people do not use the land productively, they do not really work it, so why should they be “given” it, especially when the urban conurbations are seething with millions of landless poor. The intelligent reply to this is simple; no, Indigenous people do not use the land in a way we would necessarily recognise but these areas are not productive in the way that farm land is – the rainforest is really just a wet desert living off its own rotting detritus – and the people need these large areas to live in the way they choose. They do use it but not necessarily in our terms. The acute problems in many of these countries, which fuel the invasion of tribal lands, do not arise from a lack of land but a lack of land reform; practically all the good, productive areas are owned by a few dozen companies and families. The poor become poorer whilst the rich become richer. Fobbing the poor off with the territories of Indigenous peoples who cannot properly defend themselves and who are asking for their moral and legal rights to areas which have always been theirs, simply perpetuates the injustice. It can never solve it.

But tribal peoples’ fight for the recognition of their land rights is profoundly subverted by the “rainforest harvest”philosophy which declares that land can be valued by its productive capacity and measured in terms of cash. “Harvest” advocates argue that Indigenous peoples, “Can strengthen land tenure status by demonstrating gainful use of the land.” The message here is clear; tribal peoples’ land rights are linked to their joining the market economy and using land in a way we recognise as “gainful” – in other words excluding hunting, gathering or growing subsistence crops. Land rights are related to profit and productivity for outside markets. This thesis from the “harvest” advocates precisely conforms to the arguments which have been used by anti-Indian politicians, for example, in Brazil since the 1970s. It would find hearty endorsement from Costa Cavalcanti, the president of the government’s once notoriously corrupt Indian agency, FUNAI, who said in 1969, “We do not want a marginalised Indian, what we want is a producing Indian, one integrated into the process of national development.”

If allowed to take hold, this new integrationist ethic masquerading as environmentalism will be deeply corrosive to the struggle which so many Indigenous peoples’ organisations are waging to teach the outside world that their land is not for sale and that they will not put a cash value on it any more than they would sell their own mother.

Ordinary marketing versus the hyped “harvest”

But, for the sake of the argument, let us for a moment put all these general objections on one side. Suppose an Indigenous community wants to get a cash income from selling some product – surely there is nothing wrong with that? Of course there isn’t! Many do and have been doing so for years, if not generations. This often involves outside intermediaries; for example, practically all Roman Catholic missions in rainforest areas – and there are literally thousands of them – encourage Indigenous people in the marketing of their goods and produce. A few do this fairly and honestly, many do it unfairly and dishonestly, but either way no one has ever promulgated the fanciful idea that such marketing is going to help preserve the rainforest. It won’t. It may provide some cash income; making the “fair trade” concept a helpful idea when it is appropriately applied to people whose real crisis stems from acute poverty. But it is very wrong to pretend it is a solution for tribal societies who grow or gather most of their food and who face an entirely different set of problems – principally the invasion and expropriation of their lands.

The best marketing schemes are those which arise from the people themselves and are controlled by them; are appropriate within their economic and social situation; lead to genuine economic independence from exploitative middlemen; promote cohesiveness rather than division within the communities concerned; and are not carried out by outside organisations for their own profit. Profits should belong to the community which should be under no coercion if it wishes to abandon the scheme.

Dozens of support organisations have assisted these kinds of marketing projects over the years. The main difference between these usually quite small-scale enterprises and the “harvest” – putting aside the hyped-up claims – is that the former are usually geared to supplying a local market with a food crop, usually a staple, or some handicraft, whereas the “harvest” is based on producing for a foreign buyer who controls the project and will use the raw material in non-essential and even luxury goods such as candy bars or hair conditioner (or dog food, some of which is now marketed in the US under a rainforest label!).

Commercialisation is obviously important for many Indigenous peoples and it goes without saying that many will willingly use the “harvest” as an opportunity to make some money. Naturally they have every right to do so and to choose their own intermediaries with outside and, if they wish, international markets. However they should be under no illusions about who is controlling “harvest” schemes or about the risks involved in gearing output to these faddish products. Indeed, they might be well advised not to rely too heavily on the high prices currently offered by “harvest” proponents. They are unlikely to last.

Dependence and bondage, not freedom and empowerment

The “harvest” will not empower the rainforest community. By making it dependent on a foreigner who must pay more than any local buyer the real effect is to tie the people into exactly the same relationship of dependence and patronage as any of the traditional forms of exploitation through which the wealthy dictate trading terms to impoverished people and countries.

The argument in defence of the “harvest” which asserts that tribal peoples can choose if they wish to join in or not – “it’s their choice” – is irrelevant. Even if the “harvest” spreads, it will affect only a few, selected rainforest communities – those near viable methods of transport which in addition have: something valuable to outsiders; the time and desire to harvest it for cash instead of using it for subsistence; internal structures able to cope with receiving and allocating considerable amounts of money; and who have actually been approached by a foreign company willing to buy from them.

A handful may earn a lot of money, perhaps even get rich – that is not being disputed. In fact they will earn just as much, or as little, as the company wants to pay. They will have no influence over this. They will not control the transport of their product to the market or have access to a range of buyers; the markets and buyers are thousands of miles away, operate in a very different culture, in a different language, with a different currency, and are driven by a fierce competition geared to profit. When the forest communities become dependent on the monetary income earned, their future will be entirely at the whim of the company, at the mercy of consumer demand in the rich countries – demand which can fast fluctuate or collapse. Should the company change its mind about the price, or the amount it wants to buy, or should it want a different product, or to pull out of the deal altogether, the community would be able to do absolutely nothing about it. It may, or may not, earn more cash than its neighbours, but the only partner becoming empowered by the whole sorry process would be the foreign company and not the rainforest community. For people who are already producing for markets, such projects simply replace one “patrón”, one “patrão”, one big boss, for another, locking those who collect the product into just another chain of dependency; one which may actually be worse than if the community dealt with local buyers for local markets because, at least then, the price would be verifiable and the expectations would be realistic.

To present this theory as an innovative way to save the forests, as a trail blazing system to liberate rainforest inhabitants, is at best a dangerous naïvety. At worst it is little more than a fraud springing from an opportunity to profit from consumers’ goodwill.

Same old debt

A characteristic of the “harvest” companies since the criticisms began to emerge is that they fail to provide any real financial details of their projects. One fact which is hardly ever mentioned in the public hype is that many (or even all?) of the schemes use seed finance in the form of loans rather than grants. This makes it difficult to escape the conclusion that the forest communities concerned are being tied to the product in a way which does not appear to be so very different from the old system called “debt-bondage” which chained hundreds of Amazonian communities to “bosses” who advanced loans against produce and so exploited the workers to the hilt.

In addition, there is a question mark over what happens to all the profits. Do they actually find their way back to the communities? It does seem clear that hundreds of thousands of dollars are flowing into the “harvest” companies’ coffers and that the US government itself is offering support to the tune of several million dollars more. Who is really profiting – the rainforest communities or the companies?

Logging – tomorrow’s harvest?

It is important to note a quiet fact which may be peripheral now but could prove central in years to come if the “harvesters” continue to win support. As well as inventing the “rainforest harvest” itself, its advocates play heavily on another piece of jargon which is worth examination, “NTFPs”. This stands for Non-Timber Forest Products and is taken to mean mainly fruits and nuts. But “harvest” proponents have let slip, here and there, that they actually believe that timber itself could eventually prove an important plank in their schemes (no pun intended!). They keep this largely to themselves because they are struggling to give the impression that they are both ethically and environmentally sound and many of the organisations they are trying to seduce are fervently opposed to logging because of its role in rainforest destruction. “Harvest” proponents do not want to be seen as potential lumberjacks even though their, barely whispered, message is more or less identical to the one being peddled by the timber importers who have now mounted their own campaign, called “Forests Forever”, in a cynical public relations exercise to try and subvert the fierce criticism which has been mounted against their activities over the last few years.

The timber traders say that judicious felling can actually preserve forests and is therefore environmentally sound. This is not necessarily quite as daft as it sounds. It may be that careful logging could extract timber which is far more valuable than any fruit or nuts, and still not destroy the forest entirely. The problem is, firstly, that no one has any idea if tropical rainforests actually can be logged sustainably or not; as the valuable wood takes years to grow, the forest takes decades to regenerate, and the research has only been under way for a short time. But secondly, and perhaps more importantly, the logging is not and will never be carried out “judiciously and carefully”; any more than any other extractive industry is, in countries where controls are ignored and corruption starts at the top. Already British mahogany importers are hiding behind Brazilian certificates attesting that their wood is most definitely not being taken from Indian reserves or conservation zones. These certificates are falsified. In fact most imported timber is now coming from Indian areas.

“Harvesters” say that higher prices paid for forest produce will promote conservation. But reality proves the reverse. Higher prices for timber, for example, translate into more ruthless cutting and make extraction from more and more remote areas financially attractive. Higher prices mean more intensive exploitation and where the timber roads go devastation soon follows.

The above arguments about the fundamental flaws in “rainforest harvest” theory are viewed from the perspective of the rainforest and its inhabitants. Before moving on from criticising “harvest” theory, which is bad, to looking at “harvest” practice, which is worse, attention must be given to the effect on the intended consumer in the “west” and whether he or she can play an important role in the future of the forests and, if so, what that may, or more importantly may not, be.

Turning campaigners into consumers

Imagine a rainforest community extracting Brazil nuts and selling them to a foreign company which pays more than local buyers. The company exports the nuts to North America and Europe and also sells them at a higher price than its competitors. It has to charge more (or be content with smaller profits) in order to pay the producer more than others will. But why should consumers pay a higher price for one lot of Brazil nuts than for another? The answer is that he or she thinks that the money is going to help save the rainforest and its inhabitants. The buyer is prepared to pay a bit extra, secure in the knowledge that he or she has done some good by buying the “right brand” as opposed to cheaper nuts which do not help anyone.

That scenario is not hypothetical. It is actually what “harvest” advocates say is happening now. And they are certainly right on one count. Recent studies have shown that a significant number of people are prepared to pay extra if they think a product is environmentally or ethically sound. Of course for them to think this, they have to have been told it and told it loudly. This was the reason for the vigorous media onslaught in praise of the “harvest” and its leading product, a candy bar called “Rainforest Crunch”, which began in 1989 in the US. Both the establishment and alternative press became greatly enamoured with the story which secured far more column inches than any other tribal peoples-related issue; in spite of the fact that the same year saw the most intense phase of the genocide against the Yanomami – one of the largest relatively intact Indian people remaining in the Americas.

This illustrates one of the most important reasons why the “harvest” should be opposed by those seeking justice for Indigenous peoples. In 1989 and indeed subsequently, there were far more Americans who knew about Brazil nut bars supposedly coming from Amazonia than there were who knew that the 500 year-old invasion was alive and well and killing Yanomami children at the same time as the comparatively wealthy were gobbling their “ethical” candy.

In reality there are only two ways by which small populations of tribal peoples living in resource-rich areas are going to survive (and, perhaps also, by which rainforests are going to continue to shield parts of our only planet in their warm, fecund and life-giving shroud when our grandchildren and their grandchildren walk this Earth). They would be saved by the demise of “western civilisation” – and there are those who believe that is inevitable. Or they will be saved when many people know deeply, and are prepared to say loudly, that Indigenous peoples’ rights to their land must be upheld. This is already happening, at least in some sectors. The opinion held by the general public can change the world. Indeed, apart from cataclysm, it is the only thing that ever has.

There is absolutely no doubt that the huge advances in tribal peoples’ rights which have been secured over the last 25 years have resulted from a sea-change in international public opinion. As Indigenous peoples have fought their own battles, with considerable success in many areas, the general public’s concern has acted like a shield, making it far more difficult for governments and armies simply to kill them. It has also stopped wars, forced repressive dictators out and pushed governments into acknowledging environmental and human rights issues which were once ignored or even denigrated.

But the “rainforest harvest”, also, can only work if public opinion is firmly behind it; if people really think that by buying such products, they are helping Indigenous peoples and saving their forest homes. It is not difficult to understand why it is so easy to get press attention for this fairy story. For the last five or six years, widespread concern has been very effectively aroused about the future of the forests; and now the public is desperate for “solutions”. With the claims made for the “harvest”, no one can lose. Consumers can consume even more, companies can make profits, forest communities can earn an income, the environment is saved… No one and nothing is criticised. The_ causes_ of rainforest destruction and the invasion of tribal peoples’ lands are not addressed. This is not a panacea, a placebo or even a quick fix, it is just slow poison.

The message to the consumer will become: don’t worry about lobbying your Member of Parliament, or the timber importers, or writing to governments, the press or companies, don’t worry about mobilising public opinion with hard-hitting international campaigns – just eat more Brazil nuts. With Orwellian logic, the “harvesters” actually go so far as to claim that buying these products is, in itself, action for human rights and the environment.

The level of this press coverage will now have to be stepped up if the “harvesters” are going to come anywhere near meeting their own targets. Turnover in the principal US “harvest” company stood at $824,000 in 1991 but is projected at a staggering $48 million in the “current five-year
marketing strategy.” On average, that is an Increase of well over one thousand per cent. By the year 2010, it envisages “returning” nearly one thousand million dollars to “forest based groups”. No one pretends that this can be achieved unless there is a great deal of media attention extolling the virtues of the “harvest”. Such publicity is bound to eclipse serious human rights concerns, as it
has done since 1989.

“Harvest” companies seek press coverage for their schemes and not for the real issues confronting tribal peoples. If the “harvest” is allowed to grow, then public awareness of Indigenous peoples and rainforest issues will be demeaned to the level of buying one sort of nut crunch as opposed to another. This is profoundly subversive to campaigns which tribal peoples and their supporters have waged against apparently insurmountable odds for two decades and more.

Continue reading this article here where Stephen Corry discusses how the rainforest “harvest” schemes worked in practice and the impact of these schemes in the 1990s.