According to data from Global Forest Watch, an online mapping platform that tracks deforestation in near-real time, industrial development and forest fires in Canada’s tar sands region has cleared or degraded 775,500 hectares (almost two million acres) of boreal forest since the year 2000. That’s an area more than six times the size of New York City. If the tar sands extraction boom continues, as many predict, we can expect forest loss to increase.
The “resource curse" describes the paradox where countries rich in oil, gas, and minerals remain largely impoverished. Better transparency—both in how governments spend extractive revenues and how natural resource decisions are made—could help tackle this problem. While some new initiatives are making progress on this front, more needs to be done to ensure that drilling and mining doesn’t come at the expense of communities and the land, water, and wildlife they rely on.
The Rights to Resources interactive map presents information on citizen and community rights to natural resources in sub-Saharan Africa.
In much of Africa, the bundle of land rights that most rural people legally hold is relatively small—usually limited to surface rights and certain rights to some natural resources on and below the surface, such as rights to water for domestic use. Many high-value natural resources—such as oil, natural gas, minerals, and wildlife—are governed by separate legal regimes and administered by different public institutions. Africa’s governments often allocate these rights to outside, commonly foreign companies for large-scale operations. In other words, while many communities hold rights to the land, foreign companies hold the rights to the natural resources on or under the same plot. These overlapping rights oftentimes lead to conflict, unsustainable use of resources, and injustices.
Bringing together some of the world’s foremost economic experts to contribute to the global debate about economic policy, and to inform government, business and investment decisions.
Spanning six nations and 500 million acres of land in Central Africa, the Congo Basin contains the second largest contiguous tropical rainforest in the world and is home to a wealth of biodiversity and wildlife. More than 75 million people rely on it for food, fresh water, and shelter. Global demand for the region’s forest and mineral resources is high and growing.
Nowhere is the pressure more intense than in Gabon, a nation with 80 percent of its territory covered by dense tropical forest. With resource use demands spiraling in recent years, Gabon urgently needs better forest management planning if the government is to achieve its goal of becoming an emerging economy while preserving the country’s natural resources.
WRI’s forestry team has been working in Central Africa since 2002 to help nations collect and publish accessible information on forest concessions, logging infrastructure, and protected areas, thus improving transparency and governance in the forest sector.
With assistance from WRI and World Wildlife Fund, Gabon is improving transparency and access to natural resource information by combining forestry, mining, and conservation land use data into a single, public, information atlas. Recognizing the need for vastly improved coordination between various land allocation ministries, as well as the importance of reliable, high quality information for decision-making, the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum, and Hydrocarbons led the initiative in collaboration with the Ministry of Water and Forests. As a result, Gabon can begin to tackle conflicting land use claims and plan for comprehensive and coordinated land use allocation at the national level. In addition, industry and the public, armed with information, can participate more actively in decision-making and monitoring activities.
This multi-stakeholder, multi-sectoral, and transparent approach is setting the foundation for improved land use and management in Gabon.
Canada’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, took a significant step toward promoting transparency and reducing global poverty. He announced yesterday that Canada will implement mandatory reporting requirements for Canadian extractive companies operating both in-country and abroad.
This mandate will require Canadian extractive companies to publicly disclose the payments they make to foreign governments in exchange for permission to operate on their soil. This development will help promote transparency in the mining sector and, if implemented effectively, could help combat the “resource curse.”
Fighting the Resource Curse through Access to Information
Tackling the “resource curse” is a challenge of global proportions. The term applies to situations where, despite a country’s mineral or oil wealth, poverty is exacerbated in part by weak or corrupt institutions, government mismanagement of revenues, and a failure to re-invest into projects that benefit the public—such as infrastructure, education, and healthcare. Often, citizens of resource curse countries aren’t able to hold their governments accountable for this abuse of power because they lack information about their country’s revenues and expenditures (see Box).
This post is the third installment of WRI’s blog series, “Creating a Sustainable Food Future.” The series explores strategies to sustainably feed 9 billion people by 2050. All pieces are based on research being conducted for the 2013-2014 World Resources Report.
An amazing 24 percent of all food calories produced today go uneaten. Reducing this loss and waste is a critical step toward generating enough food for a population set to reach more than 9 billion by 2050.
Fortunately, there are low-cost methods that can begin saving food immediately in both the developing and the developed world. WRI’s new working paper, Reducing Food Loss and Waste, identifies a number of these strategies. Some methods cut loss “close to the farm,” while others reduce waste “close to the fork.”
Reducing Food Loss Close to the Farm
Improved storage methods
Simple, low-cost storage methods can drastically cut food loss, especially for small-scale farmers in the developing world, who frequently lose food to factors like pests, spoilage, and transportation damage. For example, a system developed by researchers at Purdue University in which grain is stored in three interlocking plastic bags locks out pests and keeps grain fresh for months. The Food and Agriculture Organization has built more than 45,000 small, metal storage silos—just big enough for use by a single farmer—in 16 different countries. These silos have cut food loss during the storage phase to almost zero. Even using a plastic crate instead of a plastic sack during transport can cut loss dramatically by preventing bruising and squashing.