Agriculture and Deforestation: Is REDD+ Rooted In Evidence?
This article deals with the links between agricultural technologies and tropical deforestation in order to determine whether and how the REDD + mechanism (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) might address agriculture expansion on forests. We study in the first place the Borlaug/land sparing hypothesis, according to which an increase in agricultural productivity per hectare leads to reduced cultivated areas, or at least is a prerequisite for such an outcome, but we find serious limitations when translated in economic terms. Further confrontation with empirical results from case-studies confirms the lack of robustness of the land sparing hypothesis: various kinds of changes in agricultural technologies in various contexts generate various types of impacts on forest cover. Increasing productivity per hectare can be done in many ways and has uncertain consequences on forest cover. Public support policies need to be funded in priority to guarantee that agricultural land reforms work in favour of reducing deforestation. Subsequently, we study the strategies that were elaborated by five countries in the framework of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, which is a prominent supporter of REDD+-readiness. Their analysis shows the poor reflection in these national strategies of the academic debate/research results on the impact of agricultural technologies on deforestation. This gap between science and policy making deserves recognition for improvement, if one wishes most effective use of this new and unprecedented source of finance for reversing the tropical deforestation. But the extremely complex relations between agricultural technologies and deforestation also plead for the promotion and financing of public support policies as one promising way to secure positive outcomes of agricultural technologies.