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Deforestation presents multiple problems for societies and environment. The long-term consequences of global deforestation do not lend themselves to sustainable development. Some of the negative outcomes of deforestation include: loss of biodiversity; the destruction of forest-based-societies; and climatic disruption.

Deforestation is not a recent phenomenon. For centuries, human beings have cut down trees to clear space for land cultivation, or in order to use the wood for fuel. Nevertheless, over the last 200 years, and especially during the second half of the 20th century, forests have been fragmented or lost mainly due to politically and economically short-term motivations. Almost half of the planet's original forest has been destroyed, mostly during the last three decades. Reasons are multiple and range from industrial logging to agriculture and industrial development. Especially in countries with little access to fossil fuels, close to half of the harvested wood is being burned for cooking, heating or charcoal production. for later burning.

The deforestation that has occurred and still is occurring in tropical rainforests is of serious concern, since almost all nutrients in tropical forest ecosystems are kept in the vegetation rather than in the soil. Rain forest topsoil, which can take over a thousand years to accumulate, can be eroded in just one decade. Once forests have been cut down, essential nutrients are washed out of the soil all-together. Without trees to keep the soil in place, the soil becomes ripe for erosion caused by natural elements as rain and wind. This makes the land unusable, and can in turn lead to disastrous flooding since there is no soil to soak up and store the rain. In addition, erosion reduces the amount of fertile soil on the ground, making soil scarcity a genuine problem.

Although the impacts of deforestation has been high on the international agenda for two decades, little has been achieved so far. The Bank is currently finalizing its revised approach to forests issues, in recognition of the fact that forests and the fight against deforestation play an increasingly important role in poverty alleviation, economic development and for providing local as well as global environmental services. Success in establishing sustainable forest management practices depends not only on changing the behavior of all critical stakeholders, but also on a wide range of partnerships to accomplish what no country, government agency, donor, or interest group can do alone.