Causes of Deforestation

The causes of deforestation are multiple, complex and vary from country to country. Local pressures arise from communities using forests to provide sources of food, fuel and farmland. Poverty and population pressure can lead to the loss of forest cover, trapping people in perpetual poverty.

Whilst millions of people still cut down trees to provide a living for their families, a major cause of deforestation is now large-scale agriculture driven by consumer demand. In recent decades deforestation has shifted from a largely state-initiated to an enterprise-driven process.


The drivers of the demand for agricultural land vary globally. In Africa, it is primarily small-scale subsistence farming. In South America, it is large-scale farming enterprises, producing beef and soy for export markets.

In South East Asia, the driving force is somewhere between the two, with palm oil, coffee and timber the main products. Demand for timber also drives deforestation and therefore contributes to land-use change emissions. See the image below for Regions of deforestation in recent decades.



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