'Throughout Africa as a whole, nearly 60% of new agricultural land was derived from intact forests, and another 35% came from disturbed forests. The remaining 5% of new agricultural land was taken from shrublands'.
More than 80% of new agricultural land came from intact and disturbed forests in the 1980's and 1990's. Although differences occur across the tropical forest belt, the basic pattern is the same: The majority of the land for agricultural and tree plantation expansion comes from forests, woodlands, and savannas, not from previously cleared lands. The majority of the land for agricultural and tree plantation expansion comes from forests, woodlands, and savannas, not from previously cleared lands. The article explains that by the year 2050, worldwide demand for agricultural products is expected to increase by ∼50% and evidence suggests that tropical countries will be called on to meet much of this demand.
Without new provisions, lucrative and increasingly large-scale agriculture will continue to clear forests in the path of expansion. However, with policies such as REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation) in place, farmers and large-scale producers would have greater incentives to improve management of previously cleared land.
Gibbs, H. K., Ruesch, A. S., Achard, F., Clayton, M. K., Holmgren, P., Ramankutty, N., & Foley, J. A. (2010). Tropical forests were the primary sources of new agricultural land in the 1980s and 1990s. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(38), 16732-16737.