TFCA, established in 1998 by the Department of Treasury, has appropriated over $95 million in Congressional funding via grants and debt-for-nature agreements in twelve developing countries, the majority in Latin American and the Caribbean, but also in Bangladesh, Botswana, and the Philippines. TFCA has particular eligibility requirements for recipient countries, including having a democratically elected government, good human rights record, participation in international narcotics control, and a stipulation that only debts outstanding since before 1998 are able to be reconfigured. While the majority of TFCA monies are transformed into debt-swaps for protection of tropical forests, a substantial portion—over $18 million—has been converted into bilateral “Tropical Forest Conservation Funds” to support grants for sustainable management of tropical forests. Through 2007, 189 local grants had been approved to expend these funds for conservation activities.
TFCA’s greatest impact has been from the $64.4 million earmarked as “debt-for-nature” swaps, transforming debts into protected tropical forests in Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Jamaica, Peru, and twice in Panama. An additional $12 million has been provided by American NGO’s (The Nature Conservancy, Conservation International, and World Wildlife Fund), and more funds have been generated through cost-sharing programs by beneficiary countries. All sources combined had contributed over $116 million through 2007, and projected growth from all sources is expected to reach $163 million by 2017. It is estimated that over the life of the eight debt-swap programs, an astonishing 50 million acres of tropical forests will undergo improved management or permanent conservation. While these numbers are impressive, “improved management” is yet to be defined, and as such it is difficult to evaluate.
TFCA is now threatened by the Tropical Forest and Coral Conservation Reauthorization Act (S. 345) of 2009. As the proposed legislation by Senator Richard Lugar (R-Indiana) will keep congressional appropriations at a consistent $20-$30 million, the budget will be divided between coral reef conservation and forestry, effectively diluting funds for tropical forests.
TFG has been very active in watching TFCA progress in recent years. In 2006 TFG launched an investigative report on the heels of an 18-month lull in new conservation agreements, which in turn was followed months later by three new conservation agreements. TFG continues to urge readers to contact their Representatives to increase allocations for tropical forest conservation in light of the new Reauthorization Act including coral reef conservation. TFG will also be monitoring whether or not future agreements will be modeled into REDD+ projects, and if such allocations will be attributed towards US’s $1 billion commitments in support of the REDD+ Mechanism.