The debate on causes of and remedies for tropical deforestation is often confused because the underlying assumptions of the arguments are not made explicit. This paper compares four different modelling approaches to agricultural expansion and deforestation, and explores the implications of the underlying assumptions about the household objectives, the labour market, and the property rights regime. A major distinction is made between population and market driven approaches, and the labour market assumption is critical in this respect. Many of the popular policy prescriptions are based on the population approach. The paper shows that within a more realistic - particularly for the long term effects - market approach, well intentioned policies such as intensification programmes may boost deforestation. Many frontier agricultural systems are also characterised by open access where forest clearing gives farmers land rights. Deforestation therefore becomes a title establishment strategy. In this situation, land titling and credit programmes may increase deforestation.

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