Economic viability, critical requirement for sustainable forest management
Forestry's contribution to the informal sector must be taken into account
17 March 2005, Rome - Economic viability, including the environmental and social benefits deriving from forests, is a pre-requisite for wider adoption of sustainable forest management practices, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization said today.
Enhancing economic benefits from forests and trees, and their equitable distribution, are also critical factors in the development of forested areas. Marginalisation of forestry in social and economic development may fuel armed conflicts, whereas sustainable forestry that creates employment and generates income can help to avert the emergence of conflicts and promote post-conflict rehabilitation.
These are some of the conclusions of the 2005 edition of The State of the World's Forests (SOFO 2005), a report presented by FAO this week to about 100 heads of national forestry agencies at the international Committee on Forestry. The report focuses on the changing opportunities and challenges involved in making forest and tree management an economically viable option for the various stakeholders.
"Economic viability in a broad sense is necessary to enable wider adoption of sustainable forest management," said Hosny El-Lakany, Assistant Director-General of the FAO Forestry Department. "And where forests are managed primarily to provide environmental services, society should be willing to bear the costs. This would help towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals of alleviating poverty and ensuring environmental sustainability, two sides of the same coin."
From wood production to processing
The gross value added by the forest sector amounted to US$ 354 billion globally in 2000, or about 1.2 percent of the gross domestic product. This is a decline from 1.6 percent in 1990, a decline characteristic of most primary sectors, including agriculture.
Producing primary forest products alone is unlikely to enhance economic benefits. Much will depend on the ability to move up the value chain, taking advantage of the emerging market opportunities in wood processing, such as the production of furniture. The report notes that the share of gross value added by forests in some countries and regions remains very low, notwithstanding the large extent of the forests involved. This mainly stems from limited success in developing an efficient wood processing sector.
More attention to be paid to the informal sector
The report notes that the economic contribution of the forest sector is often low, largely due to the exclusion of a large informal sector which plays an important role in supporting the livelihoods of rural communities.
Given the growing recognition of the role played by local communities in protecting and managing forests, the report notes the need to improve policy and legal frameworks so as to protect these communities' rights. In addition, it is also essential to address the problems of institutional weaknesses and lack of information that undermine the ability of communities to take full advantage of emerging opportunities.
Not all values generated by forests and trees can be transformed into immediate economic benefits. Attaching a price tag is not going to help sustainable forest management. Many of the benefits provided by forests go beyond national income estimates and immediate markets. In particular, the report concludes there is a need to promote wood as an energy-efficient and more environment-friendly product than many of the available substitutes.
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