Home > About FAO > Who we are > Director-General > Statements > detail
A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
Check against delivery

21 March 2017

International Day of Forests


His Excellency Jioji Konrote, President of the Republic of Fiji;

Ms. Monique Barbut, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, the UNCCD;

Ms. Riika Joukio, Senior Vice President of the Metsa Group;


Colleagues from FAO, WFP, IFAD and other UN Agencies;

Distinguished guests;

Ladies and gentlemen;

I thank you all for joining us today to celebrate the International Day of Forests 2017.

We are honoured to have the presence of President Konrote of Fiji, who has been a global leader in advocating for sustainable development.

This year’s theme for the International Day of Forests was chosen to highlight the close link between forests and energy.

Let me give some figures:

Wood is still providing about 40% of the global renewable energy supply. This is as much as solar, hydroelectric and wind power combined.

And nearly 50% of the global wood production (almost 2 billion cubic meters) is used as energy for cooking, heating, and electricity generation.

For more than 2 billion people worldwide, wood fuel means a cooked meal, boiled water for safe drinking, and a warm dwelling.

This is especially important for poor people in rural areas of developing countries, where wood is often the only energy source available.

In addition, almost 900 million people in developing countries are employed in the wood energy sector.

So wood fuel is of fundamental importance for the livelihoods of millions of people.

But it has historically brought some serious challenges.

Much of the current production of wood energy is unsustainable, contributing to the degradation of forests and soils, and to the emission of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

In many regions, the conversion to charcoal is often done using rudimentary and polluting methods.

In Sub-Saharan Africa, the production of wood energy is responsible for 50% of forest destruction and degradation.

So this International Day provides an opportunity to raise awareness about the potential and also the challenges of energy production from forests.

Wood is a renewable source of energy that can be part of a sustainable future.

But for this to become reality, some current trends must be turned around.

We need, for instance, to adopt improved technologies for energy conversion.

FAO is participating in several programmes to deliver fuel-efficient stoves, especially for poor people in Latin America and Africa.

These stoves not only help to preserve natural resources, but also to meet the needs of households for cooking.
In South Sudan, FAO and partners have distributed more than 30 000 (thirty thousand) fuel-efficient stoves, as part of the Emergency Livelihood Response Programme.

Also in Sub-Saharan countries like Côte d’Ivoire, FAO has helped to develop and disseminate an improved smoking oven for fishing communities to smoke their fish in a healthier and more efficient way.

This has reduced firewood consumption by more than 80%. 

And today, FAO is also launching a new publication called “The charcoal transition’’.

The publication highlights how to reduce greenhouse gas emissions along the charcoal value chain.

It also offers policy options for a climate-smart charcoal sector.

Ensuring access to affordable, reliable and sustainable energy is one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 7 to be precise. 

And this is also fundamental for addressing the impacts of climate change, and for eliminating extreme poverty and hunger.

I wish you all a happy International Forests Day, and thank you very much for your attention.