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Declaración del Director General de la FAO José Graziano da Silva
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18 July 2016


23rd Session of
the Committee on Forests

It is a great pleasure to welcome all of you to the 23rd (twenty-third) Session of the Committee on Forestry.

Let me begin by thanking His Royal Highness, Prince Laurent, for his continued engagement in advocating the cause of sustainable development as FAO Special Ambassador for Forests and the Environment.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the Paris Agreement on climate change, recognizes that we can no longer look at food security and the management of natural resources separately. 

Both agreements call for a coherent and integrated approach to sustainability across all agricultural sectors and food systems.

Forests and forestry have key roles to play in this regard. In fact, forestry and forests cannot be separated from sustainable development.

They contribute to the water cycle, soil conservation, carbon sequestration as well as habitat protection for pollinators and the natural predators of agricultural pests.

When properly integrated into agricultural landscapes, forests and trees can increase productivity.

They can also help to ensure the food security of millions of people. Small-scale family farmers, for example, often combine crop, livestock and trees production to provide food, feed, fuels and income.

This potential was also recognized / at the World Forestry Congress in Durban, South Africa, last September, which agreed on a new vision for forests and forestry.

We can say that there is already a consensus that progress towards food security and sustainable agriculture should be made in combination with sustainable forest management.

Talking about consensus, let’s remember that today, July 18, is Nelson Mandela International Day. I would like to mention some of his words. I quote: “it is easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who can make peace and build.” End quote.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This years’ edition of the State of the World’s Forests (SOFO), which will be presented today, focuses on the theme of “land use challenges and opportunities of forests and agriculture”.

The key message from SOFO is clear: it is NOT necessary to cut down forests to produce more food.

More than 20 countries have shown that increasing agricultural production and food security and protecting forests are not mutually exclusive.

Seven of these countries have their case studies presented by SOFO 2016, namely Chile, Costa Rica, Gambia, Georgia, Ghana, Tunisia and Vietnam.

The report also shows that forest loss has been concentrated mainly in the tropics and in low-income countries. And that much of this forest loss, around 80 percent, is due to expansion of agricultural production, particularly livestock pastures.

In tropical forests, for example, there was a net loss of 7 million per year between 2000 and 2010, and a net gain in agricultural land of 6 million hectares per year in the same period.  

To revert this situation and achieve sustainable development, countries should seek to establish integrated and balanced land use systems so as to ensure long-term benefits for current and future generations.

This will require improved coordination between policies on forests, agriculture, food security and rural development.

Clear legal frameworks governing land-use change are equally important, including secure land-tenure systems that recognize traditional customary rights and forest products.


Around two thirds of the nationally determined contributions (or NDCs) to address climate change submitted by countries this year foresee actions by the agriculture, forestry and land use sectors.

FAO stands ready to support countries in implementing their NDCs and will be working with global and regional finance institutions to help scale up climate financing in the agriculture sectors.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation has been elevated to the highest priority at FAO, as the Organization is preparing its own strategy on this issue.

In line with this, we will also launch during this COFO Session a new publication on forestry for a low-carbon.

This publication shows how forests and wood products can be integrated into climate change strategies.

Wood-based energy and wood products are two good examples of effective response, with significant mitigation co-benefits.

Wood fuel is used by about one-third of all households worldwide to cook food and boil drinking water. This practice releases each year over two billion tons of carbon dioxide into the air.

However, simple things like improved cook stoves, which burn less wood and emit less greenhouse gases, can make a significant contribution to emissions reduction.

Ladies and Gentlemen

The Second International Conference on Nutrition that was held here at FAO in November 2014 took far-reaching decisions on eliminating all forms of malnutrition as member states adopted the Rome Declaration and the Framework for Action, which encompasses all agricultural sectors, including forests.

As I mentioned before, wood fuel serves as a source of energy for food processing and water sterilization.

Additionally, forest products can be an important safety net for vulnerable households especially during seasons when food is in short supply.

We are looking forward to your guidance on how FAO can assist countries in safeguarding and strengthening the role of forests and trees.

The world has entered a new era in the quest for a sustainable development / and FAO has an important role to play in it.

With your support, we will be able to better serve the global community, making sure that indeed no one will be left behind.

This Session of COFO is very timely as it will allow us to deliberate on the implications of the global developments and the actions needed to implement them.

With that, I wish you all productive deliberations and a successful World Forest Week.