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FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

The main challenge for Latin America and the Caribbean is to address deforestation, which has declined in recent years but still remains high. Encouragingly, by contrast, the forest area designated for the conservation of biodiversity in the region has grown by 3 million hectares per year since 2000.

Sustainable forest management in Latin America and the Caribbean

Forty-nine percent of the total area of Latin America and the Caribbean is covered by forests: they extend for 891 million hectares, representing approximately 22% of the forest area existing in the world.

The region is home to 57% of the world's primary forests, which are the most important from the viewpoint of biodiversity and conservation.

Eighteen percent of the total forest area in the region is in protected areas and 14% of the total area has been designated for productive functions. The total carbon stored in the forest biomass amounts to 104 gigatons.

Reducing deforestation

The main challenge for governments in the region is to address deforestation, which has declined in recent years but still remains high. Encouragingly, by contrast, the forest area designated for the conservation of biodiversity in the region has grown by 3 million hectares per year since 2000.

According to FAO studies the annual loss of forests in the region during the period 2000-2005 was 4.7 million hectares, corresponding to 65% of global losses.

There is a need to drastically reduce deforestation, forest degradation in the region's developing countries and thus greenhouse gas emissions.

The way to do this is to attach greater economic value to forests and encourage conservation of ecosystems through sustainable forest management and payment for environmental services.

Managing forest resources

Sustainable forest management goes far beyond the problem of deforestation and reforestation: it is concerned with societies and people and the need for the people themselves to maintain and increase forest services, economic benefits and health for their own development and a better quality of life. Strong properly-organized community grass roots organizations are the key to successfully implementing sustainable forest management.

Forestry programmes also seek to establish a viable technical, social and political system for sustainable forestry conservation and development.

The term "national forest programme" is a general term to describe a wide range of approaches to the process of planning, programming and implementing forestry activities in a country, to be applied at national and subnational levels.

They are participatory processes carried out by countries themselves and involve the drawing up of policies, strategies and action plans and their implementation, including monitoring and evaluation.

FAO promotes sustainable forest management and the setting up of national forest programmes and supports countries in managing and caring for their forest resources.

REDPARQUES

The Latin American Technical Cooperation Network on National Parks, other Protected Areas and Wildlife (REDPARQUES) was set up in 1983 by countries in the region with the support of the FAO.

It seeks to foster the management of protected areas in Latin America and the willingness of countries to share the technical knowledge and experience available in the region more effectively.

REDPARQUES is a technical mechanism set up by public and private institutions and by experts in the member countries of the region working in the sphere of protected areas, flora and fauna. Its purpose is to gradually increase technological and management capability, based on an exchange of experiences and knowledge between members and using its own technical, human and financial resources at grassroots level.