Integration is the name of the game... forests and agriculture need to play.

Sustainable development of agriculture cannot be reached without acknowledging the important role forests have in landscapes and in value chains. Agroforestry systems include not only traditional but also modern land-use systems where trees are managed together with crops and/or animal production systems in agricultural settings. Whenever trees can be kept intact rather than be cleared for the purposes of agricultural production and forest ecosystems can thrive alongside crops, the more benefits are reaped. Considering this there is a need to facilitate the integration of agriculture and forestry relevant policies, allowing them to play better, together.

However, what is needed is a forward-looking focus on research, knowledge-generation and scaling-up with development of strong partnership among many different stakeholders. This is exactly what a side event at this year’s CFS 44 entitled ’Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security and nutrition and the SDGs:  research and partners, towards a joint action agenda’ aimed to debate. The event itself was organized in a partnership between a large number of different stakeholders, including: CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry (FTA), FAO, The Netherlands Government, Tropenbos Intl. and SIANI.

A strong case has been made for scaling up agroforestry in order to address the need for more productive and sustainable use of the land while assuring livelihoods and quality nutrition for the growing world population. In fact, as stated by FAO in their presentation on agroforestry, there is a constantly growing body of scientific literature that clearly demonstrates the gains accruing from agroforestry adoption, especially in regards to the improvement of the environment and people’s lives. Continuing to invest in research is therefore essential. As FAO outlines “the agroforestry systems are dynamic, ecologically based, natural resource management systems that diversify and sustain production in order to increase social, economic and environmental benefits for land users at all scales.”

During the event Ms Eva Muller from FAO specifically outlined the strong interest from institutions and private sector stakeholders to strengthen partnerships with researchers in order to develop further programs that can sustain agroforestry practices in different realities. She also pointed out that all stakeholders should promote integrated approaches that look at the landscape and not address forests and agriculture as separate entities.

Her point was further supported by other speakers, especially Ms Kerstin Jonsson Cisse from SIDA who said: “There is no separating of agriculture and forestry – agroforestry is an internationally recognized land use system, which integrates both sides quite well.” She then continued to outline the existing knowledge gaps, development and participatory gaps, calling on institutions and scientists themselves to make the research results available to farmers, conveying them in practical proposals they can comprehend and implement.  She also called for a new way of thinking: “Getting the foresters out of the forest and everyone else in, thinking out of the box in order to assure further development of sustainable practices.” Finally, she stressed the need to close the participatory gap, by assuring that women and youth are equally involved in the management of forests and in the agroforestry practices, by addressing issues such as land access and access to training and finance.

The gender equality aspect was further acknowledged by Ms Cecile Ndjebet from REFACOF, who brought in the view of African women and small holders in the forestry sector. She pointed out that “Women are key actors in guaranteeing food security and combating poverty. We must invest more in women; fight the factors that hinder their full participation and contribution. We must facilitate their economic empowerment, capacity building and access to finance and technology.”

The event and speakers’ contributions were an excellent introduction to the CFS44 plenary discussion on the adoption of the new HLPE report “Sustainable forestry for food security and nutrition”.

I must admit that both the side event and the discussion on the report provided me with interesting insight as to the points of interaction and influence of forestry practices on food security and nutrition (FSN) which I never considered before. I don’t think I am alone in this. In most of the debates around food security, forestry is rarely addressed in depth. Somehow forests do not seem to be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about food security.

That is why I very much welcome the report, which outlines well the main contributions of forests and trees to FSN, starting with the description of the four main channels: direct provision of food, provision of energy (cooking especially), income generation and employment and provision of ecosystem services that are essential for FSN and human health and well-being. Moreover, forests and trees help improve resilience and play a major role as safety nets during drought and lean seasons, helping farmers to better manage risks to their production.

The report, just like the contributors in the side event, also places special attention on the role of women, arguing that even with the lack of gender-disaggregated data, studies suggest that women play a lesser role in income generating activities of the sector, but a major one in the fuel-wood and forest product collection (with important regional differences of course).

In conclusion, I think there is one important forest question very much burning (pun intended) in my mind and that of the reader. How do we address the increasing and competing demands on land, forest and trees whilst assuring food security and nutrition for the growing population and fighting climate change? The growing demand for land comes from different actors with different interests: farmers, companies working with timber, biofuels companies, wood processing industry, the food industry, as well as by various ecosystem services and the need to enlarge cities.

This makes me think it is a game with many more players than just forestry and agriculture.

Well, the report provided recommendations and guidance for this ‘integration game’, and in order to find a winning solution I suggest we need to start playing in line with them. Because the clock is ticking and unfortunately wood burns fast.


This blogpost covers the CFS44 side event “ Forests, trees and agroforestry for food security and nutrition and the SDGs: research and partners, towards a joint action agenda”

Blogpost by Ksenija Simovic, #CFS44 Social Reporter – ksenijasimovic(at)
Photo: Banyan trees (Ficus bengalensis) beside a river
Photo credit: FAO - Forestry Mediabase

This post is part of the live coverage during the 44th Session of the Committee on World Food Security, a social media project supported by GFAR. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

12/10/2017 7:53


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