Towards environmental sustainability

In 1992, the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) set the guiding principles for sustainable development. The"Forest principles"andChapter 11 of Agenda 21enshrine the commitments made by nations about sustainable forest management.

Sustainable forest managementhas the purpose of ensuring that goods and services derived from the forest meet present-day needs, while at the same time securing their continued availability and contribution to long-term development.

Sustainable forest management, therefore, involves planning the production of wood for commercial purposes as well as meeting local needs for fuelwood, poles, food, fodder and other purposes. It includes the protection or setting aside of areas to be managed as plant or wildlife reserves or for recreational or environmental purposes. It is concerned with ensuring that conversion of forest lands to agriculture and other uses is done in a properly planned and controlled way. It also covers the regeneration of wastelands and degraded forests, the integration of trees in the farming landscape and the promotion of agroforestry.

In its broadest sense, sustainable forest management encompasses the administrative, legal, technical, economic, social and environmental aspects of the conservation and use of forests. Hence it is a multidisciplinary task, requiring collaboration among government agencies, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and, above all, people, especially rural people. It applies at local, national, regional and global levels.

Nevertheless, many developing countries have inadequate funding and human resources for the preparation, implementation and monitoring of forest management plans; they also lack mechanisms to ensure the participation and involvement of all stakeholders in forest planning and development. FAO helps member countries overcome these constraints through the provision of information, technical capacity-building and policy advice.

FAO also collects analyses and disseminates information; prepares manuals and guidelines; and organizes workshops and seminars that facilitate the dissemination of best practices and the exchange of experiences. Field projects are implemented in all types of natural forests.

last updated:  Monday, February 28, 2005