Food security and livelihoods

Key messages

Food Security

  • Forests and trees on farms are a source of food and cash income for more than a billion of the world's poorest people.
  • An estimated 2.4 billion people rely on wood fuel, including charcoal, for cooking and boiling water. The use of wood as a source of energy is vital for local economies, and for maximizing the palatability and nutritional value of foods that require cooking and for water sterilization.
  • Forest products (non-wood and timber) are often the basis of small-scale enterprises. Such products can be particularly important in arid and semi-arid areas where agricultural products are vulnerable to external threats such as drought or extreme weather events.
  • Forest foods and tree products, such as leaves, fruits, seeds and nuts, roots and tubers, mushrooms, honey, wild animals and insects, have been important components of rural diets for millennia and provide nutrient-rich supplements for rural households.


  • 80% of the world’s forests are publicly owned and therefore strengthening policy, legal and institutional frameworks that improve local people's rights to access and manage forest resources goes a long way to improve livelihoods.
  • For millions of people living in poverty, forest and tree resources not only provide food, fuel for cooking and heating, medicine, shelter and clothing, but they also function as safety nets in crises or emergencies.
  • Rattan, bamboo, paper fibers, cloth fibers, traditional thatching materials, ethnic foodstuffs and spices, medicinal plants, fruits and seeds are examples of non-wood forest products and of the wide range of forest products managed by local communities.


Forest and Farm Facility amplifies the potential of forest and farm producer groups The Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) works directly with producer organizations to help them become stronger, amplify their potential and connect with each other. [more]
Forests for food security and nutrition Forests provide an estimated one billion people globally with nutritious foods. Their products are consumed directly by people living in and around forests and are also sold, generating income for rural populations. [more]
Boosting income and forest cover in Viet Nam In Viet Nam, food security and forest cover have both increased significantly in the last 25 years thanks to economic and agricultural reforms as well as an increased emphasis on community-based forest management. [more]
State of the World’s Forests 2016: Forests and agriculture - land use challenges and opportunities Agriculture remains the most significant driver of global deforestation. However, it is possible under certain conditions to achieve sustainable agriculture and food security while also halting deforestation. [more]


All food security and livelihoods videos 


FAO's work with indigenous peoples in forestry Indigenous peoples manage approximately 28 percent of the world’s land surface, including some of the most ecologically intact forest areas. They are the custodians of much of the remaining forest biodiversity and are critical stakeholders in climate-change mitigation. [more]
Women’s land rights and agrarian change: evidence from indigenous communities in Cambodia This research analyses the ways in which current changes in land tenure, agrarian and socio-economicsystems are reshaping resource allocations and transfers within households in indigenous communities in Ratanakiri Province, Cambodia. [more]
Sustainable management of Miombo woodlands The Miombo woodland is a vast African dryland forest ecosystem covering close to 2.7 million km2 across southern Africa (Angola, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe). It is estimated that the woodlands sustain the livelihoods of more than 100 million rural poor and 50 million urban people. The charcoal sector alone employs vast numbers of rural people and offers additional income to many poor rural families. [more]

More publications 

Expert interviews

Importance of forestry for family farmers in Viet Nam On the occasion of the launch of the UN Decade of Family Farming, Vu Le Y Voan, former Vice Director of the International Cooperation Department, Viet Nam National Farmers Union, describes the importance of forestry for family farmers in the country. [more]
FAO Forestry, the Forest and Farm Facility and the UN Decade of Family Farming The United Nations (UN) Decade of Family Farming (2019–2028) is of key importance to FAO and the Forest and Farm Facility. As Jeffrey Campbell, FFF Manager explains, the Decade also presents FO and FFF with major opportunities to highlight the role of smallholder producers and the support provided to help them transform productive landscapes and natural resource systems. [more]
New initiative to scale up forest education worldwide Failing to make bigger investments in forest education will have economic, social and environmental consequences, particularly with regard to nature and trees, advises Matthias Schwoerer, Head of Division, European and International Forest Policy, Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Germany. [more]


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Press releases

Launch of the UN’s Decade of Family Farming to unleash family farmers’ full potential The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) today launched the United Nations' Decade of Family Farming and a Global Action Plan to boost support for family farmers, particularly those in developing countries. [more]
Rwanda envisages to reduce household reliance on wood fuel The Government of Rwanda together with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) launched new a project to support the country in assessing sustainable bioenergy options to reduce reliance on wood fuel. [more]
Celebrating family farmers’ contribution to Zero Hunger and healthier diets Family farmers, who are on the frontline of global efforts to fight undernourishment and other forms of malnutrition and to promote healthy eating, require stronger support amid rising hunger and obesity around the world, the President of the UN General Assembly, Maria Fernanda Espinosa, said in Rome today. [more]
IDF: Increased understanding of forests, improves peoples’ lives As the world population climbs to 8.5 billion by 2030, the role of forests becomes more important than ever. [more]

More press releases 


 Vietnam reclaims forest land with help from FAO 


last updated:  Monday, June 3, 2019