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 millenia 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 


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]
Small-scale forest enterprises in Latin America: Unlocking their potential for sustainable livelihoods This publication is part of FAO’s work on forestry with focus on small-scale forestenterprise development and poverty reduction. This work was developed under FAO’sStrategic Programme on Reducing Rural Poverty. [more]
Small-scale forest enterprise development in Nepal: Overview, issues and challenges This publication is part of FAO’s work on forestry with focus on small-scale forest enterprisedevelopment and poverty reduction. This work was developed under FAO’s StrategicProgramme on Reducing Rural Poverty. [more]

More publications 

Expert interviews

Mission of the International Poplar Commission Martin Weih, Chairperson of the International Popular Commission (IPC), explains the IPC’s mission to improve rural incomes and to improve the sustainable use and production of forest products and other ecosystem services. The IPC is a body for multilateral cooperation on forestry, with 38 member countries. [more]
The Sustainable Wildlife Management programme - innovative, collaborative and scalable? John Emmanuel Fa, Senior Associate at CIFOR, briefly describes the Sustainable Wildlife Management Programme and explains why it is such an innovative, collaborative and scalable initiative. [more]
Forest and farm producer organizations in Nepal improving food security and livelihoods Bharati Pathak, General Secretary, Federation of Community Forestry Users, Nepal, explains that forest and farm producer organizations (FFPOs), with the support of the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF), are helping to reduce hunger and poverty at the local level. [more]


More expert interviews  



 Vietnam reclaims forest land with help from FAO 

last updated:  Friday, March 1, 2019