COVID-19 Forestry Webinar Week tackles pandemic’s impact on forestry
22 June 2020, Rome - Heads of forestry and government representatives from around the world are among participants examining how forests can play a vital role in economic and social recovery following the COVID-19 pandemic as a four-day webinar series kicks off today.
Organized by FAO in close collaboration with the Collaborative Partnership on Forests, the webinar series, ‘Building back better: COVID-19 pandemic recovery contributions from the forest sector’, will assess the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on forests and forest communities.
It will identify strategic responses and innovations that enhance the contribution of the forest sector to recovering from COVID-19, with the aim of building a more resilient and sustainable longer-term future. It will also propose concrete next steps, including policy dialogue and mobilization of resources.
“Forests and forest communities are strongly impacted by the pandemic, but they also have a key role to play in providing solutions to recovery,” said FAO Forestry Assistant Director-General Hiroto Mitsugi. “Managed well, forests are a source of economic prosperity and sustainable development, and it is important that we tap into that as the world tries to build back better for a more sustainable long-term future.”
This week’s webinar will feature high-level dialogues and technical thematic sessions. Among topics covered will be the effects of COVID-19 on deforestation, responses from forest and farm producer organizations to the pandemic, how to integrate forestry in recovery support measures, and using forest and landscape restoration to build resilience and sustainable business.
Risks and opportunities
“As COVID-19 continues to disrupt lives and value chains around the world, forests and forest communities are being impacted in a number of ways. Already, forests and trees are a safety net for the most vulnerable members of society, providing food, fuel and income in times of scarcity,” added Mitsugi.
As household incomes decrease as a result of the pandemic, rural populations will increasingly turn to forests for subsistence, putting greater pressure on forest resources. Restrictions on movement affect entire value chains, particularly the transport of forest products, thereby affecting livelihoods and businesses. As countries prioritize response to the pandemic, they may reduce their focus on legal and sustainable timber production, potentially undoing hard-earned achievements at international and national level.
However, forests can also contribute to recovery after the pandemic, providing subsistence goods for rural communities and supporting local markets, increasing their resilience to future crises. Developing local and regional markets for forest products can also help maintain supply chains while offering income-generating and savings opportunities.
Programmes that combine employment opportunities that enhance productivity and restoration of ecosystems are also critical to long-term recovery. In addition, support to smallholder farmers can enhance their productivity through stimulus packages such as cash handouts and safety net programs.