The role of forests and trees in improving food security

Forests and trees in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) contribute directly and indirectly to food security by providing the following forest products:

  • Edible plant products: Staples, supplementary foods, occasional snacks or famine foods are critical to the nutritional well-being of many island people.
  • Edible animals and animal products: Deer, rodents, fish, birds, insects, honey, eggs and birds' nests.
  • Animal fodder.
  • Medicine: For 75 to 90 percent of the people in developing countries, natural products represent the only source of medicine.
  • Woodfuel: Essential to cooking and food preservation (e.g. smoking and drying of fish and meat), fuelwood and charcoal account for more than 80 percent of the energy used in developing countries.
  • Fencing: Whether live or built from woody material, fencing supports food security by keeping out unwanted animals.
  • Implements and tools: Agricultural implements, food containers, boats and canoes, and hunting and fishing gear are made from wood and non-wood fibre.
Income and employment provided by forestry and forest-related activities give people in rural communities the opportunity to purchase food and other basic necessities. Forested watersheds provide soil and water conservation, benefiting downstream agricultural areas. Windbreaks and shelterbelts provide shade and shelter for agricultural crops and animals and reduce soil erosion. Mangroves and other coastal forests protect coastal areas against the effects of strong winds, storm surges and salt spray, and provide nutrients for the marine food web. Forests also act as reservoirs of biological diversity; many of the foods consumed today originated as wild crops in forests 1 and genetic improvement of agricultural crops has much to gain from existing wild species.


1 - For example, breadfruit, bananas and plantains, cocoa, cola nut, coffee, mango, pawpaw, guava and avocado. Such major staples as yams and cowpeas probably evolved on the forest margins and wild rice originated in swampy areas of the forest. Oil palms and the shea butter tree are other important food-producing species in forests and woodlands.

last updated:  Friday, November 4, 2005