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Forests and trees provide benefits for food security and nutrition– what is your say?

Forests, trees on farms and agroforestry systems contribute to food security, nutrition and livelihoods in several ways, including as a direct source of food, fuel, employment and cash income. They are fundamental to the survival of forest-dwellers, particularly many indigenous peoples, and are important providers of ecosystem services, including maintaining or restoring soil fertility, protecting watersheds and water courses. For most of the year, herders in arid and semi-arid lands depend on trees as a source of fodder for their livestock. As habitat to an estimated 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity, forests provide genetic material important for crop and livestock improvement and are home to many pollinator species.

Forests and trees help to mitigate climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide and storing carbon. They can also help to reduce the vulnerability of people to climate change by providing food and other ecosystem services during critical periods of climate driven food shortages.

However the many ways in which forests, trees on farms and agroforestry systems contribute to food security and nutrition are poorly understood, under-estimated and not adequately considered in policy decisions related to food security and nutrition.

In May 2013, FAO, together with its partners will organise the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition http://www.fao.org/forestry/food-security to increase understanding of the important role that forests, trees on farms and agroforestry systems can play in improving food security and nutrition, especially in developing countries. The conference will also propose policy options that need to be undertaken at national and international level to better position the role of forests and trees in food security and nutrition decision-making processes.

Given the diversity of the FSN Forum membership, we would like to invite you to share experiences and views, by responding to the following questions:

  • What are the key challenges and bottlenecks hindering a greater contribution of forests, trees on farms and agroforestry systems to food security? These could be as diverse as policy, legal, institutional, practical skills, data etc.
  • What are some concrete examples of innovative approaches, or good practices that increase the contributions of forests and trees to food security and nutrition goals?
  • What is needed for food security policies and strategies to recognize the contributions and value that forests and trees bring?

The outcome of this online discussion will be used to enrich the deliberations at the conference and contribute to the final statement coming out of the conference.

A brief word about ourselves:

Eva Muller is the Director of the Forest Economics, Policy and Products Division of the Forestry Department at FAO

Fred Kafeero is a Forestry Officer of FAO with extensive field experience on participatory forestry and improving forest-based livelihoods.

We thank you in advance for your contributions.

Eva and Fred

Esta discusión ha sido cerrada. Por favor, póngase en contacto con fsn-moderator@fao.org para cualquier información adicional.

Fred Kafeero & Eva Müller FAO, Italy
13.03.2013
FSN Forum

Dear Forum members,

We would like to express our sincere appreciation for the valuable contributions made on our online discussion. We received a rich diversity of responses from a wide range of practitioners, experts and people working at grassroot levels, giving perspectives from developing and developed countries.  The concrete cases and good practices you offered in the discussion attest to the important role of forests, trees on farm and agroforestry systems for food security and nutrition in different agro-ecological contexts.

A number of you outlined the policy, legal and institutional challenges and bottlenecks that hinder that contribution. You also offered suggestions on overcoming these challenges, including dealing with Governance issues, generating relevant data, placing emphasis on cross-sectoral approaches, and going back to the roots of educating the young generation on these issues.

The discussions further confirmed that forests, trees and agroforestry systems contribute to food security and nutrition in many ways, but such contributions are generally not understood by decision-makers. Coupled with poor coordination between sectors, the net result is that forests are mostly left out of policy decisions related to food security and nutrition.

We recognize one contributor who had concerns about the genuineness and intentions of FAO in running this on-line discussion. Our role is to provide you with space and opportunity to air out your views on this subject, so that in the process, you help us and others appreciate where the challenges lie, and what possibilities are available to address them.

We reiterate that your valuable contributions will be synthesized and highlighted in the deliberations at the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition which will be held from 13-15 May in Rome (http://www.fao.org/forestry/food-security). This will indeed provide a good opportunity for the wide range of participants in the conference to discuss and make concrete proposals to deal with the bottlenecks. The conference participants will include policy-makers from National ministries relevant to the topic, scientists; practitioners; the private sector; United Nations agencies and other international organizations; non-governmental organizations; community and farmers’ organizations; and indigenous peoples’ groups.

FAO will ensure that the key messages and recommendations from the conference are communicated and integrated into broader policy dialogues on food security and nutrition at the global, regional and national levels.

Thanks again,

Fred and Eva

Barbara Burlingame Nutrition Division - FAO, Italy
13.03.2013
FSN Forum

I would like to thank everyone for the useful and insightful contributions to the Forum. The discussions clearly reflect the various ways forests and trees can contribute to food and nutrition security and sustainable diets.

Many contributions have identified the linkages to nutrition, from capitalizing on existing indigenous knowledge to making the rural-urban linkage in forestry and nutrition.  We have widespread agreement that ending hunger and malnutrition requires a multisectoral approach, and that forests and trees are fundamental in achieving sustainable solutions to these problems. 

Sincere thanks are due to the organizers for initiating this highly participatory global discussion on forests for food and nutrition security, and, again, to all the participants for their very substantial and high-quality contributions.

We look forward to meeting many of you at the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition from May 13 to 15, 2013, at the FAO (Rome). The Nutrition Division has been particularly involved in the preparation of Parallel Session 3 (The Role of Forests and Trees in Sustainable Diets) and we invite you to attend so we can continue with these lively discussions.

Yours sincerely,

Barbara Burlingame
Principal Nutrition Officer (ESN)
FAO

Doug McGuire Forest Resources Assessment Team - FAO, Italy
13.03.2013
FSN Forum

At present, many cities are facing the consequences and the problems resulting from unsustainable use of spaces, resources and energy in and around urban areas. The enormous growth of urban population recorded over the last decades across the planet, is creating new needs and demands, and is moving dramatic poverty to cities - guaranteeing food security and affordable fuel resources for cooking for all is one of the biggest challenges to be faced at the beginning of the so called Urban Millenium.

Urban and peri-urban forestry and agroforestry can have a crucial role in improving cities’ resilience and in facing the increasing poverty, lack of food security, air and soil pollution, and occurrence of human diseases in urban and peri-urban areas. Well designed and managed tree systems in and around cities can produce good quality food and non-food products (such as fruit, timber, wood fuel, natural medicine) thus improving incomes, nutrition security, as well as health conditions for all urban dwellers. The presence of trees and forests also improves the efficiency in watershed functioning and the quality of water, and therefore is essential in improving agro-pastoral systems in bordering lands. Furthermore trees can play a crucial role in providing fodder and shade to cattle, indirectly contributing to food security. By improving the food chains within cities, trees can also support the development of local markets and the generation of jobs and incomes for the local population. The resulting competitive price of local food would make it accessible also for vulnerable people, thus guaranteeing food and nutrition security to the poorest.

In rural areas as well, agroforestry can play a key role in improving food security, livelihoods and environmental stability. When designed and implemented correctly, agroforestry combines the best practices of tree growing and agricultural systems (crop and livestock), resulting in the best and most sustainable use of land.

Highlighting trees and nutrition security linkages is therefore crucial to face the challenge and reach one of the eight Millennium Development Goals: ending hunger and guaranteeing food and nutrition security to all. A multisectoral and multi stakeholder approach, involving practitioners, policy and decision makers, civil society, scientists, is required to cope with this challenge.

We would like to thank Forum moderators for creating space for dialogue on this most relevant topic, as well as everyone who contributed to the discussion. From 13-15 May 2013 the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition will be held at FAO, in Rome. The Forest Assessment, Management and Conservation Division is holding a side event on agroforestry policies for food security and climate change; we would like to take this opportunity to invite all of you to attend both the conference and our side event.

Doug McGuire, Team Leader

Forest Resources Assessment Team

FAO Forestry Department

UN Standing Committee on Nutrition , Switzerland
26.02.2013
FSN Forum

The UN Standing Committee on Nutrition (UNSCN) is the interagency platform furthering, coordinating and supporting joint efforts on nutrition across the UN system. We welcome the discussion on the benefit of forests and trees to food and nutrition security in order to achieve improved nutritional outcomes.

Food and agriculture consist of several sub-sectors one of which is forestry and tree crops. The agriculture sector, including forestry and tree crops, is best placed to influence food production and the consumption of nutritious foods necessary for a healthy and active live. Nutrition-sensitive agriculture / nutrition-sensitive forestry and tree production aims to maximize the impact of nutrition outcomes while minimizing the unintended negative nutritional consequences of relevant policies and interventions on the consumer. It is agriculture, including forestry and tree crops, with a nutrition lens that is needed, and does not detract from the sector’s own goals.

There is increasing attention to addressing the multiple forms of malnutrition through agriculture and its sub-sectors. We would like to point out two main aspects of the importance of forestry and tree crops for food and nutrition security:

Their products contribute potentially to livelihoods of many poor households especially in resource poor and food insecure settings and including during crisis situations like drought. e.g. South of Madagascar where in times of food scarcity people eat wild fruits and use forest as basis for their livelihoods in order to survive.

Furthermore, forestry and trees play an important role as providers of fruits and other tree products like nuts etc that are important part of a healthy diet. The prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases is increasing dramatically in many countries. Diet related factors are among the risk factors of NCDs. A healthy diet for the risk reduction of NCDS contains among others the regular consumption of fruits and vegetables, which are also provided by trees.

The Draft Action Plan for the Prevention and Control of Non-Communicable Diseases 2013–2020 that will be presented at the next World Health Assembly in May 2013 to Member States, affirms that enabling environments are important of which agriculture is one key factor.  ‘Support national authorities to create enabling environments to reduce modifiable risk factors of Non-communicable Diseases through health-promoting policies in agriculture, food, trade, transport and urban planning’ are essential in a world with rising diet related risk factors and NCDs.

Nutrition-sensitive agriculture addresses all sub-sectors of food and agriculture of which forestry and tree crops are an important one with high potential for improved nutrition, in terms of household nutrition security and healthy diet. The nutrition lens in forestry and tree production includes a consistent focus on nutritional outcomes and indicators within national policies and programmes to improve food and nutrition security and to combat the multiple burden of malnutrition (undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies and overconsumption). At present there are limited experiences with this approach at scale and insufficient existence of technical recommendations to inform policy makers.

Q1. What are the key challenges and bottlenecks hindering a greater contribution of forests, trees on farms and agroforestry systems to food security? These could be as diverse as policy, legal, institutional, practical skills, data etc.

Insufficient investment: Governments and development partners need to increase budget allocations in support of sustainable forest management and rehabilitation of degraded lands. Depending on the condition of the forest, approaches may include protection, management and restoration. Investing in sustainable forest management could be a cost-effective way to support poor households that are vulnerable to food and nutrition insecurity. This could reduce investing in more costly social welfare programmes. Sustainable forest management will help mitigate the effects of climate change and will increase forest resilience to help vulnerable communities to better adapt to the negative impacts of climate change.

Inadequate tenure rights: Secure tenure is critical for household food and nutrition security. The lack of secure access rights and land tenure are a disincentive for many poor or marginalized communities and households to invest in managing land more productively, investing in required inputs. Improved tenure and access rights to forest resources could support more sustainable resource management for food and nutrition security.

Insufficient attention to Gender differentiated approach: Women farmers produce more than half of all food worldwide and currently account for 43 percent of the global agricultural labour force (FAO). We encourage more emphasis on a gender differentiated approach and this should be addressed in various political and programmatic issues.

Q2. What are some concrete examples of innovative approaches, or good practices that increase the contributions of forests and trees to food security and nutrition goals?

Evaluate forest foods: To make better use of forest foods for improved nutrition and diets, it is necessary to evaluate forest food’s nutrient content and adopt advice on healthy diets and nutrition accordingly. Specific strategies according to health and diet related needs of particular populations or according to the characteristics of the specific agro-forestry zones should be elaborated. Some common nutrition problems and the potential role of forest food are summarized in CIFOR paper(Colfer, Sheil et al. 2006).

Develop forest foods:  After understanding forest foods, development is needed. Agroforestry has the potential to contribute to human nutrition through increased production and availability of particularly nutritious fruits, leaves and other products through general diversification of diets. A study in Zimbabwe by the World Agroforestry Centre and Hanover University showed that many households consumed large amounts of fruit and generated considerable income from indigenous fruits. Within households, children were the main consumers of fruit. Research and development should focus on on-farm production of indigenous trees, production of new products from indigenous fruits, and expanded production of selected exotic species (Swallow and Ochola 2006).

Generate income from forests and trees: Where food and nutrition insecurity is related to limited opportunities for employment or income generation, income from forests and trees on farms can make a significant contribution to rural households’ income and their food and nutrition security. Also, the creation of small or medium-sized forest-based enterprises can help secure better market access and add value to harvested products (FAO 2011).

Increase local control: A clear sense of ownership helps give local people the sense of responsibility to conserve forest resources and the incentive to invest in sustainable management.

Extension workers to be trained in relevant nutrition and dietary aspects of forest and tree crops.

Q3. What is needed for food security policies and strategies to recognize the contributions and value that forests and trees bring?

Collaboration: To increase the role of forests and trees for food and nutrition security, government agencies responsible for forestry need to work more in collaboration with organizations beyond the forestry sector. This includes closer collaboration not only between forestry and other agricultural governmental agencies, but also with relevant sectors like health, education and social development.

Nutrition-sensitivity: Challenges are how to make respective policies sensitive to nutrition without detracting from the sector’s own goals. How to incorporate nutrition outcomes and objectives right from the planning stage. How to sensitize politicians and decision makers about this necessity.

Monitoring and assessment: Monitoring and impact assessment studies need to give more attention to understand the links between agroforestry, nutrition status, and health. Much more work is needed in this area. One example is Swallo and Ochola (2006) who present a simple conceptual framework of agroforestry, health, and nutrition linkages that focuses on five pathways between agroforestry and health, dubbed the MINER pathways: M—medicinal plant conservation, domestication, and propagation; I—income earned and inputs saved through improvements in the farm resource base and products for sale; N—nutritious agroforestry foods, including fruits and leaves; E—changes in ecosystem structure and function that affect disease risk and transmission; and R—responses of agroforestry priorities and program design to changes in farmers’ circumstances resulting from health and nutrition problems. In all these efforts, a gender differentiated approach is key.

26.02.2013
FLORENTINO

Apreciados amigos,

Les escribimos de Colombia. Muy interesados en su conferencia de este proximo mes de mayo sobre la importancia del Bosque en la busqueda de la seguridad alimentaria y nutricional.

Vemos sin embargo que el enfoque que da la FAO es hacia paises con hambrunas como Africa, donde los arbustos y la vegetacion es importante para el pastoreo y recoleccion de leña para calefaccion y la coccion.

No vemos que se corelacione el Bosque con el ciclo del agua y las cadenas troficas.

Colombia es un pais con aguas abundantes y pisos termicos que nos permiten contar con diversidad de alimentos de acuerdo con la altura de los cultivos.

Sin embargo se cierne una gran amenaza y es la mega mineria que se desplaza del Africa hacia Sudamerica.

Nuestras selvas y montañas guardan riqueza mineral y muchas transnacionales llegaron tras la invitacion del gobierno Colombiano

Sin embargo, no contamos con experiencia en mineria de alta montaña y se otorgaron por el gobierno concesiones sobre rios,quebradas y ecosistemas estrategicos como los paramos y el bosque alto andino y bosque humedo tropical.

Conocen tambien ustedes que nuestro pais lleva ya 55 años de guerras internas entre narcotrafico,paramilitares y el ejercito. Muy similar a lo sucedido en Africa.

Ahora el oro y los minerales estrategicos como el Coltan estan en la mira de grupos irregulares y de las multinacionales.

Consideramos que las Naciones Unidas podrian desempeñar un gran papel, pues debemos anteponer la seguridad alimentaria sobre la mineria metalica.

Diganos por favor si se interesan en el tema para enviar mayor informacion.

Saludos,

Ing.Florentino Rodriguez P.

Comite de Defensa del Agua y el Paramo de Santurban

Colombia

Patricia Tendi UN FAO, Italy
26.02.2013
Patricia Tendi

Thank you for initiating this debate. 

I think one key issue is obtaining better estimates/country data on forest dwellers i.e. who they are, where they live, and what they do to survive.   This could mean greater collaboration within FAO in obtaining official statistics for the compilation of SOFA/SOFO/FRA etc. and within government ministries followed by greater joint analysis of data obtained, even funded by extra-budgetary resources if Regular Programme funding is not available.  Basic statistical data would seem to be a fundamental requirement if there is  going to be a policy shift in favour of the poor and hungry who depend on trees and forests.

(ii) Increased research and collaboration with fair trade entities as this commercial model favours smaller cooperatives, women and other disadvantaged groups - FAO's key constituencies.

(iii) Greater assistance and more consolidated information for small cooperatives to understand the legal procedures for patenting forest products, adding value locally and understanding and overcoming legal and market barriers to the sale of forest products would be helpful.  Such support would help increase local incomes, thereby reducing poverty and increasing income available to spend on food.   A pamphlet containing key points from the Voluntary Guidelines on Land Tenure aimed at forest dwellers and explaining, in accessible language, the benefits to forest  groups could be produced.

(iv) Analysis of payment for ecosystem services might identify the true value of forests and how this might translate into monetary benefits for forest dwellers.

Kien Nguyen Van institute, Viet Nam
26.02.2013
Kien Nguyen Van

Dear Sir/Madam,

In my opinion, there are 3 key benefits  from forests and trees, that is biological diversity, ecosystem/environments and last one- landscape. They are heritages and values of community and human kind.  These benefits are in the meaningful for long term for humankind, that provided frequently food and nutrition, medicine, even if livelihood for local community in a long time. In fact, these were under stability and sustainability in over past centeries. But over use and over exploitation of man destroyed and losed the balance. For me, I do not agree to any private own type  to forest or forest land because above mentioned heritages/values could not divide in to small pieces. Small pieces will threaten and make lose the value forest as well as prevent against to effort of society in forestation and protection. Then we should raise fund for community and government to protect and develop rest of forest of the planet in line with strengthening awareness and action of whole society.  At the time, forest also should is transferred and managed by community and government. These request determination of community and government by benefit in long term.

A big question/great challenges, that are livelihood of a lot of farmers in developing countries is  lived on forest. That could damage to forest. Therefore, the benefit of currently generation is conflicting to the future generation.  These is question of policy makers and researchers!

Best regards,

KIEN
-- 
Mr. NGUYEN VAN KIEN
Plant Resources Center of Vietnam
 

Mr. Subhash Mehta Devarao Shivaram Trust, India
26.02.2013
Subhash

 

I am saddened at the news of Michelle Gaultier who tirelessly contributed to the e consultations. 

I would like to bring to the table my experiences with the Government of Bhutan over the last decade in the effort to make Bhutan become the first country in the world to fully convert to organic agriculture, ensure the water bodies/ sub soil water is free of pollutants and agro chemicals. 

I had been visiting Bhutan regularly since 2002 on the invitation of the officials of its ministry of agriculture. Subsequent to the meetings I had with the Ministers of Agriculture, senior officials and the Research Institutes during my numerous visits , I was invited in 2007 by the then Prime Minister (also holding charge of agriculture) to bring with me a group of resource persons for holding workshops at research institutes across Bhutan and for senior Ministry officials in Thimphu. The purpose was to facilitate and take forward the Prime Minister’s goal for ‘Bhutan to become the first country in the world to fully convert to organic agriculture, ensure the water bodies/ sub soil water is free of pollutants and agro chemicals’ into a reality. The world of agriculture has a lot to learn from the Government of Bhutan: 

The Honorable Prime Minister inaugurated our Thimphu workshop, June 2007, when I had the honor of sharing the podium with him to release the Organic Policy of Bhutan also declared that one of its research institutes had been converted and dedicated for research on following organic principles in agriculture, to meet the needs of the poor smallholder producers and went on to setting a tentative date of 2020 for Bhutan’s conversion to organic agriculture. 

Very soon the country’s commitment for achieving these objectives was taken forward with the contracting of of Dr A Thimaiah, a PHD from IIT Delhi in Bio Dynamic Agriculture, as consultant, attached to the Ministry. The import and use of chemical pesticides were also banned and following measures and decisions taken for meeting the needs of the rural poor smallholder producers: 

  • create an enabling policy for integrated producer oriented development and research
  • public funds for the rural poor to produce and access nutritious food (self reliance),
  • recognize the importance of natural resources (forest cover, animal husbandry/ wildlife)
  • support rural human and institutional capacity building, funding of producer orgs (PC)
  • aggregating of  programs, schemes, funding, etc., all concerned Ministries/ departments
  • gross national happiness (GNH) of rural communities and long time sustainability 

The following links gives status of this programme:  

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2012/dec/01/bhutan-wealth-happiness-counts

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/2013/jan/02/nature-teacher-bhutan-conservation-classroom

http://www.guardian.co.uk/global-development/poverty-matters/2013/feb/11/bhutan-first-wholly-organic-country

Worldwide, over a billion people go hungry every day, even more are mal nourished and poverty among the rural smallholder producer communities is of serious concern, as they are getting deep into debt with the yearly increase in costs of external chemical inputs for conventional agriculture,  reducing net incomes/ purchasing power, thus forcing large numbers to commit suicide.

The Bhutan model on organic agriculture should be followed by all developing countries for making ‘Nutritious food being made accessible through integrated agriculture to the world population of about nine billion by 2050. This is possible by focusing on and using public funds to contract the successful farmers in each area for wide replication of their model, setting up producer orgs and staffing them with professionals, thus meeting the needs of the poor rural smallholder communities to follow ‘Integrated Producer Oriented Development (IPOD)’, putting them to work, following the local integrated low cost ecological successful agriculture, producing to meet their own nutritious food needs. This is in contrast to the high cost ‘Market Oriented Development’ system of conventional mono crop agriculture policy of most Governments, NARES, CGIAR, etc., which produces  the quantity of food required, but being high cost is not accessible to the poor (being many times the farm gate price in the retail with shops overflowing with food stocks).

  • The intervention of rural producer orgs/ company (PC) set up by rural producers (mostly  following the local integrated agriculture) but staffed with professionals, to take over all responsibilities and manage risks, other than on farm activities of their members will ensure:
  • creating of human and institutional capacity
  • providing the required management, 
  • encouraging natural regeneration, planting of trees and other forest plants as a source of nutritious food, fodder for livestock,
  • production of inputs and biogas,
  • recharging of subsoil water for drinking and agricultural lands, by protecting catchments, on farm water harvesting, production of nutritious food, bio gas, fibre/ fuel (animal droppings and bio mass for production of low cost inputs),
  • primary and secondary value addition to increase shelf life of produce for storage till prices peak, thus minimizing post harvest losses, etc.

This would reduce cost of production, deforestation, degrading ecosystems, hunger, Mal nutrition, poverty, effects of climate change, etc., whilst ensuring livelihood improvement of forest-dwellers, tribal’s and the smallholder rural communities, water and nutritious food security and improving livelihood, net income and purchasing power:

Link provided by you to FAO's publication on Forests for Improved Nutrition and Food Security has most of the required evidence.

Ms. Nelly-Diane Alemfack Efozo Young Volunteers for Environment, Cameroon
24.02.2013
Nelly-Diane

Forest governance should be improved

Forest governance should be improved in my opinion, because the loggers do not always respect the canons of contracts with the competent authorities. this situation leads to a land grab of indigenous peoples and sometimes illegal logging. In the forest region of Cameroon, for example, people testify that "Moabi" disappeared. Once, Baka ate it fruit, retrieved oil based its core, which allowed them to cook food, but also had therapeutic virtues related to the skin. Today, people are forced to travel miles to see a palm oil that does not belong to someone for the cooking oil, since the Baka culture did not create a field for  planting to feed.
plots dedicated to community forest are occasionally used by loggers who cross the limits of their areas of operations.

After a few complaints, people are sometimes received the construction of a classroom that serves as their school sometimes without teachers. This sotuation do not contribute to solve the lack oof food.
 So faced to  this situation, it is necessary to inform the loggers at the  based on the place of trees, forests, agroforestry systems in food safety. it is important to strengthen the capacity of communities in advocacy so that they can  even claim their right and not just leave NGOs to speak for them.

At least it is important to ensure that all environmental Operating laws are respected
it is also important that the government adopt a good policy for the reforestation of forest resources especially regarding the disappearance of trees in full as "moabi"
Governments should require to logging, road construction to facilitate the flow of agricultural products in the villages due to the landlocked state roads especially during the rainy season, to avoid shortage on the market.

Gill Shepherd IUCN, United Kingdom
22.02.2013
Gill Shepherd

THE FOOD SECURITY VALUE OF FORESTS IN THE CONTEXT OF ALL OTHER FOREST VALUES

Gill Shepherd LSE and IUCN

 

  1. Introduction[1]

For millennia, forests, trees, and woodland were the source of land for settlement and cultivation, materials for construction, woody biomass for fuel and energy, and for food and nutrition as well. The continuing contributions of forests to global biodiversity, the fertility of agricultural lands, and the food security of rural people still mean that forests are immensely valuable for sustainability.

Even if only the formally recognized, officially reported monetary contributions of forests to the economies of the developing world are taken into account, they exceed US$ 250billion more than double the flow of total development assistance. Data gaps and absence of reliable information are major problem in estimating the economic contributions of forests beyond what is available in official reports. Country- and region-specific efforts indicate that where such data are reliably available, the non-cash economic contributions of forests to household and national economies range between 3 and 5 times the formally recognized, cash contributions.

In addition to their direct, cash and non-cash economic contributions, forests also provide substantial levels of employment which are also important for food security. More than 13 million people are employed in forest sector activities in the formal sector. In the informal sector of small and medium forest enterprises, another 40-60 million people may be employed.  Estimates of the number of people deriving direct and indirect benefits from forests – in the form of food, forest products, employment and direct or indirect contributions to livelihoods and incomes – range between 1 billion - 1.5 billion.

Unlike most other sectors, forests also contribute massively to the ecosystem services that humans value, even if they are not traded or even if it is difficult to put an economic or a food security figure on the value. Different valuation strategies peg the economic value of ecosystem services from forests in the neighborhood of additional hundreds of billions of dollars.

The absence of data on economic contributions related to non-timber forest products (NTFPs/NWFPs[2]) and their value, and the lack of information systems that can incorporate such data systematically are major bottlenecks in a better understanding of forest sector contributions. They also represent a major deficiency when it comes to improved management so as to enhance the total economic contributions of forests. Indeed, the effective absence of information on the value of such benefits from forests has meant an overemphasis in forest governance systems on managing forests for products that are highly visible, formally recognized, and with cash market value.


[1] The introductory section of this note is drawn from the paper, ‘Economic Contributions of Forest’ prepared for the United Nations Forum on Forests by Agrawal et al 2013. The main text is based on work by the author and on a literature review prepared for the same paper.

[2] The term NTFP/NWFPS, non-timber forest products, is the most commonly-used term for everything (including fuelwood and light poles used in house construction as well as foods and fibre) drawn from the forest for home use or sale. NWFPs (non-wood forest products) is the term that FAO prefers, so that all wood products, from timber to fuelwood can be grouped together. Most writers prefer the former term because it divides forest products by two very distinct groupings of forest user: loggers and local people.

Please see the attachment for Gill's full contribution

See the attachment:Gill Shepherd