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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

This discussion is now closed. Please contact fsn-moderator@fao.org for any further information.

Mr. Sibabrata Choudhury Landesa (formerly Rural Development Institute), India
06.02.2013
Sibabrata

Hi again,

In a news release by FAO on Tuesday the significance of agroforestry to escape poverty, hunger and environmental degradation has been highlighted. It laments the lack of adequate policy measures and efforts by Governments to promote agroforesty that incorporates an integrated approach combining trees with crop or livestock production contributing towards food and nutrition security.

"Despite the numerous benefits of agroforestry, the sector is largely hampered by adverse policies, legal constraints and lack of coordination between sectors to which it contributes, such as agriculture, forestry, rural development, enviroment and trade." said Mr. Eduardo Mansur, Director of FAO's Forest Assessment, Management and Conservation Division.

Even though millions of rural poor depend on forests and agroforestry practices to grow food grain, fruits and other produce, there is a lack of policy and programmes that promote such practicies. In India there is a National Horticulture Mission that promotes orchards and vegetable production. The Agriculture department also promotes different cereals, pulses and oilseeds through field demonstrations, subsidised seeds and fertiliser. But I am yet to come across a national programme on promoting agroforestry in a large scale. As far as my knowledge goes, the role of the Forest Department is restricted to the managment of the forest resources (timber, other forest produce, wildlife) and generation of revenue for the Government. 

Through the Forest Rights Act, 2006 the claims of (primarily) tribal communities over forest land is being recognised in the country. However there have been issues related to tardy implementation and huge backlogs. Moreover wherever communities have received thier claims efforts to integrate with other programmes have been far between and without direction. I presume it becomes easier to implement single-track programmes as against programmes that require co-ordination and convergence between different stakeholders.

Sibabrata 

Champak Ishram community based organization, India
05.02.2013
Champak  Ishram

Hi Eva and Fred

You asked us to contribute our knowledge on this issue through this forum and you use the information in your paper and participate in the conference.  Is it your moral ethic? People of international agencies use name of poor people and tribal communities of developing countries to justify their activities particularly in forestry field. But the people get the most benefit of the activities themselves and make the poor people and tribal communities even ruined or marginalized.

What are the key challenges and bottlenecks hindering a greater contribution of forests, trees on farms and agroforestry systems to food security?

Yes the forests are main sources of food security of tribal communities who historical sacrifice their wellbeing for the forest resource conservation. The tribal communities did not destroyed forests in their communities as much it did by western and other societies for farming. They used small forest area used only a small land area to cultivate crops, despite the production was insufficient to feed their families. They used non-timber products and sustained their living. That is the fact to have a higher proportion of biodiversity rich forest areas around the tribal community areas. But other societies did not recognized the contribution in environmental conservation and importance of forest for their food security. Most traditionally used forestlands were managed in common which are registered as public forests now The areas are now excessively controlled by state authorities. The territories of the indigenous people are encroached by government policies and activities of other societies; and the communities are squeezed in marginal lands, and forced them to grow crop in sensitive lands and shorter rotation. The forest based people are blamed for encroaching on environmentally sensitive land and using forest resources but the fact of the resource uses are ignored. The forest management policies and activities of international agencies have never given attention of problems of tribal communities.  They have advised governments of developing countries to meet the interest of and benefit western and non-tribal ethnic groups, and frozen the opportunities of forest land use practices of tribal communities. They have taken advantages of gullible natural behavior of our communities. Even in the concept note of this paper you have not considered the way of lives and forest policy issues of our communities. Therefore the main enemy or problem of tribal communities for forest based food security is international agencies and policies. 

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?

Innovative approach of forest based food security is management of forest for multipurpose uses. 

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

It needed to stop policies and practices of international agencies that ruin tribal groups and poor people. 

In summary the people including you who work in international organizations are the main hindrance for forest based food security of tribal communities and poor people.

Chapak Ishram

Manipur, India

04.02.2013
Dr.Syed Md.Zainul Abedin Abedin

Dear Eva and Fred,

I appreciate your great initiative to launch discussion on very pertiment issue for the present time.I will address the first  point today.Hopefully, I will come back again to deal with the other two points as soon as possible.

Forest,trees on farms and agroforestry systems inevitably contribute towards food and nutrition security.But,it has been correctly pointed out that 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.

The key challenges and bottlenecks hindering a greater contribution of forests, trees on farms and agroforestry systems to food security are multifaceted.Adjutments in policy,legal and institutional aspects on the basis of existing practical skills and data may be helpful to streamline the production,procurement,processing and consumption of produces.For doing such adjustments, all relevant resources,policies,regulations and  institutions need to be examined through detailed survey or review work.Then ideal policy, legal and institutinal framework should be finalized for each community considering the gap in resources and potential of the systems.Programs for regulating the forest areas,trees on farms and agroforestry systems should be determined on the basis of the requirement of the communities,available land or resources and the extent of adaptation of the communities.

Mr. Sibabrata Choudhury Landesa (formerly Rural Development Institute), India
04.02.2013
Sibabrata

Hello Eva and Fred and dear forum members,

Thanks for bringing in a very pertinent topic and perspective on food and nutrition security in highlighting the importance of forests and forest trees. I am saying so since most of the discussion on food and nutrition security are either centred on (a) farm food production (also linked global food availability and food prices) or (b) external supplementation of food grain, vitamins and micronutrients in order to address various facets of food security. Needless to mention here is the fact that we as global members have failed miserably in tackling the problem of food security in spite of increased levels of production of food grain. 

Having worked closely in promoting rural livelihoods and land rights issues for the past several years I can have the liberty to presume that food and nutrition security at the household level is to a great level related to secure and safe access to land and other natural resource such as forest. In the state of Odisha, in India levels of landlessness are still high in many villages, which is especially more in case of indigenous communities (Scheduled Tribes). The case becomes more pertinent since the promulgation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (known as the Forest Rights Act) in India. This legislation is considered to be landmark legislation for recognising the tribals and other forest dwellers’ distinct residential and cultivation rights over forestlands. Government while admitting that ‘historical injustice’ was done to the tribals by not recognizing their traditional rights over forestland, brought about this effective forest rights framework that recognized, vested and settled forestland under occupation for self-cultivation for livelihood up to four hectares. In this four hectares or less, a non-forest land use in the form of a homestead and agricultural land use was recognized both to an individual or community without attracting the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act as it would have normally done. 

As per latest reports available over 300000 tribals have their rights over forestland recognised. However as usual there have been issues related to incomplete coverage and reduced quantum of land being recognised. Estimates and interaction with the claimants reveal that a majority of claimants have received entitlement to only about 0.01 to 0.8 hectares. Though there have been some efforts towards integrating other development schemes such as the national wage employment scheme, orchard development under the National Horticulture Mission, results have been few and far between. It all boils down to effective implementation and focus on the programme.

Forest dependent communities often collect a variety of seasonal fruits, tubers and medicinal herbs to supplement their nutrition requirements. There is often a gap in systematic research or directed approach toward augmenting this effort. I can’t come across any policy or programme that is directed towards this. Most of the forest development programmes deal with plantation and promoting livelihoods practices that would help the forest dependent communities “reduce” their dependency on forests.

I would suggest that there ought to be Nutrition Action Plans for each communities at each levels - community, regional, state and national levels to address food and nutrition security that would capture the nutrition gaps and provide an approach to address the gap that includes provisions from Government distribution programme and community initiatives to meet food requirements from forests and other natural habitats.

I look forward to participate in the discussion and learn from country experiences in addressing policy gaps and improving implementation of food security policy.

Thanks and best regards,

Sibabrata