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Forum global sur la sécurité alimentaire et la nutrition • Forum FSN

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

Gill Shepherd
Gill ShepherdIUCN and London School of EconomicsUnited Kingdom


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

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