Enhancing the socioeconomic benefits from forests
Across the world, forests, trees on farms, and agroforestry systems play a crucial role in the livelihoods of rural people by providing employment, energy, nutritious foods and a wide range of other goods and ecosystem services. They have tremendous potential to contribute to sustainable development and to a greener economy. Yet, clear evidence of this has been lacking. This evidence is critical to inform policies on forest management and use, and to ensure that the benefi ts from forests are recognized in the post-2015 development agenda, not only with respect to the environment, but also for their contributions to broader social issues.
This edition of State of the World’s Forests addresses this knowledge gap by systematically gathering and analysing available data on forests’ contributions to people’s livelihoods, food, health, shelter and energy needs. Crucially, the report also suggests how information might be improved and policies adjusted, so that the socioeconomic benefits from forests can be enhanced in the future.
SOFI 2014 presents updated estimates of undernourishment and progress towards the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) and World Food Summit (WFS) hunger targets.
The 2014 report also presents further insights into the suite of food security indicators introduced in 2013 and analyses in greater depth the dimensions of food security – availability, access, stability and utilization.
In addition, this year’s report examines the diverse experiences of seven countries, with a specific focus on the enabling environment for food security and nutrition that reflects commitment and capacities across four dimensions: policies, programmes and legal frameworks; mobilization of human and financial resources; coordination mechanisms and partnerships; and evidence-based decision-making.
You can read the key messages or download your full copy from the FAO website: www.fao.org/publications/sofi.
FAO’s studies on foreign investment in developing country agriculture suggest that the disadvantages of large-scale land acquisitions often outweigh the few benefits to the local community. In countries where local land rights are not clearly defined and governance is weak, large scale land acquisition raises particularly high risks for the local community. Even from the perspective of the investor, land acquisition is unlikely to be the most profitable business model due to the high potential for conflict and damage to reputation.
Conversely, the studies suggest that investments that involve local farmers as equal business partners, giving them an active role and leaving them in control of their land, have the most positive and sustainable effects on local economies and social development. These inclusive business models need strong external support for supporting farmers and facilitating the investor-farmers relationship in order to succeed. They also require ‘patient capital’, as financial returns to investment are unlikely to materialize in the first years.
Beside the business model, other important factors include the legal and institutional framework in the host country, the terms and conditions of the investment contract and the social and economic condition in the investment area. Strengthening the governance and capacity of institutions in host developing countries is essential to enhancing the developmental impacts of foreign agricultural investment.