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Sustainable Forest Management (SFM) Toolbox

Forests, Food security and Nutrition

Welcome to the module on forests, food security and nutrition. This module is intended for public and private forest and land managers who wish to increase the contributions of forests and trees outside forests to food security and nutrition. The module provides practical knowledge, strategies and tools for using sustainable forest management (SFM) to do so.

Forests, food security and nutrition contributes to SDGs:

It is estimated that 795 million people are chronically undernourishedForests make up one-third of the Earth’s land area, and another half of the total land area has sparsely scattered trees. An estimated 2.4 billion people worldwide depend in various ways on forests and trees outside forests for their food security and nutrition. For example, more than 50 million people in India depend directly on forests for food consumption and good nutrition. In 2011 it was estimated that 80 percent of people in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic consumed wild forest foods daily.

Food security can be defined as the state in which “all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Food security is fully achieved when food is physically available (availability); economically, physically and socially accessible (access); and usable (utilization); and when these three conditions are stable over time (stability). Each of these dimensions of food security is affected by the health and vigour of forests and trees outside forests; therefore, the role of SFM is vital for sustainable food security and nutrition.

Availability

Availability

Forests and trees outside forests contribute to the availability dimension of food security by increasing food supply at the national level. Many edible non-wood forest products (NWFPs) gathered in the wild have considerable nutritional value because of the micronutrients they contain. Medicinal plants provide a wide range of health benefits and contribute to the primary health care of many millions of people. SFM can ensure a continuous supply of edible NWFPs, and it also supports agricultural and fishery production indirectly by providing forest environmental services related to pollination, soil health and clean water.

Access

Access

When managed sustainably, forests and trees in rural landscapes help increase income by providing multiple renewable resources to meet market demand for food, wood, fodder, fibre, biofuel, shelter and other products, as well as for environmental services. The income generated formally and informally from forests was estimated at US$730 billion globally in 2011. Income earned in the forest sector, including through small and medium-sized forest enterprises, is an important means by which forest-dependent households gain economic access to food.

Utilization

Utilization

Food security and nutrition requires food of adequate quality and quantity prepared and consumed in a healthy environment. The sustainable production of woodfuel is vital for the 2.4 billion people who rely on woodfuel as their main energy source for cooking and water sterilization. Many forest-dependent households have limited access to other sources of energy for food preparation; woodfuel plays an essential role in the preparation of food in a proper and safe manner in such households and therefore in the food security and nutrition of household members.

Stability

Stability

The availability and usability of, and access to, foods must be maintained over time if food security and nutrition is to be achieved. Especially in times of climatic shocks and livelihood risks, SFM helps maintain healthy, productive forests and thereby provides a functioning safety net for ensuring adequate food security and nutrition.