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Forests, food security and sustainable livelihoods

Unasylva last published an issue on Forestry and food security a decade ago (Unasylva No. 160, 1990). In the intervening years, emphasis on food security - the physical and economic access to food for all people at all times - in international development has been redoubled, catalysed by the World Food Summit held at FAO in 1996. At the same time, foresters have increasingly been looking beyond purely sectoral issues to identify the contribution of forestry to world food security.

In recent years the emphasis on food security has broadened, with the adoption in development circles of the concept of sustainable livelihoods - of which food security is a key element. The sustainable livelihoods approach not only looks at access to food, but takes in all aspects of poverty alleviation. This entails looking beyond the obvious contribution of foods from the forest and fuelwood for cooking, and beyond the provision of jobs and income, to other indirect contributions such as reduced vulnerability, more sustainable use of the natural resource base and increased well-being.

This issue's overview article, by K. Warner, introduces this concept and enumerates contributions of forests and forestry to sustainable livelihoods. Warner examines the part that forests can play in reducing poverty in a changing world, as some populations move away from forest dependence while others continue to rely on them for their livelihood in different degrees.

E.H. Sène summarizes the contribution of forests and trees to food security in Africa and the place of forestry in FAO's Special Programme for Food Security. He proposes that a combination of initiatives aimed at a better understanding of local and traditional practices, better management of resources and integration of trees into farming systems can greatly enhance that contribution. A box highlights the role of wildlife in food security, emphasizing alternative production systems that can safeguard sustainability of wildlife use.

While the first two articles identify ways in which forestry can contribute to sustainable livelihoods, food security and nutrition, F. Egal, A. Ngom and P.D. Ndione present a methodology for incorporating these concerns into forestry interventions. The methodology for integrating nutrition concerns into forestry planning, based on participatory approaches, was tested at a workshop in Senegal, where a manual is now being developed to aid in its implementation.

L. Lipper explains how deforestation and forest degradation impair the capacity of forests to contribute to food security and other needs, not only for forest-dwellers but also on a global level. Forest degradation can be a threat to food security but also a product of efforts to obtain it. Using a type of cost/benefit analysis, Lipper shows how the costs of forest degrading activities need to be weighed against the value obtained in terms of food security.

An area where deforestation and related problems are having a marked effect on food security is the Amazon. A major culprit is clearing the forest to make way for illicit crops.
D. Gonzalez Posso shows how coca cultivation is leading to deforestation and declining food security in Colombia's western Amazon region. An accompanying box describes a project in Bolivia that is introducing forest management plans and agroforestry to provide sustainable livelihoods so that farmers will have less incentive to grow coca illegally.

Y.B. Malla, in an article focusing on Nepal, stresses the importance of considering food security and equity issues - and not only environmental concerns - in community forest management interventions. After two decades, community forest management in the country has had a positive influence on forest and tree resources, but local communities' access to timber, fuelwood and other non-wood forest products (NWFPs) does not appear to have improved - sometimes because of problems in implementation and sometimes because of poorly conceived policy.

Forest products can be particularly important in times of economic stress. D.V. Vladyshevskiy, A.P. Laletin and A.D. Vladyshevskiy describe the current use of NWFPs in a region of central Siberia. The article is followed by a box on Kosovo Province illustrating the role of forestry interventions in a crisis situation, after war, when fuelwood for cooking and heating and timber for reconstruction of homes and animal shelters became critical needs.

Food insecurity in forest communities is not only a problem in developing countries, as demonstrated by a profile of a poor forest community in northern California, United States. C. Danks describes an attempt to create livelihoods in forest stewardship to fill the gap created by the closure of the area's forest industries.

As the articles in this issue suggest, forests contribute to food security and sustainable livelihoods in numerous ways, not only directly but also indirectly, through support to agricultural systems, their role in rural development and in maintaining environmental integrity and the provision of op-portunities for income generation and employment. Governments would do well to consider these contributions in their pursuit of food security goals, by integrating forestry with other disciplines, for example agriculture and nutrition, in policy and planning.

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