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The contribution of forestry to food security

M. Hoskins

Marilyn Hoskins is Community Forestry Officer of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

"Food will last so long as forests do"... so runs an ancient Kashmiri adage (Ann poshi tele yeli poshi van--Sheik Nur-ud-Din Wali).

Forestry has a large and indispensable role to play in improving present and future food security. Although a great deal remains to be understood about the specifics of this role, it is clear that foresters must make food security a basic consideration in policy formulation, as well as in programme planning, design and implementation.

Food security is defined as physical and economic access to food, for all people, at all times. It is of increasing concern. By the end of 1989, approximately 552 million people went to bed hungry. Moreover, trends show populations growing, inequity in resource distribution increasing and large-scale destruction of productive resources. Even conservative estimates predict that without concerted efforts to reverse this trend, the world will experience increasing undernutrition and will witness starvation on a yet unknown scale in times of periodic drought or crop failure.

Trees have been an integral part of the food security strategies of rural people for so long that it is curious and disturbing to note how this relationship has often been neglected in the planning of forestry activities. Even more disturbing, agriculture and forestry have often been, and sometimes still are, viewed as being in opposition. Project reports include such statements as "farmers may be too concerned over providing the daily food to become interested in planting trees". This false dichotomy is perhaps based on the outdated view that forestry is concerned only with raising timber trees on government lands and that agriculture only involves growing crops in open fields.

In fact, farmers have long recognized the importance of trees. They almost invariably incorporate trees in production systems in areas where they have lived for an extended period of time (Sène, 1985; Hoskins, 1985; Niamir, 1989). Inquiry into current and past farming practices has clearly shown that rural people have a wealth of knowledge as to which trees make agricultural crops grow more successfully, which provide fodder during dry seasons, and which help to hold soils for more successful farming on sloping land, etc.

TREES AND FORESTS HAVE A KEY ROLE in improving food security

Farmers also plant or protect trees in order to provide direct benefits. Very often one of the most important of these is food (FAO 1988a, Weber and Hoskins, 1983). Sène (1985), in the first Unasylva article to address this issue, pointed to the large range of tree and forest products that traditionally form a part of the Sahelian daily diet or part of a fall-back security system for times of hardship.

This is not to say that forests and foresters can single-handedly resolve a problem whose roots lie in inequitable distribution of land, water, natural vegetation, etc. In fact, case-studies (FAO, 1988b) have shown that if larger policy issues remain unaddressed, forestry projects often fail to achieve goals related to food security and socio-economic improvements for local people.

Moreover, it is clear that forestry will never be (nor should be expected to be) the prime direct supplier of food in the majority of fanning and/or herding systems. However, the ongoing supportive role of trees and forests is of crucial importance in most production systems in the tropics; and their direct supplementary contribution is often significant, especially in situations of strong seasonal cycles of food availability and scarcity, and in areas where risks of crop destruction are high because of erratic climate or other factors.

PHYSICAL ACCESS TO FOOD locusts are an important source of protein in Uganda

PHYSICAL ACCESS TO FOOD Faidherbia albida (formerly known as Acacia albida) pods are an important source of animal fodder in much of the Sudano-Sahelian zone of Africa

Physical access to food

The range and importance of foods that rural people obtain either directly from the flora and fauna that comprise the forest environment, or produce in an environment sustained and protected by trees vary significantly, depending on living conditions and availability of resources. However, it is safe to say that forest products provide a large range of locally important goods and services in most parts of the developing world.

In wooded areas of Northeast Thailand, for example, 60 percent of all food comes directly from the forests. At a regional workshop held in Khon Kaen, Thailand in 1988, local villagers prepared an exhibit comprising more than 40 plant and animal products gathered from the natural forests nearby, and then carefully explained the use of each. The foresters and nutritionists participating in the workshop were amazed at the variety and quantity of forest foods (FAO, 1988a).

By contrast, in a densely inhabited area of Java, where there is very little forest, 60 percent of all food comes from home gardens where planted trees play an integral role (Widagda, 1981).

One of the most important direct contributions of the forest to food supply is wildlife. In many areas, small rodents, reptiles, birds, snails and insects, as well as larger animals, make up a much more important part of the diet than is generally realized. For example, communities living near a forest in Nigeria obtain 85 percent of their animal protein from bushmeat. In Ghana, approximately 75 percent of the population consumes wild animals regularly, in Liberia, 70 percent; and in Botswana, 60 percent (FAO, 1989b). In the Peruvian Amazon more than 80 percent of animal protein is obtained from bushmeat, and the national average of those eating bushmeat in Peru, including those who live far from forest land, is 41 percent (Dourojeanni, 1978).

However, even these startlingly high figures may understate the reality of the situation. Wildlife consumption is often unrecorded as part of the informal sector; in addition, hunting of larger animals is frequently illegal and as a result, accurate statistics are difficult to collect. Recently, legal authorities have begun to realize that supportive rather than punitive legislation could result in substantial benefits. Coupled with local management, changes in legislation could help provide better and more sustainable access to wildlife as a source of food and income for rural people.

Trees and nutrition

Tree and forest products play an extremely important role in ensuring adequate nutrition. Although availability of calories is accepted as the most important issue for the world's hungry, certain micro-elements are essential for health. By providing many of these essential nutrients, forest products help to improve both the physical and mental well-being of rural people (see article on p. 20 by C. Ogden).

For example, many trees are rich in oil seeds, edible leaves or yellow fruits, all of which provide vitamin A. In parts of Africa, diets based on staple grains depend largely on sauces made from tree products to provide this vitamin which is essential to prevent nutritional blindness. Yet as natural vegetation is depleted, the range of products available for these sauces is narrowed. In many areas, products rich in vitamin A are becoming unavailable; careful forestry planning, including appropriate species selection, could reverse this trend (UN, 1987; FAO, 1983; FAO, 1984; FAO, 1986a).

In many countries the distinction between food and medicine is not clear-cut; many plants or other products obtained in the forest are thought to have medicinal qualities and are added to daily meals. For example, honey eaten as a sweetener in many countries is valued as a medicine in Sri Lanka and in Zambia. In other cases, forest products are used as curative rather than preventive medicines in nutritional disorders. In Nigeria, for example, 80 percent of mothers questioned used a forest-based herbal cure for infant dysentery that causes food to pass through the system without allowing much of its nutritive value to be absorbed (Abosede and Akesode, 1986). Forest medicines also help to keep the labour force healthy during the agricultural season, thus ensuring higher productivity. Finally, forest plants often provide medicines for livestock diseases (FAO, 1986a; FAO, 1989a).

Famine foods

A number of forest perennials are not foods of choice in good times but are lifesaving reserves in times of food shortage. Different trees or shrubs or different parts of the same plant may be eaten during famines (FAO, 1989a). For example, during periods of extended drought, fruits sometimes contain fewer nutrients since trees store their energy supply in their roots. Under these circumstances, the roots of many trees are rich in calories but often require a great deal of processing to make them edible. When the range of strategies for providing food security in specific areas is understood, foresters can select species and management strategies so as to ensure availability of food at all times and periodic crises, such as droughts, will have less drastic consequences (see article on p. 14 by J. Falconer)

Fuelwood and food security

In almost all areas of the developing world, wood provides most of the energy for cooking. Although the exact effects of woodfuel scarcity on diet have not yet been adequately researched (see article on p. 29 on fuelwood/food hypotheses for research), the implicit relationship between fuelwood availability and nutrition should not be overlooked. Cooking releases the nutrients in grains and fibrous foods, making them edible and appealing. Some foods, for example certain varieties of cassava and beans, can even be poisonous if not cooked properly. In this respect, therefore, wood for energy is essential if adequate food supplies are to be converted into adequate diets.

Fuelwood is also essential in processing and preserving foods. In fishing communities, for example, a scarcity of fuel for drying and smoking fish, by far the two most widely used preservation methods in the developing countries, can effectively limit the utilizable daily catch.

However, fuelwood scarcity is not an isolated problem; where wood is in short supply, food and time are apt to be scarce as well. Forestry strategies that attempt to deal with fuelwood shortages alone seldom attract farmer interest. Farmers realize that trees, even those that produce fruit or other products, all provide some wood for cooking. Therefore, strategies that emphasize the use of multipurpose trees to address various locally identified needs are more likely to gain support (FAO, 1988c).

Sustaining agricultural production

Beyond the direct contribution of food, trees and forests play a critical role in ensuring sustained agricultural production, including animal husbandry and, in some instances, fisheries.

Under the most basic forms of agriculture, where land availability allows a relatively low labour strategy to work effectively, shifting cultivators alternate cropping with fallow periods in which tree cover is allowed to regenerate and restore soil fertility. As land pressure increases, forcing a move toward continuous cultivation, various forms of intercropping develop. On hillsides in Haiti and the Philippines, living hedgerows of Leucaena leucocephala stabilize soil on terraces and increase fertility, allowing farmers to produce crops on a sustainable basis on what would otherwise be marginal farmland. In Nigeria, research centres have developed an extremely intensive intercropping system in which trees and crops are grown in alternating rows. This system uses the leaves of the trees as green manure to enrich the soils and enhance crop production (Ngambeki, 1985). However, to be valid under field conditions, intensive approaches such as this require secure long-term use rights to land which is a luxury not available to most shifting cultivators.

Trees are also used to protect crops from wind damage. For example, in the Antilles, Argentina, China, India, the Niger, Papua New Guinea and Tunisia, the use of trees as shelter-belts has resulted in increases in grain production ranging from 30 to 200 percent. In Algeria, China, India, Mauritania, the Niger, Senegal and other countries, trees are being used to stabilize dunes and protect soils from being covered by sand.

Of course, the use of trees in cropping systems is not limited to the production of food crops. For example, Costa Ricans plant trees to give shade necessary in the production of coffee and several other crops; Cameroonians use natural forest for the same purpose. Trees are also an important source of fodder for the animals of the world's 30-40 million pastoralists. In the Sudano-Sahelian zone, Faidherbia albida (formerly termed Acacia albida) provides 30-40 percent of all livestock feed in the dry season (Wending, in New, 1984), while in Mexico Prosopis spp. is the main dry season fodder. Seventy-five percent of all indigenous tree species in tropical Africa are used for browse (Wickens et al., 1985).

IN THE YEMEN ARAB REPUBLIC - a windbreak of casuarina protects a grove of citrus tree.

SUPPORTING AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION - trees protect the soil and water base of an upland pineapple plantation In Honduras

Under special circumstances, trees also have a role in supporting fisheries, thus ensuring a major food source for many coastal populations. In the Pichavaram mangrove in southern India, for example, 74 percent of the prawns caught in adjacent coastal waters use the mangrove as nursery grounds (Krishnamurthy, 1984).

Thus, tree and forest resources contribute to food security of ensuring physical access to adequate food supplies since they:

· provide a direct source of regularly utilized foods, often in significantly greater quantity and variety than is generally recognized;

· provide essential nutrients and medicines that increase the nutritional impact of other foods, and help to maintain the health of rural people. Medicines from the forest are especially important for populations with no access to other types of medication;

· fill the gap in "hungry seasons" by supplying food during seasonal shortage periods and act as emergency foods in times of drought or other crises;

· yield fuelwood for cooking, preserving and processing foods;

· support sustainable food and agricultural production by helping manage soil and water systems and by controlling wind;

· support livestock systems by providing fodder, especially during seasonal shortages in arid and semi-arid zones;

· provide a storehouse of genetic resources for the improvement of domesticated food crops.

MANGROVE ESTUARIES - play a major role in supporting fisheries

Economic access to food

Beyond their contribution to ensuring physical access to food supplies, forest-based activities also provide substantial cash income. In fact, since forests are often located in dispersed remote rural areas, they have great potential to contribute income and employment where it is most needed. Poverty is generally correlated with poor food security and income usually helps assure access to food. This appears to be especially valid when incomes go to women who are usually responsible for providing family meals (FAO, 1989c). However, different policies and approaches for forest management or for tree-planting activities are needed when the major expected output is cash rather than products for household use.

Populations living in or on the fringes of forests are often among the poorest of a nation's peoples and their income opportunities need to be expanded. Although little is known about the economic benefits for rural economies from forests, a preliminary study reported in Nature (Peters, Gentry and Mendelsohn, 1989) concludes that the Peruvian Amazon rain forest could be of much greater economic worth if it were to be managed on a sustained basis rather than harvested and converted to other uses, such as forest plantations or pasture. In the case-study area, the value from sustainable harvesting of fruit and latex is estimated at US$ 6330 per hectare, six times the estimated value of the timber.

Recent analyses in India have shown that millions of tribal and landless people depend heavily on the gathering and sale of products from the forest for cash income with which to buy food and other needed products. Although it would be unwise to generalize from these limited findings, it is clear that economic analyses of the complete range of forest products, coupled with clearer identification of the groups of people that depend on them, are crucial in the development of policies and plans designed to ensure the sustained management of the forests and to increase the development opportunities for local people. Certainly, if local people be assured of substantial benefits from forest resources they will be likely to take an interest in more effective forest management.

One significant way of further increasing the cash-generating potential of forestry resources is through the development of processing enterprises. Forest-based small-scale enterprises, especially the processing and sale of non-timber forest products, already provide essential cash for millions of land-poor and landless families. In a lowland area of the Philippines, rattan collection is one of the primary sources of income (Siebert and Belsky, 1985). In northeast Brazil, millions of subsistence-level farmers rely on cash from kernels of the babassu palm, which also provides thatch, material for basketry, and charcoal (May et al., 1985). In southeast Nigeria 89 percent of households consume palm oil, the production of which provides income for a large number of women (Nweke et al., 1985). In 1985, 127 400 Zambians, or 29 percent of the total employed in all enterprises, were employed in informal forest-based processing enterprises (Fisseha and Milimo, 1986).

These small-scale enterprises, each providing an income for an average of less than five persons, already account for far more total employment than large forestry enterprises. The challenge for the future is to find more effective ways of identifying viable products and enterprises, especially those for which smallness has an advantage; to develop strategies in which access to raw materials and markets is equitable for the small producers; and to help these enterprises in ways that ensure their sustainability so that those dependent upon them continue to obtain the benefits (FAO, 1987).

Beyond opportunities for cash income based on the collection and processing of naturally occurring forest products, cash cropping of trees by rural people may be another viable alternative under certain circumstances (see article by J.E.M. Arnold). Land, labour, capital and markets appear to be the essential variables that control economic viability of smallholder tree growing.

In both Kenya and India smallholder farmers are planting large numbers of trees not for subsistence fuelwood cash income. When land is so scarce that even intensive agroforestry strategies, such as the home gardens in Java, can no longer support the family, income for family food must come from elsewhere. At this point farmers may plant low-management tree crops that free labour for earning off-farm income while producing some income from the land. Tree systems may also be favoured by those farmers short of capital. Tree crops are not costly to establish and manage compared to many high-value agricultural crops requiring fertilizers and herbicides. Trees may also be a low capital option for reconstituting poor soils, often the only type of land available to the poor.

Poor people who are struggling to ensure adequate food supplies for themselves and their families must avoid risk and trees may help them do so. Trees can live during periods of drought or other stress when annuals do not; they can be saved and harvested when the need for cash is greatest. However, tree planting has the potential to be an economically viable option for the poor only if appropriate markets are accessible and alternative income for immediate needs is available. If tree tenure is unsure, tree planting is not likely to be adopted. Policies in this case may need to focus on strengthening security of benefit control and access to reliable markets so that trees can be harvested by their owners when needed (Chambers and Leach, 1986).

Fruit-trees may also be a viable cash crop alternative. In India, for example, the fruit from a single tamarind tree can provide enough income to support an entire family.

Thus, trees and forestry products are also important in terms of ensuring economic access to adequate food supplies, since:

· forests are a source of plants and animals which, when naturally occurring, can be taken, processed and sold for cash;

· fruit-bearing trees may be grown as a source of cash income;

· under conditions of scarce land, capital or labour, and when markets are available, trees may be planted and grown as wood cash crops to be harvested in times of need.

Economic access to food

Strategies for forestry and food security

Options and possibilities for multipurpose management of forest resources, raising tree crops and adding value through processing suggest a number of ways forestry and foresters can help people to obtain physical and economic access to food. However, they also suggest a need to re-examine policies and forestry plans, to remove obstacles, offer incentives and minimize risks to the people who are most vulnerable.

The real challenge for foresters is to ensure that forestry programmes and activities are supported by policies, planning and implementation that enable them to be as relevant as possible in ensuring economic and physical access to food by all people at all times.

In order to promote better understanding and more effective documentation of this topic, the Government of India hosted an FAO Expert Consultation on Forestry and Food Security in 1988. This meeting, the first of its kind, brought together 57 specialists in such varied disciplines as forestry, soil science, agriculture, livestock. nutrition, anthropology, economics and hydrology. The participants came from 27 countries, covering all major regions of the world, thereby ensuring that the materials presented, issues examined and conclusions drawn represented the largest possible range of perspectives and experience (FAO, 1988d).

The Consultation focused on the environmental, productive and socioeconomic aspects of forestry and food security. Topics included major issues such as foods from the forest and the dietary role of forest foods, microclimates, erosion, water management and crop production, as well as special topics such as mangrove systems, the contribution of bushmeat to diets and herder resource management (FAO, 1989a, b, c).

In the discussion it became clear that there are issues with too many poorly understood variables to permit agreement or generalizations. This appears to be the case with regard to the exact relation of trees to water regimes. The group recommended continuing research on topics where there is still uncertainty or disagreement. However, at the same time, the participants emphasized that the need for further research should not become a barrier to immediate action. Rather, they recommended that locally appropriate implementation move ahead with all urgency.

The participants particularly stressed the importance of learning with rural people themselves how forests and trees support food security and how forestry could expand this role. The participants at the Khon Kaen workshop (referred to earlier) also concluded that they had much to gain by planning in partnership with rural people-since they have an impressive intimate knowledge of both their resources and the socio-economic factors that support and limit their well-being.

The conclusions of this group, combined with those of the Expert Consultation held in India, give guidelines for policy approaches, institutional arrangements, and project design and implementation which should result in more effective food security through forestry.

ECONOMIC ACCESS TO FOOD - harvesting... and processing reeds In India

Policy and institutional approaches

Policy approaches suggested by both groups referred to above begin by signalling the importance of food security in forestry by specifically identifying it as an objective. If forestry is to focus effectively on meeting the food and income needs of local people, this focus must be clearly stated in policy documents, along with a commitment to working in partnership with local people. The Expert Consultation suggested that existing forest policy orientations be reviewed, particularly with regard to the following:

"changing policy measures which prevent the desired broadening of forest uses (for example, changing legislation that discriminates against users of non-timber forest products or access to wood for small-scale enterprises)";

"replacing legal and other constraints that discourage tree growing outside forests with market or other incentives and measures (including tree tenure arrangements) which promote more effective use of trees within farming systems";

"developing and enforcing regulations to minimize the negative impact of large wood-using industries on the local environment and local people";

"making modifications in forest laws to recognize the needs of landless and poor families and to extend their involvement in food- and income-generating activities based on the forest" (FAO, 1988d).

Ideally, policies would: increase the overall benefits derived from forests at both the local and national level; encourage use of trees to support sustained crop and livestock production more effectively with higher income and lower risks, especially for the poor; support forest-based small-scale enterprises; provide market support for tree and forest products; and increase the management responsibilities of local people for forest resources.

Institutional infrastructure and management must be available to implement these policy directives. To be effective and relevant, particularly in terms of food security objectives, forestry institutions will have to work with those of other sectors such as agriculture, livestock, fisheries, etc. Forestry must complement and not compete with these primary food providers.

Social scientists and nutritionists should be further integrated within forestry institutions to strengthen capabilities for flexible planning and implementation of forestry programmes with this broader perspective. Collaboration with non-governmental institutions will help strengthen the ability of forestry services to carry out their role in rural communities. Finally, foresters and others working within forestry institutions will need to serve as communication links between the local people and the central government to support the strengthening of food security through forestry; appropriate incentives will be needed to encourage them to take on this role. More women will have to be employed within these institutions to work with local women; the development of gender-sensitive programmes will be of major importance.

Training and education will need to be modified in order to impart the necessary skills, tools and approaches to both centrally based professionals and village workers. Training will need to focus on team approaches to interdisciplinary and holistic planning and thinking; forestry must be developed with a view to the larger context of the lives of rural people, especially the hungry.

Extension is a relatively new field within forestry. Only now are forestry training institutions examining their curricula and making the modifications necessary to include training in extension. Forestry education must avoid approaches to extension such as top-down, single-focus or working through the more affluent; otherwise, the goal of working in partnership with communities to address food security issues cannot be reached. Extensionists, as well as training institutes and policy-makers, which will influence extension approaches and their effectiveness, will need to develop creative and mole relevant two-way communication approaches.

Forestry research, too, will need to confront new challenges on topics such as how to counter the potentially negative effects of large-scale forest protection or industrial forestry operations on local food security; how to maximize food production potential from the land and forests on a sustainable basis; how to harmonize production of wood and non-wood forest products; and how best to assimilate local knowledge to ensure that research goals are grounded in reality. Finally, as observed at the Expert Consultation on Forestry and Food Security, in 1989:

"There is a great need and scope for research on the methods and institutional arrangements required for instituting forestry programmes with food security objectives. What are the different types of flexible management practices, for example, with which forestry departments can experiment? What types of strategies and approaches will effectively address local peoples' needs? It is imperative that researchers do not focus only on the products and services of forests and trees, but also address the social and economic conditions needed so that people can benefit from them" (FAO, 1989b, p. 107).

Approaches at the project or activity level

At the project or activity level, a food security approach to forestry will require new perspectives on identifying the problems, on identifying the beneficiary groups and on collaboration with special interest groups, particularly women, the landless and the very poor.

Suggestions for incorporating food security concerns in forestry programmes, projects and activities through interdisciplinary planning in partnership with rural people could include the following actions:

1. Identify the major factors constraining food security in the programme or project area. The causes of food insecurity are many and varied, and may include a combination of increasing population pressure, declining crop productivity through soil erosion, lack of access to fodder by grazing animals, inequitable distribution of land and other production inputs, inadequate marketing opportunities, pricing policies that discourage food production and inadequate employment opportunities.

The effect of these factors may be manifested in periodic shortages of food or funds to purchase food, nutritional disorders, the depletion of the agricultural resource base under current production systems, etc.

In identifying food security issues, the concerns of the local residents and the ways in which they express them should be carefully considered. For example, local people may express food security in terms of quantity (number of granaries filled or the number of months when food had to be purchased and the availability of cash); quality (availability of favoured foods or necessity of eating "famine foods"); variety or range of foods or availability of specific foods.

2. Analyse whether the activities of the planned project will contribute to improving food security, and how this contribution could be increased. Forestry activities can sometimes reverse a productivity decline, make new resources accessible or perhaps offer alternative sources of cash. The potential effect of the project on the physical or economic access to food at various times of the year or during famine periods or access to certain needed nutrients can be the focus of goal and activity setting and of monitoring and evaluation. For example, when food security issues relate to decreasing productivity of the resource base, agroforestry solutions may be examined. If land tenure is a critical issue, tree tenure solutions may be explored. When the issue is seasonality or erratic weather conditions, planting of seedlings to provide food or income at needed times may lessen the risks of food shortages. Appropriate species selection will be of major importance.

It is also important to consider and compensate for any potentially negative impacts on food security which could be brought about by forestry activities resulting in changes of land use or access to resources.

3. Identify the most vulnerable sectors of the population in relation to food security and designate them as primary beneficiaries. Food insecurity may affect whole communities, certain families or certain individuals within households. The communities and the individuals within them who have less access or less assurance of continued access to foods should be identified as primary beneficiaries wherever possible. Nutritional deficiencies and the potential of forestry activities in addressing them should also be considered when assessing an area, and in designing forestry activities.

4. Implement projects or activities with the full participation of local people. There can be no serious doubt that local people, especially the most vulnerable, are aware of and concerned about food security issues. They are already engaged in an ongoing effort to ensure themselves and their families adequate supplies of food. They are also likely to be the best informed about their local environment. If a new technology is being suggested and the local people consider it valuable in strengthening their food security situation, they will often willingly adopt it. If the suggested approach does not meet with their support it is either because they do not have adequate information, or there is something wrong with the approach. In either case, project staff must work closely with local residents to address doubts or constraints.

All interventions must be designed with the realization that projects come and go but food security is a long-term, life and death issue for local people. Forestry activities that strengthen food security have a much greater chance of being implemented on a long-term basis, continuing even after the termination of external project support.

5. Ensure appropriate and ongoing assessment, monitoring and evaluation. The achievement of food security goals in forestry projects is unquestionably more difficult to measure than "traditional" objectives concerned with area planted or production per hectare, especially because many of the long-term benefits of a social forestry project may not even begin to become apparent until after the end of the project life. Creative multifaceted approaches may be required. For example, short-term monitoring of the management of existing trees could be conducted, or quick-yielding products adopted that are designed to provide immediate benefits while trees are established. This approach has been adopted for projects in the Republic of Korea, Zambia, Senegal and India where respective production of mushrooms, papaya, henna and fodder grasses was monitored.

If seasonality in access to food is considered a special problem and project activities include tree planting, intermediate measures to be monitored might include the potential of the species selected to provide food during the "hungry season"; whether the most vulnerable groups show an interest in obtaining and planting these seedlings; and whether the local people will be guaranteed access to the food produced. The food from these trees actually used to improved food security for the vulnerable could be measured in later evaluations.

Local people have ways of measuring food security and, when possible, these should be incorporated into the monitoring system. New approaches to participatory assessment, monitoring and evaluation suggest a limited number of key indicators can be identified as benchmarks for management monitoring and (see article on p. 20 by C. Ogden).

LOCAL PARTICIPATION IS ESSENTIAL - discussing project activities In Nepal


Forestry alone cannot and should not be expected to resolve the totality of food security issues. Many of the essential variables in the food security equation, such as access to food, land, training inputs and jobs are determined by forces outside forestry's control. Even within the family unit, access to quantity and quality of foods is often constrained by sociocultural factors that forestry cannot influence. Forestry can have only a minimal impact when larger factors produce an environment of inequality, or when the productive capacity of the resource base is already overstressed by population pressure.

However, when policies, customs and productive resources provide a suitable environment, trees and forests play an extremely important twofold role in food security. First, the support role of forests and trees in sustainable agricultural systems is crucial to overall food production. Woody perennials contribute to reducing the risk of annual crop failure; to compensating for seasonal scarcities; and to providing an emergency supply in times of long-term drought or other stress conditions. This role will continue to be fundamental in ensuring physical access to food.

The second facet of forestry's role in food security, in supporting economic access to food, is increasing rapidly in importance, especially for the landless and rural poor. The income provided through small-scale enterprises involving the collection and processing of non-timber forest products, as well as poles, fuelwood and timber from managed forests or raised on farm or communal lands, is already essential to millions of people in rural areas. As economies become monitized and infrastructure supports facilitate transport and marketing, the income provided by forest products will become even more important.

Much is still to be learned about factors such as dependency and vulnerability, about organizational approaches and even about technology for managing forestry for multipurpose benefits, including the provision of food. As the situation is dynamic, people's different types of dependency on trees and forests are continually changing. Forest policies and planning need to become further tuned to these realities if forestry is to play its potential role in supporting food security. However, enough is already known for foresters to take up the challenge, confident that they have relevant contributions to make. With thought and resolve, forestry activities can help redress the growing problem of hunger.


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