Thursday and Friday 21-22 July

©Roberto Cenciarelli

Adoption of COFO 23 report marks a turning point for forestry and agriculture

A week-long programme of rich discussions and events, that saw a major realignment of forestry and agriculture, culminated on Friday 22 July afternoon with the final segment of the 23rd Session of the Committee on Forestry (COFO23). After Peter Besseau, Chairperson of the Drafting Committee, addressed participants in a full Green Room, COFO23 adopted the session's report by acclamation. This had been preceded by the Committee's election of its new Chairperson, His Excellency, Akram Chehayeb, Minister for Agriculture of Lebanon, who took up his new role immediately following the session's closure. The 24th Session of COFO is expected to take place in Rome in two years' time.

Read more about COFO23 and WFW5 here. The final report of the Committee's 23rd Session will be published in six languages at the same website in due course.

We need to go out beyond FAO to the "stadium" to preach about the role and importance of forests. We need to go outside of this room and our offices and talk about the importance of forests and how they can contribute to food security, livelihoods, jobs and how they can co-exist with other sectors in a sustainable manner.

Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, Natural Resources

©Jan Husák

An entry by Jan Husák from the Czech Republic in the Value of Forests photo contest at the 2015 European Forest Week. There is something extraordinary in the view up to the treetops of a larch forest in Moravian-Wallachia region. Can you feel vigour and freedom of trees in the air?

Former Guyana President appointed FAO Special Ambassador for Forests and the Environment

Former President of Guyana Bharrat Jagdeo has been appointed an FAO Special Ambassador for Forests and the Environment. Announcing the appointment on the final day of COFO23/WFW5, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said "Dr Jagdeo has been working with FAO to promote the environment and forestry around the world, and we are very happy that he is joining his voice to our efforts”.

As Special Ambassador, Jagdeo will promote the role of forests in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, raise awareness of the vital contributions of forests to food security, rural poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration, and encourage actions to support the sustainable use of forests and other natural resources.

Describing his appointment as a “great honour” and acknowledging FAO’s work in “so many areas critical to life and well-being on our planet”, Jagdeo pledged to continue to raise the profile of forests and advocate for global recognition of their importance.

Read more about Bharrat Jagdeo's appointment here.


Global forest and land monitoring strengthened by Google

Satellite images that used to take days to download and years of expertise to process can now be analyzed and visualized in a fraction of time by non-experts. For forestry, the implications are hugely significant. Thanks to a recently signed partnership between FAO and Google, monitoring of forest cover, land use and land-use change, countries can now reap major benefits from access to free state-of-the-art technology. 

As participants at a WFW5 event learned, the new FAO-Google partnership makes geospatial data and their analysis more user accessible, thus strengthening countries’ capacity to monitor change using data generated by the Google Earth and Earth Engine platforms. New software developed by FAO, Google Earth and Earth Engine, such as Collect Earth and SEPAL (System for Earth Observation Data Access, Processing and Analysis for Land Monitoring) are the key tools at countries’ disposal.

For example, employing the FAO-developed Collect Earth, a free, open-source and user-friendly tool using Google Earth and Google Earth Engine, users have instant access to very high spatial and temporal resolution data within a simple framework. In Tunisia, the National Forest Authority is using Collect Earth to collect accurate inventories of forest cover as part of action to combat desertification and for its first national forest inventory. Paraguay is also using the Google Earth Engine platform to analyze forest cover to support decision-making. A Collect Earth exercise that collected data from more than 200 000 sample plots of dry regions of the world, covering 45 percent of the world’s terrestrial lands, was completed in seven months rather than years.

Thanks to accurate and timely Google satellite-derived data on forests, government decision-making can be hugely improved while, globally, monitoring of pledges on climate change will become more transparent.

Read more about the Open Foris suite of tools and the FAO-Google partnership here.

Inseparable: forests, wildlife and food security

Jean Pierre's eyes. I never met someone who knew about the forest like Jean Pierre. He was able to locate the trees better than GPS. He saved my life twice. ©FAO/Liliana Vanegas. Gabon. XIV World Forestry Congress, Forests and People photo contest.

For the communities living in and around forests, wildlife – from large mammals to insects – has always been a major source of nutritious food. Its consumption also ensures that forest peoples are not vulnerable to debilitating micronutrient deficiencies. However, as evidence presented by a panel at a WFW5 event and Tree Talk suggests, in many parts of the world hunting wildlife for food has become unsustainable, with implications for food security, ecosystems and human health.

A host of factors renders wildlife’s role as a future source of dietary protein and micronutrients highly uncertain: demographic increases; the progressive conversion of wildlife habitats to agricultural crop production; growing illegal wildlife trade as a result of increasing urbanization; and higher levels of household wealth with consequent greater demand for animal protein. This calls for new thinking about wildlife conservation while ensuring the wellbeing of indigenous forest peoples. It includes ensuring that these peoples' exclusive territorial and wildlife hunting rights, which are threatened by unregulated trade, and their cultural identity are respected.

However, to make wildlife and the forest communities that depend on it sustainable requires robust policy coordination and regulatory measures across the sectors covering forests, wildlife and nutrition, the event suggested. Tree Talk moderator David Wilkie said this means striking a balance between wildlife conservation and its use in three ways: respecting and protecting the legitimate rights of indigenous peoples living in intact forests; increasing the supply of domestic sources of animal protein for families living in towns within tropical forests; and halting the luxury consumption of wild meat in urban areas.

FAO and its partners will move forward to promote action in this vein.

  • Forest peoples are our best allies for conservation because their interests and ours are aligned.
  • We can't forget that forests are vital to the food security and cultural identify of indigenous peoples who live in forests.
    David Wilkie, Wildlife Conservation Society

  • Thirty percent of the world's population are suffering form micronutrient deficiencies - micronutrients that forests provide.
    Anna Lartey, Director, FAO Nutrition and Food Systems Division

  • All sectors need to address illegal wildlife trade before we can address wildlife's sustainable use.
    Mette Wilkie, United Nations Environment Programme 

Read more at the websites of the Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management and FAO Forestry non-wood forest products.


Greening the charcoal value chain

©FCNMedNE Monzer Bouwadi. A charcoal kiln in Lebanon.

Charcoal is a primary cooking fuel for millions of households in developing countries, particularly in Africa, where around 90 percent of the round-wood removals are used as fuel. While the high demand for charcoal from major urban centers poses threats to forest resources and leads to landscape-level impacts, the charcoal sector is also a significant contributor to local livelihoods, employment, and the wider economy. A COFO23 side event highlighted the socioeconomic and environmental impacts of the charcoal sector and the policy options for sustainable charcoal production

Speakers at the event noted the complexities of the charcoal sector with multiple interest groups along the value chain. It is thus important for policy formulation to take into account trade-offs between socioeconomic benefits and environmental outcomes, as well as the conflicting demands from diverse stakeholders. Although many countries have made good progress in developing a sustainable charcoal sector, there is still a need for multi-sectorial and value-chain approaches in order to align the incentive/disincentive mechanisms across sectors when addressing the root causes of the charcoal sector’s problems.

Success at this level would allow this important industry to move to a greener status. Steps towards this could include, for example, introducing efficient charcoal kilns and improved charcoal stoves, certification of legally produced charcoal with differential taxation systems, enhancement of sustainable forest management practices for charcoal production, and restrictions on charcoal production from certain tree species or forest land types to minimize adverse impacts on the most valuable forests.

Given the overall socioeconomic benefits, the side event advocated that, when coupled with environmental safeguards, charcoal issues should be prioritized in international and national development strategies.

Further information can be found in the side-event presentations:

Read more about FAO's work on wood energy here.

Gender and forestry: starting a new dialogue between men and women

©FAO/Tsigie Befekadu. Wood for livelihood. Dorze woman traveling through the mountains of Entoto, Ethiopia, carrying a six-metre load of 40 kg of eucalyptus branches and leaves to see at the local market. XIV World Forestry Congress, Forests and People photo contest.

Increase the number of women in decision-making roles, their inclusion in the value chain and facilitate their access to markets. These are some of the key messages of a WFW5 side event that looked at how to take gender-sensitive actions in forestry to the next level.

However, this new form of dialogue should not take place to the exclusion of men. On the contrary, for gender policies to succeed, men’s understanding of and capacity to engage with gender-related issues is crucial. Presenting men with evidence of the added value to society and to a nation’s development of, for example, granting tenure rights to women is a powerful means of fostering new and equitable gender dynamics. An equally important area requiring attention is the involvement of youth and increasing their awareness of biased roles: gender sensitivity needs to start at the household level with the education of young people, including appropriate role modelling.

Traditionally, women have always been key to many forest-related activities, but their roles most now grow beyond participatory to being represented in greater numbers and at higher levels in decision and policymaking.

Women and men’s active involvement is therefore key to achieving progress on gender equality in forestry and, consequently, sustainable development, the event concluded.

  • Helping women be seen as key players in the value chain is critical for empowering them.
    Jeffrey Campbell, Forest and Farm Facility

  • It's not just an issue of women's representation but, more importantly, that policy and legal reforms are improved for gender.
    Robert Simpson, FAO Programme on Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade

Read more about FAO's work on gender.

Urban forests for sustainable cities

©Rodrigo Soldon

The physical manifestation of decades of at times uncontrolled urban growth is prompting increasing calls for a new environmentally and socioeconomically sustainable vision of urban planning. To meet urban populations’ current and future needs for food and basic ecosystem services will thus require greater “green” thinking for sustainable cities, a WFW5 event concluded.

Well-designed and well-managed urban forests can considerably improve the quality of life of urban and peri-urban dwellers around the world, by providing a wide range of benefits and services. However, despite the known environmental and psychological attributes, most urban decision-makers have been slow to prioritize urban forestry in town planning. Positive exceptions include countries such as the US and China, where forestry is now a major component of national and local policies and programmes for sustainable and resilient urban development. Smaller countries, such as Cape Verde, also see the value of reintegrating tree and forest resources in and around their cities.

Since the early 1990s, FAO has been supporting member countries in developing forestry projects and strategic planning tools for urban development. Currently, it is finalizing new urban and peri-urban forestry guidelines, to be launched at Habitat III Conference, in Quito, Ecuador, in October 2016. These aim to provide a global reference framework for the development of environmentally sound, socially inclusive and integrated urban green infrastructures.

The many successful experiences prove that investments by communities and governments in the protection and restoration of urban and peri-urban forests and green cover coupled with sound policies generate numerous dividends and can make a real difference to city living by fostering healthy and sustainable urban environments.

  • Urban forests provide many essential ecosystem services that make our cities more livable and that save money.
  • We need to maintain physical connections between rural and urban forests because forests are like rovers, a living continuum connecting rural and urban landscapes across the nation.
    Tom Tidwell, US Forest Service, USA

  • Urban forest development must serve human beings, and the old practice of isolating humans from forests should be changed.
    Xiao Wenfa, Chinese Academy of Forestry

Find more information in the FAO urban forestry banner and in the Urban forestry and the SDGs note. Also visit the FAO Urban Forestry website.

The 2030 Agenda: a unique opportunity for engaging forestry in constructive dialogue with agriculture?

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is a historic opportunity for countries to embrace sustainable development in a comprehensive and integrated way, was the conclusion of an FAO WFW5 event. Political will and leadership are now necessary to mobilize transformative actions.

Participants agreed that an important element of FAO’s future work should be to help countries develop a common vision of sustainability that is shared by key players across agriculture, forestry and fisheries. Equally important, is to identify concrete areas of common interest and to improve the coordination of actions across sectors, for example on agroforestry, or to provide and promote incentives for farmers to plant trees in agricultural landscapes. 

 Producers – farmers, foresters and fisherpeople – need adequate incentives to shift to more sustainable, productive and commercially viable practices. Local institutions, including extension services to farmers, need to have the capacity to provide knowledge and services in a more integrated and market-oriented way. For this to happen, better coordination is needed across government bodies, but also with civil society and the private sector. This requires sound governance mechanisms for fostering dialogue and cooperation - and for addressing conflicts of interest.

Read more on sustainable food and agriculture on FAO’s website and in the FAO report Building a Common Vision for Sustainable Food and Agriculture. For more on the 2030 Agenda, read Transforming Our World - the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Financing sustainable forest and landscape restoration and land degradation neutrality

©FAO/Rosetta Messori. Ossyfera Tai'izz, Yemen. Nursery beds at the main nursery at Ossyfera, which was improved through the addition of more nursery beds and an irrigation system under the forestry component of an FAO conservation project. Here, thousands of seedlings were produced for woodland management purposes.

Large-scale forest and landscape restoration (FLR) and action on land-degradation neutrality (LDN) are expected to be major contributors to and drivers of the successful implementation of climate change mitigation and adaptation provisions of the Paris Agreement. However, as participants at a COFO23 side event learned, greater investment in these areas will also be critical for growing an inclusive green economy that can create decent employment and increase incomes for local populations. 

The side event’s discussions on sustainable financing for FLR and LDN made clear the scale of investment required. According to a study by FAO and the Global Mechanism of the UN Convention to Combat Desertification released in 2015, US$ 300 billion will be needed annually to achieve the LDN 2030 Sustainable Development Goal target as well as others, including the Bonn Challenge, the New York Declaration on Forests and Aichi 15.

Obtaining the necessary levels of private sector finance will therefore be crucial, and predicated on several factors, including: creating an enabling environment for successful investments; developing investment cases; compiling FLR and LDN investment profitability data; mitigating financial and institutional risks; and promoting marketplaces for FLR and LDN.

The success of sustainable FLR and LDN development will therefore be determined in large part by the ability of countries, partners and international agencies to mobilize large-scale private sector finance. It will entail systemic fostering of inclusive FLR and LDN stakeholder dialogues, and sharing of lessons learned and of information on effective financing mechanism practices and gaps and challenges. It will also require seizing opportunities to promote synergies between different financing approaches.

  • Mobilizing the private sector in restoration activities to be stressed as fundamental for success.
    Douglas McGuire, Forest and Landscape Restoration

  • Biodiversity is a substantial component for successful landscape restoration.
    Ulrich Apel, Global Environment Facility

  • Strong political backing and synergies between the forestry and the agricultural supply chains are crucial for successful landscape restoration projects.
    Ludwig Liagre, Global Mechanism-UN Convention to Combat Desertification

Read more at the Forest and Landscape Restoration mechanism website.

The Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture

©FAO/Albert Conti. Rio Grande de Norte state, Brazil. Nursery for fuelwood production: preparation of containers for eucalyptus seedlings.

A multi-sector movement that was officially launched in 2015 and formed of over 130 companies, sectoral associations, research centers and civil society organizations, the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture has been working in a dynamic and systemic way to tackle climate change through a new low-carbon economy. Its main commitment is to help Brazil in its challenge to meet the goals agreed by the Paris Agreement.

At a WFW5 event, the organizers presented this innovative multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to build a new model of economic development in Brazil based on low-carbon principles and objectives for sustainable land use. Participants learned that the the Coalition is based on 17 concrete proposals in three areas: agriculture and livestock, forest, and energy. Actions related to forestry include compliance with the Forest Code, creation of carbon valuation mechanisms, incentives for an economy based on the rainforest and increased use of biofuels.

Read more about the Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture COFO 23 event here

Social protection for building resilience of forest-dependent people

©FAO/Kumar Sanjeev. FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, Growing our Future photo contest 2016. ForeJai Prakash Udyan of Seraikela district of Jharkhand state of India. The woman collects leaves of the Sal tree (Shorea robusta). The rural people, especially tribals of Jharkhand State, use these dried leaves to make plates. They use these leaves only after the worship of these trees--Sal in a festival called Sarhul. They either directly use them or sell in the market. This is an important use of non-wood forest products for livelihoods.

Most of the world’s food-insecure and poor people in greatest need of social protection live in rural areas, usually relying on natural resources for their subsistence and livelihoods. Among these populations are forest-dependent communities (FDC), who often reside in remote areas characterized by poor connections and poor access to public goods and services, and low levels of market development. This precarious situation leaves FDC households especially vulnerable to risks, repeated shocks and market failures, particularly when these are compounded by the impacts of climate change or environmental degradation.

As a COFO23 side event learned, a host of contributory factors can influence the status of FDCs. Although FDCs are exposed to various heightened risks and vulnerabilities, and are thus often in need of social protection, their inclusion in social protection policies and programmes is limited. Moreover, depending on their design, forest policies can have either positive or negative socioeconomic impacts on FDCs. When negative, social protection instruments can act as a buffer, protecting households from extreme consequences. The judicious inclusion of social protection functions in forestry policies and programmes can thus support the wellbeing of FDCs, but when coherence between the two areas is strained, because of conflicting objectives, greater sensitivity and awareness is needed on the part of state and non-state actor policymakers. 

Other factors revolve around gender and women, who are invariably the main users of forest resources but often find themselves excluded from education systems, management roles and overall decision-making. Those living in remote rural areas blighted by forest degradation may also be at higher risk. Market dynamics also come into play, with the positive, collective support offered by forest producer organizations or associations providing an important form of social protection that can lead to progress in forest conservation and poverty reduction. 

Although forests can be of themselves “socially protecting”, by virtue of being a major source of food and livelihoods for FDCs, thoughtfully designed social protection policies are important and can help support the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals.

  • Social protection programmes linked to forest-dependent people show positive effects on incomes and the environment.
    Maya Takagi, FAO

  • Forests can act as a natural insurance mechanism for communities in a time of shock, but are finite.
    Nyasha Tirivayi, UNU-MERIT

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