FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

Time is running out for the world’s forests: total area is shrinking by the day

The State of the World’s Forests 2018 warns that Latin America is one of three regions where deforestation continues

Communal forest concessions in Guatemala, pillars of conservation and sustainable development...

July 6, 2018, Santiago de Chile - Latin America is one of three regions where deforestation continues, according to The State of the World’s Forests 2018, published today by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, FAO.

The FAO report indicates that between 1990 and 2015, the world's forests decreased from 31.6% of the world's land areas to 30.6%, although the rate of loss has slowed down in recent years. This loss occurred mainly in developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia.

According to the report, deforestation is the second leading cause of climate change - after the burning of fossil fuels - and accounts for almost 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions. This is more than the entire transport sector. Between 24% and 30% of the total mitigation potential can be obtained by stopping and reducing tropical deforestation.

Demand for charcoal pressure on forest resources

In places where the demand for charcoal is high, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, South-East Asia and South America, its production puts pressure on forest resources and contributes to degradation and deforestation, especially when access to these forests is not regulated.

According to the FAO report, the proportion of people who depend on firewood varies from 63% in Africa to 38% in Asia, and 16% in Latin America.

The forests managed for soil and water conservation have increased worldwide in the last 25 years, with the exception of Africa and South America. Only 9% of the forest area of South America is managed with the objective of protecting soil and water, well below the global average of 25%.

Close relationship between forests and poverty

Forests and trees provide about 20 percent of the income of rural households in developing countries. However, according to the report, there is a strong relationship between areas of extensive forest cover and high poverty rates: in Brazil, for example, just over 70% of closed forest areas (dense, with large canopy cover) had high poverty rates.

According to SOFO, in Latin America, 8 million people subsist on less than USD 1,25 a day in tropical forests, savannas and their surroundings,

Globally, more than 250 million people live below the extreme poverty line in these areas: 63 % are in Africa, 34 % in Asia and only 3 % in Latin America.

Although Latin America's participation in the global total is low, it should be noted that the vast majority (82 %) of those living below the poverty line in rural areas of Latin America live in tropical forests, savannahs and their surroundings.

With a total of 85 million people living in tropical forests, savannas and in theirsurroundings in Latin America, caring for forests will be a key factor in moving towards the Sustainable Development Goals.

Community forestry enterprises in Guatemala

The FAO report highlights that in Guatemala -where 70% of the forest land is under some kind of protection- community forestry companies manage more than 420,000 hectares within the Maya Biosphere Reserve.

The State granted these companies forest concessions. In one year (2006 to 2007), they obtained revenues of 4.75 million dollars for sales of certified wood and 150 thousand for sale of non-wood forest products.

These forestry companies generated more than 10 thousand direct jobs and some 60 thousand indirect jobs. In addition, workers were paid more than twice the minimun wage (World Resources Institute, 2008).

In Mexico, starting in 1997 an important program was launched to help communities create forestry companies. Today, more than 2,300 community groups manage their forests for timber extraction, generating significant income for communities and households.

Tijuca Park in Brazil: the importance of conserving urban protected areas

The Tijuca National Park, located in Rio de Janeiro, has an area of 4 thousand hectares and was declared a cultural landscape world heritage site by UNESCO in 2012.

According to the FAO report, in order to confront the proliferation of exotic species and urban expansion, the park has been reforested with native trees and recreational infrastructures have been built to involve the local community and raise awareness about the importance of protecting urban forests.

Since 1999, the park has been jointly managed by the city of Rio de Janeiro and the Ministry of the Environment: today it is an exceptional natural environment for its 2.5 million annual visitors, and the restoration of the Atlantic forest that it hosts has allowed it to be converted in a sanctuary for a great diversity of endemic species.

Costa Rica: forests as tourist attractions

Costa Rica is one of the main ecotourism destinations in the world: in 2016, 2.9 million foreign tourists visited the country and 66% of them said that ecotourism was one of their main reasons for visiting.

The tourists spent an average of 1 309 dollars per person, reporting income to the country of 2 500 million dollars, related in part to ecotourism, which is equivalent to 4,4 % of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Costa Rica.

It is estimated that, in 2015, forest conservation areas received approximately one million non-resident visitors and 900,000 national visitors.