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Climate-smart forestry

Producción y recursos

Elements of climate-smart forestry

Climate-smart forestry explicitly integrates the challenges and opportunities of climate change into forest policy, planning and practices. It is essential to mainstream national climate-smart forest strategies into existing policies and strategies on rural development, forests and climate change. Most national rural development and climate change policies already contain elements that support the development and implementation of climate-smart forestry. Efforts are needed, however, to ensure a coordinated vision that articulates priorities; identifies activities, institutions and policies to support such a vision; and defines the overall investment strategy.

Understanding the role of forestry in a national strategy for climate-smart agriculture requires a broad assessment of forest-related options and their potential impacts on food security and climate change adaptation and mitigation. These options may include reducing the expansion of agriculture into forest lands (see the strategies for sustainable crop production intensification in module B1); reducing forest degradation; improving the efficiency of charcoal and fuelwood use (see energy solutions for climate-smart agriculture in module B9); and agroforestry (discussed in module B5).

B3-2.1 Enhancing the contributions of forests and trees to food security and livelihoods

The most direct way in which forests and trees help ensure food security is through their contributions to diets and nutrition. Plants and animals found in forests provide households with important nutrient-rich foods. They often form a small but crucial part of otherwise bland and nutritionally poor diets, adding variety and improving the taste and palatability of staple foods.

Many tree species found on farms, as well as forest trees and the shrubs and grasses that grow under them, are used for animal feed, either as browse or collected and fed to livestock in stalls. It has been estimated that 75 percent of the tree species of tropical Africa are used as browse (FAO, 2011). Fodder trees contribute in several ways to the overall household food and nutritional security. For example, by significantly contributing to domestic livestock feed, they have a direct influence on milk and meat production. Tree fodder also helps maintain draught animals, which also produce manure that is used as organic fertilizer. Tree fodder and browse, which may consist of leaves, small branches, seeds, pods and fruits, can be used to supplement other sources of feed and can be key components of livestock diets in dry seasons, providing proteins, minerals and vitamins.

In most developing countries, woodfuel is the main source of energy for cooking and food processing (see module B9). The supply of woodfuel indirectly affects food stability, quality and quantity. In many rural areas, the dwindling supplies of woodfuel are having an increasingly severe impact on food security and nutrition. Research in rural Ghana, for example, has shown that the proportion of total household budgets spent on the purchase of woodfuel rose from 1 percent to over 15 percent over a five-year period (FAO, 2011). Woodfuel security is strongly linked to food security, and both are linked in multiple ways to climate change.

The wood and non-wood forest subsectors make substantial contributions to livelihoods. Globally, the value added in the wood-based forest subsector amounted to just over US$ 600 billion in 2011, which was 0.9 percent of the global economy. The NWFP subsector generated a further US$ 88 billion in income, and the informal production of woodfuel and forest products used for house construction generated US$ 33 billion. The subsector also made other smaller contributions to the economy. The total income generated by forests in 2011 was estimated to be about US$ 730 billion. The formal forest sector employs an estimated 13.2 million people worldwide, and at least another 41 million are employed in the informal sector (Rametsteiner and Whiteman, 2014).

B3-2.2 Reducing the vulnerability and increasing the resilience of forests and people

As in other land-use sectors, vulnerability to climate change in the forest sector has a number of dimensions, from local issues affecting individual households and communities to the more strategic considerations related to maintaining industry performance and national food supply. 

Understanding and reducing vulnerability

A number of practical options exist for reducing the vulnerability of forest-dependent people to climate change (see, for example, B3 Annex 2 and B3 Annex 3). The choice of the most appropriate of these will depend on the location and scale of change; the emergence of impacts; the perception of effects; and the cost, complexity and time required to implement countermeasures. Priority may be given to the least-expensive changes in systems or practices that will bring about useful risk reduction. As the risks posed by climate change increase, however, such measures may quickly become redundant or, more dangerously, offer a false sense of security. On the other hand, early overinvestment in expensive forms of protection may also be dangerous or inequitable if they divert development resources away from some communities or stakeholder groups towards others. Trade-offs may be required to protect and strengthen the most vulnerable communities or resources at the expense of the less vulnerable. 

Climate change threatens to increase the incidence and severity of a range of forest disturbances, such as pests (see B8-1), fires and storms, and this will demand increased management efforts. Forests should be taken into account in disaster risk management strategies to ensure adequate planning in the event of major forest disturbances and ensure that forests play their role in disaster mitigation (e.g. tree planting to prevent mudslides and minimize soil erosion) and management (e.g. as a source of food and materials in the aftermath of a disaster).

It is possible to strengthen the resilience of households, communities and national entities by targeting specific areas of vulnerability. If these areas are addressed only selectively or partially, however, remaining vulnerabilities may jeopardize or negate the anticipated benefits. Unresolved issues outside the forest sector could also act to limit the potential for strengthening resilience. The following key principles should be taken into account in any actions intended to build resilience:

  • Systems with more diverse characteristics and components tend to have greater resilience.
  • Efforts to build resilience can connect across different scales. Resilience in local communities can help increase resilience on a larger scale, and greater national resilience achieved, for example, through market and economic strategies can create a positive environment for strengthening local resilience.
  • Trade-offs should be identified between the risks associated with vulnerability to climate change and the cost of building resilience.
  • The risks posed by climate change may not be the only factors that increase the vulnerability of forests and forest-dependent people. All factors contributing to vulnerability should be considered. 

B3-2.3 Addressing deforestation and forest degradation to help safeguard food security

Because forests provide ecosystem services essential for food production and a safety net during food shortages (e.g. in severe droughts and floods), reducing deforestation and forest degradation can help safeguard food security. Nkem et al. (2010) have proposed the inclusion of payment schemes for ecosystem services in livelihood adaptation plans. These schemes would focus on vulnerable segments of the population and take a pro-poor approach. Payment schemes for ecosystem services have a positive relationship with efforts to adapt to climate change. They increase the provision of ecosystem services; strengthen various elements of adaptive capacity; and provide an incentive mechanism for the providers of ecosystem services to adopt specific measures that support climate change adaptation (van de Sand, Mwangi and Namirembe, 2014). Climate change adaptation for food security in the forest sector will likely have positive impacts on other development goals, including poverty reduction, energy security, and greater community resilience to shocks.