Exploring pathways to foster a sustainable forest-based bioeconomy for Latin America and the Caribbean

27 June 2023, Rome - Forests and trees are vital to the livelihoods of many in Latin America and the Caribbean, providing a multitude of goods and services, making their sustainable management an imperative.

To emphasize that message and contribute to finding solutions, the Advisory Committee on Sustainable Forest-based Industries (ACSFI) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the World Bioeconomy Forum, organized a side event on 27 June 2023 at the margins of the 33rd Latin American and the Caribbean Forestry Commission (LACFC). The event webcast is now available online.

The event aimed to explore the key opportunities for the region in developing a sustainable forest-based bioeconomy, while addressing the issues of climate change, biodiversity loss and food insecurity. Participants highlighted the role of the private sector, the importance of building sustainable value chains, ensuring market access for local producers, as well as the centrality of research and development and innovation - in dialogue with traditional knowledge and practices.

All ecosystems face threats, and forests are highly exposed. The region is making efforts towards enhancing biodiversity and sustainable forest management, expanding the forest area, promoting cross-sectoral collaboration, among other. However, in some parts of the region, forest areas are still facing deforestation, mainly driven by agricultural expansion and animal husbandry. New approaches are needed to ensure the sustainable production and consumption of forest products, and to protect people’s livelihoods, health and wellbeing. Achieving a sustainable carbon-neutral bioeconomy that meet the needs of a rapidly growing population will require transformative initiatives and actions.

The event improved the understanding of the context, trends and opportunities for this needed transition, as well as assessing the contribution forests can make to a carbon-neutral bioeconomy. Experts shared insights and highlighted success stories and good practices from their respective organizations and countries.

The agenda included an exciting panel composed of Ms. María Alexandra Moreira López, Secretary General of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization (ACTO); Mr. Carlos Faroppa, from the Ministry of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries of Uruguay; Mr. Marcello Brito, Executive Secretary of the Legal Amazon Consortium; Ms. Bibiana Rubini, Executive R&D&I Manager at CMPC; Ms. Mayra Esseboom, from the Center for Agricultural Research in Suriname; and Ms. Tamia Salazar, representing the Wiñak Association in Ecuador.

The panel discussion addressed key issues such as the importance of regional cooperation, securing livelihood opportunities for Amazon communities, and enhancing value chains for biodiversity products. Uruguay's effort in developing policies aiming at a circular bioeconomy, zero emissions and zero deforestation was highlighted. Challenges identified included data and statistics gaps regarding the production and consumption of forests products, lack of research and development, regulatory frameworks, logistics and market access for local producers. Opportunities identified included private sector engagement, innovation, investing in high-value products, community empowerment through associative endeavors, capacity building and respect for traditional knowledge.

Mr José Carlos da Fonseca Junior, Executive Director of the Brazilian Tree Industry (IBA) and ACSFI Vice Chair, served as the moderator for the event and emphasized the need to understand how innovation in the forest sector can provide solutions to addressing many of today’s challenges.

Founder of the World Bioeconomy Forum, Mr Jukka Kantola, provided the context and status of bioeconomy at the global and regional levels. Insights and data shared indicate a growing interest on the topic, including the development of national bioeconomy strategies in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Mr. Sven Walter, FAO Senior Forestry Officer and ACSFI Secretary, discussed the significance of the bioeconomy approach as one of FAO's Priority Programme Area as defined in its FAO’s Strategic Framework 2022 - 31. He underscored that the demand for forest products is set to increase and therefore, long term and sustainable supplies must be secured. “A sustainable bioeconomy will alter demand for natural resources and the processes through which agrifood systems can meet that demand. Exchange of good practices and policy networks will be important to support that transition”, he said.

The event was successful at bringing together different perspectives and will feed into discussions that can trigger recommendations to FAO, its Members and other stakeholders, including civil society, academia and the private sector, on how to further expand the contribution of forests, wood-based and non-wood forest products to a sustainable bioeconomy.

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last updated:  Monday, August 7, 2023