Editorial - celebrating and safeguarding the Spirit of the Earth

by Mrs Martha Isabel ‘Pati’ Ruiz Corzo


For 27 years, Mrs Martha Ruiz Corzo, winner of the 2014 Collaborative Partnership on Forests Wangari Maathai Award, has worked to conserve the biodiversity of the Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve in Mexico. Together with the Grupo Ecológico Sierra Gorda she has strived to maintain the integrity of the Reserve's biodiversity and ecosystems and to provide local people with the means to rise out of poverty through the sustainable use of the Reserve's resources. In her editorial, Ms Ruiz Corzo describes why this work is so important and why at the global level we need a similar loving commitment if we are to save the planet and maintain the legacy of Wangari Maathai. Read more 

Ms Wangari Maathai 

In 2004, the late Ms. Wangari Maathai, Kenyan environmentalist and champion of forest issues around the world, received the Nobel Peace Prize. The following year FAO had the honour to welcome her as a keynote speaker at its high-level meeting on forests. In 2012, following Ms Maathai’s demise, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests established an award in her memory to pay tribute to her outstanding achievements.

FAO Forestry news

In memoriam: David Harcharik

It is with great sadness that we announce the passing away on the morning of 3 December of Mr David Harcharik. Mr Harcharik, a US national, was a former Assistant Director-General of the FAO Forestry Department and subsequently FAO Deputy Director-General. He was also a dear friend and champion of forests and foresters around the world. FAO Forestry wishes to extend its profound sympathies and condolences to the family of Mr Harcharik at this very sad time.

An editorial and tribute to the memory, work and achievements of Mr. Harcharik will be included in the next issue of inFO news.

World Forestry Congress: calls for ...

  ... abstracts, deadline extended to 30 January 2015. Abstracts on the Congress's central theme “Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future” and on topics aligned with any of its six sub-themes will be accepted until 30 January. View more details here in English, French and Spanish.
  ... events, deadline 27 February 2015. Applications to organize an event related to the Congress's central theme or on topics aligned with any of its six sub-themes are now being accepted. The Congress organizers welcome proposals for side events, networking events, launches, performances or regional events. View more details here in English, French and Spanish.

Open Foris: free online software boosts national capacity in forest monitoring

Developing countries’ capacity to undertake accurate forest inventories, remote sensing and analysis has increased following the October launch of comprehensive and free open-source software tools for multi-level forest monitoring. Developed by FAO technical experts and external partners with part funding from Finland and Germany, Open Foris is available free on demand for all users worldwide. 

Read more in the FAO press release and visit the revamped Open Foris website for more details.

Supporting human life, contributing to the “Promise of Sydney”

Many participants who attended the recent IUCN World Parks Congress also took part in FAO co-led "Stream 4", to debate how agriculture, forestry and fisheries in and around protected areas contribute to food security, sustainable livelihoods and conservation of genetic resources and are thus "Supporting Human Life”. The Stream’s outcomes are reflected in a final document “The Promise of Sydney”.

Read the full text of the FAO position paper Protected areas, people and food security and the strategy (outcome) document of Stream 4, which was co-led by FAO, the Ministry of Environment of Japan and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas. The IUCN World Parks Congress was held in Sydney, Australia, in November 2014 and was attended by more than 6000 participants.

Greater capacity in forest products statistics: a building block for growth

Improving southern African countries’ capacity in forest products statistics is of critical importance for developing the subregion’s forest sector and for informing global policy on climate change, an FAO workshop in Johannesburg concluded. The sector’s high level of informal activities makes the need for accurate statistics for government planning and economic growth even more compelling. 

Read more in the FAO news release on the workshop held in Johannesburg, South Africa, and visit the FAO forest products statistics webpage.

Typhoon Haiyan, one year on: recovering and rebuilding with trees 

One year after their communities were devastated by Typhoon Haiyan, over 35 000 coconut farming and agroforestry-reliant families are building more diversified and resilient livelihoods. Trees are a critical element of the rebuilding, providing long-term sources of food, forage, fuelwood, soil erosion control, and rehabilitation of protective coastal mangrove forests.

Read more in the latest FAO news alert on FAO’s comprehensive multi-donor rehabilitation programme in the affected areas of the Philippines. 

The roles of trees and forests in disaster prevention, mitigation and recovery will be covered comprehensively in the forthcoming special issue 243 of Unasylva, FAO’s journal of forestry and forest industries. 

Global news

International Mountain Day 2014: mountain farming

Mountain agriculture, which is predominantly family farming, has been a model of sustainable development for centuries. On 11 December, International Mountain Day 2014 will be celebrated around the world to raise awareness of the mountain peoples who depend on farming for their livelihoods and who are trying to adapt to present-day challenges, including those related to food security and climate change. 

©IMD 2014/Levantes

View the International Mountain Day 2014 video and spot and read the FAO–Mountain Partnership publication Mountain farming is family farming. More information is available at the websites of the Mountain Partnership and the International Year of Family Farming 2014

International Conference on Nutrition adopts Rome Declaration and Framework for Action

The International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), hosted by FAO and co-organized by FAO and the World Health Organization, took place at FAO headquarters in Rome, from 19-21 November, with opening statements by the two UN agencies' Directors-General. In his address to the Conference, Pope Francis called for more progress in ensuring nutrition security and dignity for all in a spirit of global solidarity, and highlighted the need to care of the environment and protect the planet. 

Visit ICN2 website to see all statements as well as the Rome Declaration on Nutrition and the Framework for Action as well as the FAO news article Pope Francis urges solidarity and concrete action in global nutrition challenge 

United in conserving the Amazon’s protected areas

The protected areas of eight Amazon countries host ecosystem resources of immense value for national food security and economies and global biodiversity. Under a recently-launched European Union-funded project, Visión Amazónica, initiated by REDPARQUES, FAO will be a co-partner in supporting local communities to increase ecosystem services’ resilience to climate change while conserving their benefits.

Read more (in Spanish) in the FAO Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (RLC) news release on the launch of Visión Amazónica, and on RLC’s work with REDPARQUES, the Latin American Technical Cooperation Network on National Parks and other Protected Areas, Flora and Wildlife.

New strategic programme for Central American forest sector development 

A new strategic programme supported by FAO will enable Central American countries and the Dominican Republic to improve the sustainable and participatory management of their forest ecosystems. The programme recognizes forests’ cultural, economic and environmental values and that forest management should be an integral part of conservation, climate change, agriculture, energy and rural development policies.

Read more (in Spanish) about the Regional Strategic Programme for Forest Ecosystems Management (PERFOR), which was launched in San Salvador, El Salvador, on 27 October by two sectoral bodies of the Central American Integration System. 

Togo: increasing local capacity and skills in forest restoration  

Six non-governmental organizations will receive funding from an FAO project that will enable members of selected Togolese forest communities to acquire relevant skills and learn best practices in natural resource management and biodiversity conservation. The support is part of a Togolese Ministry of Environment and Forest Resources’ initiative to restore the gallery and village-land forests of the Plateau region.

Read more (in French) on the Togolese gallery and village-land forest restoration project and listen to the radio interview with FAO's Fernando Salinas on "Les forêts des plateaux du Togo".

Bamboo, REDD+ and national forest sector development: promoting collaborative action with partners

In November, FAO Assistant Director-General Forestry, Eduardo Rojas-Briales, undertook official travel to Ethiopia, Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania to meet with government officials and technical and resource partners to promote collaborative action on forests.

Read more in the summary of key outcomes of the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) Summit on "Bamboo and Rattan for Green Economies", Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and the 13th meeting of the UN-REDD Policy Board, Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania. 

Upcoming meetings and events


Collaborative Partnership on Forestsevents calendar, including:

Partner events

International Days - December 2014


Producing forestry publications to meet your needs

Please help FAO Forestry improve its publications and better meet your needs by completing a short online survey. Your feedback is very important and will help guide our decisions on the future development of the content, format and dissemination of forestry publications.

Please complete the survey here; it will only take five minutes. Thank you!




  • NWFP Update 4 - the FAO Forestry newsletter on non-wood forest products


  • International Mountain Day 2014 - Celebrating Mountains on 11 December. In this three-minute video produced by the Mountain Partnership Secretariat, members describe why mountains are important to so many people around the world and why each year there needs to be a special day to celebrate mountains.

Staff interviews: 

  • Foday Bojang, FAO Senior Regional Officer for Africa, based at the FAO Regional Office for Africa in Accra, Ghana, describes the experience of the Great Green Wall for the Sahel and Sahara Initiative. This video interview was recorded during the International Symposium on Agroecology for Food Security and Nutrition, held at FAO headquarters from 18 to 19 September 2014.  
  • Robert Simpson, EU FAO FLEGT Programme Manager, FAO, Rome, describes how the forest sector can be at the forefront of a green economy, but timber operators need to embrace changing global standards - Forestry South Africa
  • Fernando Salinas, Forestry Officer, based at the FAO Regional Office for Africa, Accra, Ghana, talks about the Convergence Plan for the Sustainable Management and Utilization of the Forest Ecosystems in West Africa in English and French

Unasylva: a stroll down memory lane

In this occasional series, we feature reprints of extracts from early editions of Unasylva, FAO Forestry’s international journal of forestry and forest industries.

Mountain voices

… Highland farming, where even neighbouring fields may have subtly different climates, demands skill and familiarity with the terrain. Sebeli Tau, a farmer in Lesotho now forced to leave his land which was flooded by the water of the Mohale Dam ... said that his greatest loss on moving would be

the wisdom of living in that place,

and he listed his intimate knowledge of the steep fields and their microclimates: which crops grew best where and when, where to find medicinal herbs, wild vegetables, the first pastures. It is precisely this kind of knowledge, accumulated over time, that many narrators felt was undervalued by outside experts, and even by the educated local people…

… A Lahu woman, in the mountains of southwestern China, explained that

people who live in the plains wear better clothes, are well informed and have a good life. People who live in the mountain area are poorly informed, cannot see what others have done well, and so we seem more stupid and foolish.

Her view was echoed across all the continents.

No one can gather fine wool with a blunt knife - we need knowledge, we need experience, said a Himalayan farmer…

Young people leave to find work. They don't go because they hate their land, the majority go to escape the poverty,

said Peruvian Delma Jesus Flores and, like many interviewees, she pleaded for a chance to create jobs in the mountains. Invest in us here, so many said:

We have the raw materials, let us process them.

Olivia Bennett, Director, Oral Testimony Programme of Panos Institute, a London-based organization specializing in information and communication for sustainable development (1998).

Unasylva 195, 1998 (4), Vol 45 - Moving Mountains

Update ….

... Since 1998, mountain farming communities have been struggling to contend with an equally major challenge: climate change. The Mountain Partnership Secretariat, hosted by FAO, is working to empower and assist these communities, by highlighting key issues and identifying solutions, many of which are described in the publication Mountain farming is family farming and in the activities and programmes listed on the Climate change webpage of the Mountain Partnership website.

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last updated:  Friday, December 5, 2014