Editorial - Building the bioeconomy via creative destruction

By Marc Palahí

Marc Palahí has been appointed as the new Director of the European Forest Institute, Joensuu, Finland. He will start his five-year term on 1 January 2015. In this editorial he shares his views on Europe's growing bioeconomy.

We are living in a time of accelerated change and unprecedented global challenges that are intrinsically related to one of today’s major predicaments: how to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation.

Read more

Europe has taken important steps to tackle global challenges and stimulate a paradigmatic transformation of its economy. The European Union’s (EU) ten-year growth and jobs strategy, Europe 2020, calls for the bioeconomy to be a key element for smartand green growth in Europe. Improvements in research and innovation uptake will allow Europe to improve the management of its renewable biological resources and to open new and diversified markets in food and bio-based products. It is estimated that the EU's bioeconomy sectors are worth two trillion euros in annual turnover and account for more than 22 million jobs (approximately 9 percent of the workforce). The forest-based sector represents more than 20 percent of those figures, and has the potential to become a pillar of the bioeconomy.

This is due to the forest-based sector’s cross-cutting nature, which allows it to address inter-connected societal challenges such as energy security, natural resource scarcity, biodiversity loss, fossil-resource dependence and climate change, while achieving sustainable economic growth. However, unlocking the full potential of the forest-based sector requires at least two important strategic developments:

1. An ambitious Pan-European forest-based research and innovation area. This needs to be built around new investments in research, enhanced cooperation between national research organizations, the coordination and integration of national research funding programmes and the mobility of researchers (both at geographical and discipline level).

2. A coherent and well-coordinated forest-related policy framework. This is needed to address existing regulatory and market failures, reinforce cross-sectoral policy interaction and stakeholder engagement, and be based on the understanding of the limits of forest resources and the societal values and trade-offs between different uses as well as existing regional specificities.

The potential of the forest-based sector will only be fully realised by working across several disciplines, policy areas and sectors with a strong willingness to jointly transform emerging challenges into opportunities. Furthermore, it is crucial to support the circulation of knowledge, innovation and lessons learned across different European regions, while building the required human capacity to support the competitiveness and the integration of forest value chains into the bioeconomy. In that context, transnational bioeconomy strategies and plans for different “bioeconomy regions” need to be promoted according to the potentials and specificities of different parts of Europe.

A recent EFI policy study, Future of the European forest-based sector, covers key aspects of the transformation under way in Europe. It labels the current state of the European forest-based sector as one of creative destruction. The production of sometraditional forest products (e.g. communication paper) has started to stagnate or decline in Europe, while at the same time, new business opportunities are emerging, for example for bio-based industries (e.g. linked to energy, textile, chemicals) and related services. In this complex and changing environment, EFI is well positioned to support an informed dialogue on European forest-related policies. At the same time, EFI has a responsibility to ensure that European forest research results provide a sound scientific basis for better informed political decisions.

FAO Forestry news

Profiting from a prolific nuisance: prosopis

The fast-growing prosopis is one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species, and in Djibouti alone it covers some 60 000 hectares of land. But an FAO project is now enabling four local communities to develop profitable and sustainable small enterprises by capitalizing on prosopis' multiple values as a source of hard, rot-resistant wood, premium charcoal, nutritious animal feed and a potent pollenizer.

Read more (in French) on how FAO and the Government of Djibouti are supporting local people to improve the management of prosopis plantations: La Nation

Training for success in forest tenure and governance in Asia

In Asia, FAO and RECOFTC are supporting skill set development to help local forest communities benefit from implementation of FAO’s Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests. Twenty-three participants from six countries took part in a training of trainers course in Thailand in September to strengthen capacity in addressing the complexities of forest tenure.

Read a summary of the FAO and Center for People and Forests training of trainers course held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 8–16 September, with participants from Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand and Viet Nam as well as more info here. 

Bangladeshi innovation in natural resource investment planning

Many countries face formidable challenges to maintain the integrity of their natural resources and to mobilize and use effectively resources that are available to manage climate-induced threats and reduce rural poverty. Bangladesh, however, is pioneering an innovative multi-sectoral country investment plan and used a recent four-country government training session organized by FAO in Rome to describe lessons learned, opportunities and risks.

Read the summary of the orientation training session “Understanding, developing and implementing cross-sectoral country investment plans”, held at FAO Headquarters in Rome from 13–15 October 2014, and visit the FAO forestry institutions webpage on cross-sectoral coordination of finance and investment funding.

Global news

24th International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) Congress - Sustaining forests, sustaining people: the role of research

IUFRO's 24th World Congress attracted thousands of participants to Salt Lake City in Utah, USA, who were keen to learn of the latest developments in forest science research. FAO's delegation, led by Eduardo Rojas-Briales, was present as a key partner in the CPF 2014 Wangari Maathai award, and in side events on the forests-trees-water nexus; trade, forest health and phytosanitary measures; and as the co-developer of free, open-source software tools, Open Foris.  The seven-day event concluded with the issuance of the Salt Lake City Declaration.

Read more about FAO's involvement in IUFRO 24 and the text of the Declaration.

Forestry's contribution to global food security to be reviewed by world body

One of the world’s most inclusive stakeholder platforms on food security wishes to review the contribution of the global forest sector. For the first time, the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) has requested that a study on “Sustainable forestry for food security and nutrition” be prepared and presented, in 2017, to its Plenary, a task that the CFS’s High-Level Panel of Experts will undertake.

Read more in the report of the 41st Session of the CFS and see in particular paragraph VII, A.41.d on page 14.

A future for women and youth in mountain farming? 

What resources are needed to encourage women and youth to take up family farming as a sustainable livelihood? The answers to this online forum question were shared at a Global Dialogue on Family Farming held at FAO from 27–28 October, and included a contribution from the Mountain Partnership Secretariat with case studies of women in mountain family farming who have benefited from targeted initiatives.

Visit the recently revamped Mountain Partnership (MPS) website and read in full the MPS contribution to the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition online discussion on work with women mountain farmers in Guinea, India and Kyrgyzstan.

Regenerating drylands, degraded landscapes and vulnerable communities in three continents 

The drylands and other fragile ecosystems of Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) are set to benefit from a major initiative to reverse years of degradation. In an extension of its support on the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative, the European Union is partnering with FAO and the ACP in a 4.5 year, Euro 41 million Action Against Desertificationprogramme to ensure that these lands can once again sustain the communities that depend on them.

Read more in the FAO news article about this European Union, FAO and African, Caribbean and Pacific Group initiative as well as in other news articles (Italy and Nigeria), and listen to the interview with FAO Forestry Officer, Nora Berrahmouni, broadcast on UN Radio.

Non-wood forest products in Tunisia: a small-scale success story 

In a series of videos, Tunisian small-scale forest entrepreneurs describe the economic and cultural importance for their communities of non-wood forest products. Their efforts to improve well-being and sustainable forest resource management were backed by an FAO and Tunisian Government project to support micro-enterprises in inter alia wild mushrooms, Stone and Aleppo Pine nuts and Diss grass (Ampelodesmos mauritanicus). 

View the videos (in French) produced by the FAO Representation in Tunisia and the Tunisian Directorate General of Forests on the results of the FAO Technical Cooperation Programme project.

Mexico raises level of commitment to sustainable forest management

Mexico is taking major steps to increase sustainably the productivity of its forest sector and to strengthen technical and institutional capacities, including by drawing on the wealth of successful experiences shared at a recent international seminar co-organized with CONAFOR and FAO. Many of the 250 participants’ inputs will support implementation of Mexico’s key 2013-2018 national forestry strategy.

Read a summary of the Mexican Forestry Commission (CONAFOR) international seminar "Sustainable Forest management: international experiences and perspectives for Mexico" held in Mexico City from 22–24 September 2014 and visit the CONAFOR website.

Family farming, forests and trees: interdependent and sustainable  

On 16 October, World Food Day, the Forest and Farm Facility (FFF) held a side event during the Committee on World Food Security on the realities of life on farms with forests and trees and the FFF’s role. Keynote panelists described how landscape interdependence increases nutritious food security and improves sustainable agricultural systems and livelihoods, but is often challenged by external factors.

Read more about the Forest and Family Farming for Food Security and Nutrition side event and visit the FFF main website.

Balancing the needs of people, wildlife and ecosystems

Sustainable wildlife management for biodiversity conservation is the first subject addressed in a new series of thematic fact sheets produced by the Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management (CPW). Launched at the 12th CBD COP, fact sheet no.1 concludes that proper wildlife management must balance the needs of people with those of wildlife and the ecosystem, a process requiring political will and engagement.
Read the CPW factsheet No.1 on Sustainable wildlife management and biodiversity launched at the 12th Conference of the Parties of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), Republic of Korea, in October, and the CBD press release, and visit the FAO CPW website.

2015: a significant year for global forestry

Eduardo Rojas-Briales recently took part in an international forum in Moscow, Russian Federation, and in his  keynote statement highlighted the many major events  taking place in  2015 of great significance to the forest sector. The global forestry community must position itself to take strategic advantage of these opportunities, Rojas-Briales suggested, and the Russian Federation with 22 percent of global forest cover would be an important partner in future initiatives.

Read a summary of Mr Rojas-Briales statement as well as the text in full and links to the forum programme

Upcoming meetings and events


Collaborative Partnership on Forestsevents calendar, including:

Partner events 

Expo 2015

International Days - December 2014




  • CLIM-FO-L October 2014, providing the latest news, research and other information on forestry and climate change
  • Nature & Faune In keeping with Nature & Faune’s tradition of exploring major emerging issues in natural resources management for food security in Africa, the latest issue explores the implications of rapid urbanization and its effects on urban food and nutrition security. Forests contribute towards food self-sufficiency in ways other than through their edible parts. Read more in volume 8, issue 2, of Nature & Faune, in English and French a journal produced by the FAO Regional Office for Africa in Accra, Ghana.


Subscribe to inFO news

To subscribe, complete the online subscription form.

Terms and conditions

The contents of this page are subject to the same terms and conditions as the FAO website.

last updated:  Monday, November 10, 2014