Editorial: Forestry commissions define regional priorities for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Africa

James Singh, Commissioner of Forestry, Guyana
Chair, 28th Latin American and Caribbean Forestry Commission, Georgetown, Guyana, 9–13 September 2013

In our region, the forest sector’s role in development is significant, and we, as sector managers, must transform our management of forests to ensure their sustainability. We can do this if we cooperate and if we approach our understanding of the challenges, and their solutions, within the framework for dialogue offered by FAO’s Latin American and Caribbean Forestry Commission.

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More regional cooperation: the key for transforming forest management

My country, the Republic of Guyana, had the honour of hosting in its capital, Georgetown, from 9 to 13 September 2013, the 28th Session of FAO’s Latin American and Caribbean Forestry Commission (LACFC). We took great pleasure in welcoming delegates and representatives from 28 member countries, UN organizations and civil-society organizations.

Our agenda was full but our commitment was strong. Some of the main discussions centred on FAO’s new structure and programme of work, in particular the new Strategic Framework and its promotion of intersectoral cooperation transmitted across five Strategic Objectives. Forest-related issues feature in each of the Objectives. This development gives us great satisfaction and we look to a strengthened FAO that can continue to work meaningfully on forest issues with the countries of our region.

Our meeting also recommended that FAO Forestry’s highest governing body, the Committee on Forestry, promote the revision and strengthening of public forest policies, so that forest management can be better integrated with national development processes that seek to achieve food security and social well-being in our communities. To be effective, forest management should take place within a framework of appropriate governance of forest resources, including land and forest tenure, and with support for the development of mechanisms to estimate the value of environmental services and recognition of their benefits for and worth to the custodians of the forests.

The Commission is seeking endorsement of the priorities it identified by recommending that the FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, which next meets in Santiago, Chile, in May 2014, acknowledge that food security in our region depends on a strengthened forest sector and that, without forests, trees and forest genetic resource management, it will be difficult to ensure strong and resilient agricultural and livestock practices. The message from the Commission is clear: the loss of forest resources through the expansion of the agricultural frontier and the use of inappropriate farm and livestock practices hampers national capacities to achieve food security.

We believe that LACFC – and this was reinforced at this meeting – provides a respected platform for dialogue on issues common to countries in the region regarding the development of the forest sector and that it offers an established and functional mechanism to exchange experiences and knowledge, as well as to define common positions on global and regional themes affecting the forest sector and to increase south–south cooperation.

I wish to also express my appreciation to FAO, and in particular, to Assistant Director-General Eduardo Rojas Briales and his team at headquarters, and Mr. Jorge Meza, FAO Senior Regional Forestry Officer for Latin America and the Caribbean, and LACFC Secretary, and his team for their invaluable support in the organization of this meeting.

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28ª Reunión de la Comisión Forestal para América Latina y el Caribe (COFLAC)

Joseph Hailwa, Director of Forestry, Republic of Namibia
Chair, 19th Session of the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission, Windhoek, Namibia, 30 September to 4 October 2013

Ending illegal logging and poaching in Africa must be the priority of all parties in the continent’s forestry and wildlife sectors, was the call of the Hon. Mutorwa, Minister for Agriculture, Water and Forestry of Namibia, at the 19th Session of the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission. And to help make that vision a reality the members adopted a Recommendation calling for the creation of a sustainable development goal on forestry.

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African Forestry and Wildlife Commission urges visionary action

It was a signal honour for the Republic of Namibia to host the 19th Session of the African Forestry and Wildlife Commission (AFWC), together with the 3rd African Forestry and Wildlife Week (AFWW), in our capital, Windhoek, from 30 September to 4 October 2013. We were particularly delighted to receive more than 169 representatives from a total of 23 member countries of the Commission, the United Nations system and observers from intergovernmental and international non-governmental organizations.

The importance of this meeting for Namibian forestry and for the forest sector in Africa was made very clear by senior officials in my country, most notably in statements encouraging us to transform the forestry agenda with a new vision for African forestry. Such statements were made by our Minister of Agriculture, Water and Forestry and H.E. Mathieu Babaud Darret, Minister for Water and Forests of Côte d’Ivoire as well as the Honourable Barbara Serwaa Asamoah, Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Lands and Natural Resources. FAO Forestry Assistant Director-General, Eduardo Rojas-Briales, spoke of the importance of the Commission's work in setting priorities for FAO's work in forestry.

Mr John Scanlon, our keynote speaker, and Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, emphasized the need to continue regulating the use and trade of wildlife and to work with local people for the benefit of national economies and national food and nutrition security.

One of the stark reminders of the challenges faced by the African forest and wildlife sector was articulated by the outgoing Executive Secretary of the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification, Mr Luc Gnacadja, who urged us to recall that dry forests, the prime habitat of wildlife, are crucial for food security as well as for sustained and inclusive growth in Africa, and that integrated and inclusive landscape management is the winning strategy but one that calls for a paradigm shift.He also reminded us that we should never forget that in Africa more than anywhere else “forests keep the drylands working”. 

So much is said and written about the challenges facing Africa in the areas of forestry and wildlife, and many solutions are offered, but rising above all issues are the contributions made by forests to food security, and the poaching and illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products that is decimating much of the fauna of the continent. These are issues that now require focused, coordinated action if we wish to make meaningful progress in our lifetimes.

It is also time to seriously address the contribution of forests and wildlife to economic development in Africa, their full ecosystem value; that includes the complex issue of forest tenure. Forestry education in Africa is in urgent need of revival, while forestry communication needs to be reinforced to ensure that success stories can be replicated throughout the continent. FAO’s new Strategic Framework will provide an important programming framework for our actions.

As Commission members, we made several recommendations for action to be undertaken by our member countries, to give meaning to our discussions. We seek endorsement of our priorities from FAO and its Committee on Forestry and its Regional Conference for Africa. We also ask that FAO support our recommendation for the establishment of a standalone Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on forests in its consultations with the Open Working Group on the SDGs, which contributes to the formation of the post-2015 development agenda.

With this institutional support and the active involvement of the member countries of the AFWC region, I am sure that African forestry and wildlife management will move forward in a way that will meet the food security and economic needs of its citizens. I wish to also express my appreciation to FAO and, in particular, to Assistant Director-General Eduardo Rojas-Briales and his team at headquarters, and Mr. Foday Bojang, FAO Senior Regional Forestry Officer for Africa, and AFWC Secretary, and his team for their invaluable support in the organization of this meeting.

Read more: AFWC website and AFWC 19 press release

FAO news

Towards EXPO Milano 2015

A high-level international panel presented the UN system’s innovative proposals for Expo Milano 2015 at a side-event at October's Committee on World Food Security meeting. Twenty million visitors are expected to attend the Expo, along with 1 billion virtual visitors, making this the key event of the year for the UN family as it transitions to a post-2015 agenda. Read more

Forestry news

Nutritious forest foods inform thinking on food security 

The value of forest foods was the focus of an FAO Forestry side-event at October’s Committee on World Food Security (CFS) meeting. It featured field lessons and the launch of a policy brief on the contributions of forests to food security and nutrition, a theme reinforced at a CFS special event on the role of small-scale producers in strengthening links between food security and natural resources. Read more on the FAO Forestry side-event Nutritious foods from forests, CFS special event and view the FAO Forestry policy brief here.

FAO and Edmund Mach Foundation collaborate on world mountain forests

FAO is joining forces with the non-profit Edmund Mach Foundation to elevate the position of mountain forests on the European and international agendas. The two organizations will work together to strengthen knowledge-sharing and capacity-building, share good practices, assist in project formulation and implementation, and support technical consultations and awareness-raising internationally. Read more

European Commission strengthens focus on European forests

Increasing demands on European forests, coupled with other recent social and political changes, have altered the forest-policy landscape, prompting the European Commission to produce a new Forest Strategy. The product of a 2-year consultative process involving the Commission, member states and stakeholders, the Strategy awaits endorsement by the European Parliament and Council. Read more 

Edible insects: a hit with the reading public

An FAO Forestry Paper on edible insects is currently the Organization’s best performing e-book title, with over 2000 downloads on mobile devices such as smart phones, tablets and e-readers. Launched at the May 2013 International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition, the publication describes the great potential of edible insects in future food and feed security.  Read more  

Global news

11th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Combating Desertification, Windhoek, Namibia, 16–27 September 

Land and soil should be recognized as the foundation of food security and poverty reduction, said Uahekua Herungua, President of UNCCD COP 11. With an estimated 20 percent of the Earth’s land surface degraded, there is huge potential for reversing the loss of soils and biodiversity, promoting improved livelihoods and combating climate change.

FAO favours forest landscape restoration to combat desertification

Speaking at UNCCD COP 11, FAO Assistant Director-General Forestry, Eduardo Rojas-Briales, advocated forest landscape restoration as a pre-eminent means of combating desertification. Restoration approaches engender social, economic and ecosystem synergies and benefits and merit greater attention and action, he said, including the possible establishment of a UN land convention. Read more

Read more about FAO’s work on arid zone forestry, its participation in side events at COP 11 as well as some key highlights.

Stronger African partnerships for sustainable land management in drylands

A side event co-organized by the African Union Commission, EU, FAO and the Global Mechanism of the UNCCD, the WB and GEF on the Great Green Wall for the Sahara and the Sahel Initiative called for stronger African alliances in sustainable land management. The pooling of resources, knowledge and expertise would help boost livelihoods and natural resource management best practices on the continent. Read a news article and view a photo gallery showing the development of the Great Green Wall in Niger.

Escalating the fight against land degradation

A West African model for halting land degradation offers hope to communities worldwide that are struggling to survive in arid lands and can also play a role in meeting the UNCCD’s target of zero net land degradation. Speaking at a side-event at UNCCD COP 11, FAO’s Nora Berrahmouni said that policy change, new legislation and farmers’ tree ownership were key factors in the success of the model. Read more

Soils for food security and ecosystem resilience

The fundamental role of soil in food security, climate-change resilience and sustainable development was highlighted by FAO Forestry ADG, Eduardo Rojas-Briales, at a side-event convened by the Global Soil Partnership. Panelists stressed that ensuring recognition of soil’s significance in development requires robust interaction with end users and the exchange of rigorous scientific information and data. Read more about the Global Soil Partnership.

More action needed on dryland landscape restoration

Resilience in drylands requires more investment and support for the scaling up of forest and landscape restoration (FLR), including through sustainable forest and rangeland management, according to an FAO–UNCCD side event addressed by outgoing UNCCD Executive Secretary, Luc Gnacadja. GEF representatives said that, under GEF-6, FLR in drylands will be a focal area with increased funding. Read more

Regional forestry communicators work on strengthening collaboration

Regional workshops organized recently by FAO Forestry in Viet Nam and Namibia for forest communicators were important steps in the creation of regional forest communication networks worldwide. The aim of the networks is to improve collaboration among forest communicators in their efforts to raise awareness on forests. A global network, facilitated by FAO, should be in place by 2015.  Read more about the Asia-Pacific Communicators workshop and the Africa workshop [Francais].   

4th Global Meeting of the Mountain Partnership

Greater focus on mountains in international processes and more commitment for sustainable mountain development were two of the Erzurum Conclusions adopted at the Mountain Partnership’s 4th Global Meeting in Turkey, in September. Members also approved a new strategy, governance document and Steering Committee, and FAO’s Thomas Hofer was confirmed as Partnership Secretariat Coordinator. Read more

Mesoamerican Indigenous Peoples define subregional forestry agenda

Strengthening local forest governance and developing a common strategy for policy advocacy in the design of FLEGT and REDD are key needs of Mesoamerican Indigenous Peoples, a Central American pre-congress held in Honduras in September concluded. The FAO-hosted Forest & Farm Facility indicated it will support indigenous groups’ inputs to forest policy in the subregion through a formal agreement. Read more

Norway and Germany support Ecuador in emission reductions

Norway and Germany have agreed to pay Ecuador for verified reductions in greenhouse gas emissions from forests. The payments will be used, among other things, to strengthen Ecuador’s forest governance, carbon reporting and REDD+ initiatives. FAO will support implementation through the UN-REDD Programme, and Germany will also provide a further US$2.6 million to strengthen in-country capacity. Read more (Spanish)

Upcoming meetings and events

 Collaborative Partnership on Forestsevents calendar, including:

New publications and videos


Articles co-authored by FAO Forestry staff published in specialist journals


iForest, biogeosciences and forests

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (Biological Sciences)


Our forest, our future: conserving and managing biodiversity in the South Pacific, Gaua Island, Vanuatu Global Environment Facility and FAO Subregional Office for the Pacific Islands

Pacific islands are on the frontline of natural disasters and their survival may depend on the integrity of their ecosystems. The video Our forests, our future was produced on Gaua island, where the Government of Vanuatu and the local people have proposed the establishment of a World Heritage site. FAO and the Global Environment Facility are assisting efforts to conserve Vanuatu's biodiversity.

Unasylva: a stroll down memory lane

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

Trees, food production and the struggle against desertification

In all the photographs attempting to convey the tragedy of the people of arid, drought-stricken Africa, there is a constant, almost permanent thread: whenever there is hunger, there is first ecological misery – lack of water, lack of trees, sometimes not even a sparse grass cover, but everywhere there is dust raised by a hot and dry wind. Arid Africa is naked, thirsty, hungry. Even more alarming, this parched land has in recent years stretched inexorably south. Poverty is now moving insidiously down to the once rich areas of the Sudano-Sahelian and Sudanian regions, the region of the trees.

In order to ensure a normal human existence, free from crises of hunger and in an environment with a minimum of stability, what can the forest and the trees provide in terms of food production and the fight against barren landscapes and desertification? It has always been recognized, albeit superficially, that forest and trees had an important role to play, and now this role is becoming increasingly evident. What seems less evident, however, is a real knowledge of the elements ... capable of restoring this role and giving it a significance proportional to the magnitude of the present problem. Equally absent is a full awareness of the steps to be taken and of the appropriate programmes to be implemented in order to achieve this rehabilitation and increase the effective contribution of natural plant formations to solving the problems of hunger and desertification. This means switching from bucolic amateurism to real food production, from small woods to the widespread and continuous presence of trees in the agricultural landscape of the area.

The variety and wealth of natural plant species found in forests, savannahs and fallows that can provide food are surprising. Especially remarkable is the fact that during almost any period of the year there is a species, a tree or a bush that can produce something to eat. ...

El Hadji Mbara Sène

Director of Forests of the Republic of Senegal, Coordinator of FAO's International Year of the Forest activities (1985) (and Former Director, FAO Forest Resources Division)

Unasylva, 37(150), 1985, pages 19-26

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last updated:  Friday, December 13, 2013