Editorial: Meeting global challenges in forestry  

Tiina Vahanen, Associate Secretary-General, XIV World Forestry Congress 2015

They may be under threat, but forests and trees outside forests have enormous potential to help deal with the many social, economic and environmental problems facing the world today. We asked Tiina Vahanen, Associate Secretary-General of the World Forestry Congress 2015, to describe the global importance of forests, and what she sees as forestry’s greatest challenges.

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Forests occupy one-third of the Earth’s land area, and trees outside forests occur on about another half of the global land area. The role of forests and trees in human well-being and food security, therefore, is significant. Forests and trees can help meet the global challenges of the future, such as mitigating and adapting to climate change, ensuring the adequate supply of fresh water, eradicating hunger and increasing food security.

But forests and trees face many challenges themselves. Arguably the biggest is to convince policy-makers, the private sector and people in general that the world needs them. Sustainable forest management is not a marginal activity – it is essential for the health of the planet and of people. Therefore, the knowledge base on forests and forestry also needs continuous improvement.

Another challenge is to ensure equity in the distribution of benefits derived from forests, which in many places means paying much more attention to tenure. Applying the Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests, which have been endorsed by the Committee on World Food Security, would be a good step in that direction. Another important step would be to address the role of indigenous peoples, women and youth in forest-related ownership and decision-making.

A third challenge, among many others, is to integrate the planning and management of the forest sector with other sectors, such as agriculture, fisheries, energy and mining. A multisectoral approach will help achieve efficient outcomes in land management and increase food security.

Forests and trees are renewable; they can help provide our growing global population with environmentally friendly fuel, fibre, food and plastics, as well as essential ecosystem services. The planet needs forests. Forests need to be conserved and, in many places, expanded, and used sustainably. In that challenge, FAO Forestry can – and is – playing a catalytic role, strengthening its cross-sectoral partnerships and championing the role of forests and trees in a sustainable future that is free from hunger. The 2015 World Forestry Congress will be an excellent opportunity for all the world’s foresters, stakeholders and decision-makers to share the latest forest knowledge and exchange their views.

Forestry news

Higher visibility for food security, nutrition and gender

FAO has created webpages to explore the links between forests and two of the Organization’s core thematic areas – food security and nutrition, and gender. These webpages provide information on FAO Forestry’s work, including publications, programmes and latest developments, and are designed to share knowledge and expertise in these two crucial fields. Read more at Forests for Food Security and Nutrition and Gender.

A global learning platform on REDD+  

Free online learning sessions run by the World Wide Fund for Nature are providing opportunities to share knowledge and experiences on REDD+. A session on “implementing REDD+ at a national scale” in August will be followed on 24 September by a discussion on an operational framework for defining and monitoring forest degradation, an initiative of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests. Read more

Regional news

Second Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Meeting of Ministers Responsible for Forestry, Cusco, Peru, 14–16 August 2013

Forests crucial in APEC economies

The crucial role of forests in Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) countries in providing ecosystem services and livelihoods, meeting development needs and supporting green growth and sustainable development was recognized in a statement adopted by forestry ministers and other senior officials at the conclusion of the APEC meeting. Read the Cusco Ministerial Statement here

Peru’s forest industry’s huge potential

Peru’s forest sector has “huge potential” to help grow the country’s economy through sustainable development while conserving the forests’ extraordinary biodiversity, according to FAO’s Eduardo Mansur, speaking at the recent APEC meeting. Peru’s vast forests provide valuable timber as well as many foods consumed nationally and worldwide, and they perform essential ecosystem services. Read more (in Spanish)

Mapping success in Uganda

FAO has introduced new mapping technologies in Uganda that will help generate better forestry data and land-cover maps there. The technologies, which require only limited financial investment, will help the government monitor its forest resources, make informed decisions on long-term forestry and investment policies, and avoid unintended forest conversion and degradation.  Read more 

Silver anniversary session of APFC

For more than 60 years, the Asia-Pacific Forestry Commission (APFC) has served the countries of the region as the largest and most inclusive intergovernmental organization addressing forest-related issues and challenges. The APFC’s “Silver Anniversary” 25th session on “forests for prosperity” will take place in Rotorua, New Zealand, on 5–8 November 2013. Read more | Silver anniversary flyer

ECOWAS meets to discuss forest ecosystems 

Ministers in charge of forests and wildlife of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) deliberated on the Convergence Plan for the Sustainable Management and Utilization of Forest Ecosystems in West Africa on 12 September. ECOWAS is leading the Convergence Plan process in collaboration with the 15 member countries and support from international organizations, particularly FAO. Read more 

Upcoming meetings and events

 Collaborative Partnership on Forestsevents calendar, including:

New publications and videos



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. The following text was provided by Christel Palmberg, Unasylva Editorial Advisory Board member.

Our forests – a mere fraction of their once vast acreage, and, indeed, a fraction of what they may again become – are an essential item in the over-all problem of meeting human needs. It was no accident that brought forestry within FAO’s far-reaching scope. Forestry is an essential part of our work and a vital contributing factor to our plans for raising existing standards of living and providing the future food supplies which an expanding and hungry humanity will require.

In our FAO policies we always have three programs: the program for the immediate future, the program for the next five years, the program for the next hundred years. We must help to solve the immediate shortages of food, clothes, and homes. We must help nations to plan their activities over the next five years so that rising standards of living are achieved and full co-operation established between one nation and another in a common cause. We must peer deep into the future, with the best assistance and advice we can provide, so that coming generations will derive an enduring benefit from our long-term plans and programs.

Norris E. Dodd, FAO Director-General

Unasylva, 2(4): July–August 1948

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last updated:  Wednesday, February 5, 2014