David Nabarro, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Food Security and Nutrition

Forests are an integral part of our lives; our survival depends on them. But for many years they have been taken for granted while in fact they have been lost and degraded. As Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Food Security and Nutrition, it is immensely satisfying to see forests accorded their rightful place at the first major conference on forests for food security and nutrition.

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Forest communities know intimately the value of forests and trees as sources of food, medicine, fuel and timber, as reservoirs of biodiversity, and as producers of essential ecosystem services. This value is perhaps less well understood by other people, but this must change if sustainable development is to be achieved. The challenge is to gain universal recognition for the crucial role of forests, and to transform such recognition into political accountability and concrete action.

A focus on forests reminds us clearly why we need a comprehensive approach to food security and nutrition. This has been promoted by the UN Secretary-General through his High Level Task Force on Global Food Security and the Zero Hunger Challenge. Governments that are serious about sustainable development recognize that decisions that affect forests involve careful choices and delicate trade-offs. For example, we must not overlook the critical role of forests in mitigating the impact of climate change on food systems. Protecting and expanding forests as carbon sinks, thereby reducing carbon emissions while also meeting demand for forest foods and providing ecosystem services that are essential for agriculture, is one of the greatest challenges we face today.

In April I was in Dublin at a meeting entitled “Hunger, Nutrition and Climate Justice”, which involved a broad range of grassroots groups and policy-makers in a true dialogue. I was struck by two key concepts. First, applying the notions of justice, equity and the realization of human rights to conversations on food security and climate change helps immensely to clarify our choices. These notions should also be applied in conversations about forests, because in many countries local people do not have adequate access to forest resources, even though they depend on them for their livelihoods. Second, we cannot overlook gender in our analysis of the challenges and opportunities. Women’s voices must be heard when we debate the future of forests and food security.

The International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition was an important ground-breaking step in putting forests at the centre of one of the world’s most pressing challenges – ensuring food security. It may only be a first step, but the path ahead is now clear.  Read full text

Forestry news

International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition

The International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition, held at FAO headquarters last month, concluded that “the role of forests and trees outside forests in the fight against hunger demands much greater attention and should be integrated with strategies for food security and nutrition”.  

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Summary of the Conference: Forests and trees outside forests are essential for global food security and nutrition - key messages and recommendations

High-level opening session speeches

José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General
The challenges we face today require us to work together, as partners. Forests, trees on farms, and agroforestry systems contribute to the livelihoods of more than a billion people, including many of the world’s neediest people, who live in and around forests. But the crucial contributions they make to food security and nutrition are insufficiently recognized ... Read more

His Excellency, Gabriel Tchango, Minister for Water and Forests, Gabon
The Congo Basin has the second largest area of moist tropical forest in the world, and its large rural population is still highly dependent on forests for food security and nutrition. Gabon has drawn up a forest law to promote sustainable forest management and the involvement of local people ... Read more

Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias,
Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity
The topic of this conference clearly needs a broad-based, landscape-scale, intersectoral approach. In adopting the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011–2020) and the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity established a framework for action that will help us avoid the past mistakes of sector-based approaches ... Read more

Mirna Cunningham Kain, Member and former Chair, UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Indigenous peoples have conserved and preserved forests for generations, with food sovereignty as the basis of their food security. For millions of indigenous people, particularly women, forests have incalculable material and spiritual value. Forests and land are the source of life and must be protected ... Read more

Daily highlights

Day 1, Monday 13
Day 2, Tuesday 14
Day 3, Wednesday 15

Side events:
A description of all side-events, together with the panelists’ presentations, is available here. Read more

FAO radio interviews: forests, source of food and revenue

The sustainable development of forest foods (English)
Daniel Ocampo, CEGESTI

Philip Goodwin, Chief Executive, Tree Aid

Credit: Francisco Ortiz, UN-REDD, Ecuador Fair trade can help achieve food security
Pascal Liu, Senior Economist, Trade and Market Division, FAO (English and French)

Vittorio Leproux, Assemblea Generale Italiana del Commercio Equo e Solidale (AGICES) (English)

Zoubida Charrouf, Professor, Faculty of Sciences, Mohamed V University, President, Ibn Albaytar (medicinal plant association), Morocco (French)

Strengthening livelihoods in arid zones
Philip Goodwin, Chief Executive, Tree Aid (French)

Forestry news cont'd

Nurture forests for the future – in pictures

© Lani Holmberg A photo contest to create global awareness of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) and its links with food security produced 1 200 photos depicting agricultural, livelihood and land management practices and techniques in 80 countries. Australian Lani Holmberg  won with her “Papaya trees and poverty-fighting in Kenya”. Read more 



Innovative thinking on insects to help feed the world

Two young FAO staff members were commended recently for their proposal to use urban food waste to raise insects, which could then be processed into feed for poultry and aquaculture and transformed into fertilizer and biogas. Afton Halloran and Camelia Bucatariu were among winning entrants in a competition run by FAO and others to encourage young professionals to think innovatively about feeding the world. Read more | See also interview with Afton Halloran

Better coordination needed in timber trade

Better coordination among nations in tackling illegal logging and applying anti-illegal timber legislation is needed to ensure a move to responsible trade in timber products, according to participants at the first-ever Global Timber Forum, which was co-organized by FAO, the Forest Trust/Timber Trade Action Plan and the European Timber Trade Federation and held at FAO headquarters last month. Read more

Saving the future, drop by drop

High-level officials and dignitaries met in Milan, Italy, for the launch of the Expo Milano 2015 Water Strategy, an initiative of the UN Secretary-General’s Advisory Board on Water and Sanitation and Expo 2015. Eduardo Rojas-Briales, Commissioner-General for UN participation in Expo 2015, described FAO’s vision for meeting future global food and water challenges. Watch the video of the launch (FAO statement from 1hr.10)

United Nations news: further UN recognition of illicit trafficking in wild fauna and flora as a serious crime

A draft resolution (IV) encouraging UN members to make illicit trafficking in wild fauna and flora a serious crime when organized criminal groups are involved has been endorsed by the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice and referred to the UN Economic and Social Council for adoption. The draft also requests support for implementing the Wildlife and Forest Crime Analytic Toolkit.

Regional news

Latin America progresses in national forest monitoring for REDD+

Credit: Francisco Ortiz, UN-REDD, EcuadorIncreased knowledge on forest monitoring and UNFCCC requirements for REDD+ was a key outcome of the 1st Regional Workshop on National Forest Monitoring Systems for REDD+ in Latin America, held in Ecuador in April with 11 participating countries. The event covered satellite monitoring, forest inventories and forest management indicators, and will guide FAO and UN-REDD activities in the region. Read more 


Upcoming meetings and events

New publications and videos

New videos 


Articles co-authored by FAO Forestry staff published in specialist journals
An operational framework for defining and monitoring forest degradation, Ecology and Society

Publications issued under pilot project Moving forward in the implementation of the Non-Legally Binding Instrument on all types of forests located in Liberia, Nicaragua, and Philippine Islands: a contribution to reducing forest deforestation and degradation - Forest Instrument Liberia’

National Forest Programme Facility
Participating in managing forest: a guide to community forestry in the Caribbean Islands, Caribbean Natural Resources Institute Guidelines Series.

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 written by N.E. Dodd, FAO Director-General, in 1948. It was sourced by Christel Palmberg, Unasylva Editorial Advisory Board member

Forest conservation and freedom from want
During the last two or three years, the world's gravest economic problem has been that of food shortages. FAO, in consultation with its member governments and other international organizations, has consequently given special attention to solving this problem. The emphasis laid upon it may have suggested that the production and distribution of food are the sole field of FAO's activities. This is not so. The Constitution of FAO makes this clear. Its task is to raise the standards of living of the peoples of the world – in other words to provide them with "Freedom from Want".

"Freedom from Want" does not mean only "enough food for everybody"; it means sufficient food, clothing, and shelter to enable human beings to live happy, healthy, prosperous lives. That is why the nations of the world, in establishing FAO, placed forestry and forest products within its responsibilities. The successful prosecution of forestry and the proper use of forest products not only contribute largely to the homes and clothes the world needs, but also conditions in the long term the world's output of food.  Unasylva 2(5): September–October 1948


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last updated:  Monday, July 15, 2013