The forest sector generates jobs for at least 33 million people

©Axel Fassio/CIFORForests and the forest sector are important sources of employment, livelihoods and incomes for millions across the globe, particularly in rural areas. They provide jobs in a wide range of activities related to sustainable forest management, the provision and production of timber and other wood and non-wood forest products, the protection of forest ecosystems and biodiversity, and safeguarding the benefits of forests.

On 29 November 2022, FAO launched the publication "Contribution of the forest sector to total employment in national economies - estimating the number of people employed in the forest sector". The study is the result of a joint effort between FAO, ILO and the Thünen Institute. It contributes to improve employment statistics by addressing methodological challenges and provides new evidence for decision-making.

The study applies a new wave-based method to estimate the number of people employed in the forest sector, based on ILO microdata. It reveals that approximately 33 million people were employed in the forest sector globally for the period 2017–2019, accounting for 1 percent of total employment, across all economic activities.

The proposed methodology helps to fill in data gaps and to improve understanding of a sector that is remarkably characterized by informality, particularly in developing countries. It highlights the need to strengthen efforts to ensure the availability of consistent and comparable statistical data on forest-related employment, including data disaggregated by gender. The study shows, for example, that women in the forest sector have a higher probability of having informal jobs than men, and their employment participation in forest-related activities remains low.

The launch of the study builds on and moves forward discussions promoted throughout this year, such as the session at the XV World Forestry Congress on “Advancing decent work, green jobs and sustainability in the forest sector” and the special event at the 8th World Forestry Week/COFO26 on  “Beyond numbers: employment and decent work in forestry”.

  • Download the publication here.  
  • Visit the ILO blog on the publication here.

Wild foods from forests: Quantities collected across Zambia

@Penias Banda, CIFORForests provide an immense range of benefits to people, many of which are not prioritized by forest policy because they are difficult to quantify. Wild foods from forests, which enhance the quality of diets for those who consume them and provide income for those who sell or trade them are particularly difficult to quantify because of non-standard units, seasonal differences in collection patterns and large numbers of species.

We piloted new methods and provide initial estimates of collection volume in Zambia based on data from 209 households across 14 villages randomly selected within 5 study areas covering all four agro-ecological areas. For each study area, we conducted a focus group to identify the most commonly collected species within each of nine food product types (mushrooms, insects, green leafy vegetables, tubers, fruits, nuts, wild meat, wild fish, and aquatic plants). All but one surveyed household collected some wild foods; on average, each household collected five types of food product, most commonly mushrooms, fruits and green leafy vegetables. Volume collected varied markedly by household, product type and study area.

Extrapolating from these data and accounting for uncertainties, rural households in Zambia are estimated to collect over 380,000 m3, of wild foods annually with at least 238,000 m3 per year coming from pristine or degraded forests.  This represents 125% of the volume of sawnwood produced, or about 12 million large (20 L) collecting buckets. The volume of wild food collected was not strongly correlated with metrics of wealth, indicating ubiquitous collection of wild foods within our study population.  The most food insecure households collected particularly high volumes of wild food.

Pilot market surveys found that local value chains for wild foods did exist with few products being sold directly by the collector. Our results underscore the value of local data and demonstrate that national estimates of quantities of wild food collected from forests are possible.  These would be highly useful for designing forest policy and management strategies. Data on the quantities of wild foods collected are available here.  Paper co-author and project Principle Investigator Amy Ickowitz, a scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), is working to quantify the nutritional impact of wild food consumption.  Work on wild fruits using these data indicates that wild fruits contribute approximately 80% of total fruit intake, which would be enough, on average, to meet 25% of international recommendations on fruit consumption.  

Read the full report | Press release

Climate change mitigation and harvested wood products: Lessons learned from three case studies in Asia and the Pacific

©iStock/photovsHarvested wood products (HWP) from sustainably managed forests can store carbon, increase the availability of biomass for the production of biofuels and substitute for more resource intensive products. FAO has a particular interest in the topic of carbon storage as custodian of the forest product statistics database. These are the data discussed by the IPCC for use in estimating carbon storage in HWP at the national level. In this InfoBrief, we share the results of three case studies using computer simulations of IPCC methods that use FAOSTAT data to estimate carbon storage in HWP at the national level.  We use these simulations to assess the potential impact of policy decisions on what products to produce, how much to recycle, and what data to collect. Access the pdf here:

Virtual expert consultation workshop on the “Significance of the forest sector for employment on global and regional scale”

©Deanna RamsayAn online expert consultation workshop, co-hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the Thünen Institute was held on 29-30 September 2021 with the participation of 50 experts from some 30 institutions covering, among others, governments, international organizations and academia. The workshop was part of FAO’s and ILO’s ongoing efforts to improve and increase data collection related to the indicator No 12 “Employment related to the forest sector” within the framework of the GCS of forest indicators, agreed upon by the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF) in 2017 to support monitoring of the six Global Forest Goals. Read more


Other Publications

Forest products annual market reviews. FAO, UNECE. 1997-2021.

InfoBrief: Collection and consumption of wild forest fruits in rural Zambia, June 2021.

Forest product conversion factors. FAO, ITTO, UNECE. 2020.

The story of forest product statistics: From numbers to information. Video, FAO. 2020.

Guidelines on data collection for national statistics on forest products. FAO. 2018.

Guidelines for the incorporation of a woodfuel supplementary module into existing household surveys in developing countries. FAO. 2018.

FAOSTAT user consultation. FAO. 2018.

How to include the woodfuel supplementary module into existing surveys and derive woodfuel indicators. FAO. 2017.

Non-wood forest products in international statistical systems. FAO. 2017. 

Review of national surveys and censuses that could incorporate a woodfuel supplementary module. FAO. 2017. 

National statistics related to woodfuel and international recommendations. GSARS. 2016. 

Contribution of the forestry sector to national economies, 1990-2011. FAO, 2014.

Assessment of industrial roundwood production from planted forests. FAO, 2014.

Committee on Forestry 2010: Get the facts on forest products. Video, 2010.

Forest products conversion factors for the UNECE region. UNECE/FAO, 2010.

Trends in wood products 1961-2003. FAO, 2005.

The revision of woodfuel estimates in FAOSTAT. FAO, 2002.

International Forest Products Statistics: Growing and Better than Ever! (Article in Forest Products Journal, May 2002). 

Proceedings - FAO Working Group on Forestry Statistics. Rome, Italy, 20-24 November 1995.

The evolution of forestry statistics from 1945 to 2000. Unasylva Vol. 46, 1995.

Forest products prices 1973-1992. FAO Forestry Paper 125, 1995.

Forest products prices 1971-1990. FAO Forestry Paper 104, 1992.

Forest products prices 1969-1988. FAO Forestry Paper 95, 1990.

Forest products prices 1967-1986. FAO Forestry Paper 82, 1988.

Conversion factors for forest products, 1983. UNECE/FAO, 1987.

Forest products prices 1965-1984. FAO Forestry Paper 61, 1985.

Forest products prices 1963-1982. FAO Forestry Paper 46, 1983.

Forest products prices 1962-1981. FAO Forestry Paper 38, 1982.

Classification and definitions of forest products. FAO Forestry Paper 32, 1982.

Forest products prices 1961-1980. FAO Forestry Paper 23, 1981.

Forest products prices 1960-1978. FAO Forestry Paper 18, 1980.

Forest products prices 1960-1977. FAO Forestry Paper 13, 1979.

last updated:  Friday, December 2, 2022