Australia - Department of Agriculture and Water Resources

Australia’s comments on HLPE Report on Sustainable Forestry for Food Security and Nutrition

Australia recognises the importance of this report in addressing a key issue facing many countries and supports in principle the key tenants of the V0 draft paper. In particular, we value the opportunity to feed into this process as it highlights the importance of sustainable forest management as a mechanism to ensure the maintenance of productive multi use forests to deliver a variety of resources for the whole community, including food security and nutrition.

The report’s main messages align closely with Australia’s own policy settings around food security and nutrition i.e. including the need to:

  • recognise that agriculture and the rural economy (including forestry) are heavily influenced by policies and outcomes in the rest of the economy;
  • move away from siloed policy approaches towards an integrated food systems approach that promotes greater multi-sectoral coordination, involving multiple stakeholders;
  • build a robust evidence base to inform future policymaking;
  • ensure policies are underpinned by adequate capacity-building, particularly around implementation;
  • embrace more efficient, sustainable production techniques;
  • pursue future forestry policies that focus not only on the formal sector (e.g. commercial timber extraction)  but also explicitly recognise and address the role of forests in providing livelihood benefits, including food security, for many people; and
  • ensure that policy and regulatory frameworks provide equitable access for the poor, women, vulnerable and marginalized groups .

HLPE Questions:

1. The V0 draft is wide-ranging in analyzing the contribution of forests and trees to food security and nutrition (FSN). Do you think that the draft adequately includes the range of contributions that sustainable forestry and forests can make to FSN? Is there additional important evidence or aspects that would enrich the report?

Australia has identified a few pieces of additional important aspects that would enrich the report.

Firstly, the report has a strong focus on the northern hemisphere, Africa and Asia resulting in a geographical bias that affects the scope of the study. Very little material is included from Europe, South America, Australia or New Zealand whether data, examples or case studies. In regards to Australia, the word “Australia” appears just three times in the entire 118‑page report – once in text (p.24), once in a table (p.65), and once in a reference (p.104). This partial global coverage contributed to a specific factual error on p.12: “Temperate forests occur in eastern North America, north-eastern Asia, and western and central Europe”. Temperate forests also occur in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of South America.

Secondly, this geographical bias affects the scope of the study with a need for clear and consistent data and definitions throughout the report. For example, the listed characteristics of temperate forests are correct only from a northern hemisphere perspective, and are incorrect from a global perspective. Furthermore, the fauna listed is solely northern hemisphere, there is no mention of forest fire, and temperate forests are not limited to fertile soils. More balanced global coverage would ensure that the unique management systems required for different flora and fauna are considered and the examples provided are accurate.

Lastly, whilst we recognise that that sustainable forestry management and agriculture can be linked, there is a strong focus on agro-ecosystems. Firstly, we would appreciate clarification as to the meaning of agro-ecosystems. Secondly, agro-ecosystems are not always a possibility in every country and the inclusion and focus upon this in Section 4.2 reflects further underlying bias towards particular geographical areas, economies and countries. This report may better serve the international community by reducing its geographical bias and thus making its content, scope and recommendations more accessible and relatable.

2. The report’s structure consists of: the context and conceptual framework; the role and contributions of forests and forestry to FSN; the challenges and opportunities for sustainable forestry in relation to FSN; and governance issues for an integrated approach to sustainable forestry and FSN. Do you think that this structure is comprehensive enough, and adequately articulated? Does the report strike the right balance of coverage across the various chapters? What are the important aspects that could be covered more thoroughly?

The body of the report is very well crafted. The structure, context and breadth of issues are credible and balanced. However we have three further suggestions.

Firstly, line 13 (p.18) there is a reference to ‘reduced infections’. This is the first time that the discussion of food safety (through infection reduction) appears in a conversation about food security. While the report later discusses the use of forest wood for disinfection in depth (p.52), it seems out of place this early on in the report. We suggest removing the reference to reducing infections from p.18, or flagging that an in-depth discussion of this appears later in the text.

Secondly, there are references to ‘lifestyle diseases’ (on p. 9, 17 and 46). This may be appropriate in the context (to reference sedentary lifestyle and poor diets) but it seems more common in WHO documents to use the term ‘non-communicable diseases’ rather than ‘lifestyle diseases’. It may be preferable to refer to ‘non-communicable disease caused by lifestyle factors’.

Lastly, clearly the draft report is pitched at policymakers with a good working knowledge of the forestry sector and relevant policy issues that impact on that sector. However it is dense with terminology that the average layperson may find difficult to understand. As such, we recommend a glossary of key terms. Some of these terms are explained in the draft, but are very often buried in various sections.  For example, it is not until p.16 a definition of ‘sustainable forestry’ is provided. Similarly, we the report would benefit from having a good ‘Executive Summary’.  The ‘Conclusion’ section (p. 101) and ‘Recommendations for Action’ section (pp. 102-103) are helpful, but don’t really provide a succinct summary of what the report is about and what its key findings/recommendations are.