Development Law Branch of the Legal Office, FAO


From the perspective of tenure and land-use change – Contribution from Eugenio Sartoretto, LEGN

All the existing definitions of “forest” recalled by the report, qualify it as an “area” (Box 1, p 11) with specific and variable assets that respond to different purposes and to different scales. However it should be noted that the term “area” is rather vague and does not help to clearly establish the link with the applicable tenure system. In this regard it would be important to highlight that defining forest first and foremost as a “land” rather than an “area” (with canopy cover), which would clarify and therefore strengthen the link with tenure, so enabling a better forest governance and further contributing to food security and nutrition.

Also the FAO forest definition is developed based on size, height and canopy cover without including any element in relation to the diversity of species and on its natural generation or, at least, regeneration process. The lack of these latter parameters clearly allows for a more inclusive definition of “forest” ranging from Natural, to Agroforestry and to Managed and Plantation forests. The result is that monocultures matching size, height and canopy cover criteria are also considered forests. It should be noted that not all these monocultures are for timber production, rather an increasing number of them aims at producing agricultural commodities, this is the case of agribusiness plantations of tree crops such as oil palm. This situation is relevant particularly in relation to “forest conversion” and “change of land use”.

Along this line the report rightly points out that forest conversion could involve intensive mono-cropping, further considered as a forest type, which does challenge biodiversity. Forest conversion is generally the result of land use change but, especially in the light of the existing forest types: this inter-relation should be clearer in the report. Once clearly established it will highlight some important underlying inconsistencies including that a forest following a forest conversion process will result in another forest. In fact, those monoculture plantation (agribusiness plantations of tree crops) which currently fit into the definition of “forests” while producing agricultural commodities, are often planted following the clearance of natural forest, alias a forest conversion process. According to FAO definitions, deforestation is the conversion of forest to another land use, but in the absence of the mentioned criteria, the border between forest and agricultural use lacks clarity, thus undermining any further consideration including on their possible interaction.

From the perspective of decent rural employment and right to food - Contribution from Sisay Yeshanew, LEGN

The report sets out to look at the economic, social and environmental values of all types of forest and their multiple benefits for people. It highlights the employment opportunities the forest sector creates and the importance of the income generated from such employment to household food security and nutrition. However, it does not create the important connection with decent rural employment/labour standards. The terms and conditions of employment matter for food security and nutrition as much as the employment opportunities the sector creates. Forestry is one of the most dangerous sectors to work in, personal protective equipment may not be available, most workers (including children and migrant workers) are informally engaged, wages are low and working hours are long, and the work locations are often in far off locations, making it difficult for labour inspection mechanisms to check compliance with labour standards. These conditions could have negative implications on the income, health and other socio-economic conditions for food security and nutrition. This may be addressed under section 3.4 or under section 5.5

Moreover, the report does not address the right to adequate food perspective, except where it talks about right to wild food in the “way forward” section. The right to food angle provides important governance (rights-holders, duty-bearers and accountability) perspective to the relevance of forestry to food security and nutrition.  There are materials that could be consulted at least in relation to non-wood forest products: e.g.,

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Please also note that the report includes definitions that are not aligned with FAO Forest Resources Assessment 2015. In this regard it might be useful to  refer to