Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Dear Moderator and FSN members,

I recommend that the following agenda is included in the CFS activity list for the Biennium 2016-17.


Addressing growing problems of communal and public land resources complemented food production systems


Communal and public land resources complemented food production and livelihood support systems is an indigenously evolved system of food production in some communities of many developing countries. The resource serves as a critical element (plays complementary instead of supplementary role) in the production system and makes the food production possible in the areas. The complementary production system was practiced to adapt in harsh local agro-ecological condition in some communities (e.g. mountain and dry-land /desert regions) or evolved with special nature of social behavior of some ethnic groups (e.g. tribal/ indigenous communities).  Long term and innovative uses of the resources (e.g. forest products and grazing) in farming contributed in evolving the socio-ecological systems which provide much higher level of environmental, social and economic goods and services than the intact or conventional management system of the resources in the communities. A journal article on this link (DOI:10.4236/ojf.2014.41010) provides some details about the system and its importance in alleviating local food insecurity issues, environmental problems and socioeconomic challenges. 

There are deliberately growing external interventions to cease the indigenous uses of the public/ communal land resources for sake of distance users’ (affordable forest products for urban consumers and reducing carbon offsetting cost of overseas industries and affluent societies) benefit. The interventions have also ceased the resources traditional available for food production. Common activities ceasing the opportunities include the management of the resources for carbon trade, biodiversity conservation under protected area scheme and commercial timber production. The payment for other uses of the resources (if offered by any external agency)cannot compensate the real level of food production loss due to instrumental role in sustaining upstream and downstream linked food production system. Let’s take a case in the Nepal’s high mountain belt which is a highly remote and critical food shortage area. The farmers in the region have marginal quality of land with ultra-size of private landholding. Livestock is the most valuable means of food security (e.g. source of draft power for food transportation and farm ploughing, and milk, manure and meat production). The alpine pasture resources are principal means for sustaining the livestock. Grazing access to the lower hill forests particularly in winter (snowing) season is also critical to sustain the alpine resource based livestock business. Practicing of externally/internationally induced forestry protection policies and programmes has reduced fodder availability or increased restriction on the livestock grazing in the mid-hill forests. The undernourished and poor farmers are further suffered. Here I cannot explain the pain of suffering people and other social problems associated with the loss of their livelihood means. I would like to ask the FAO experts whether any payment for climate mitigation service of the lower hill forests can compensate the food security and other social loss of those victim communities.

Let’s take another heart touching case published in a Nepali newspaper (Nagariknews) on 17 April 2014. The newspaper found that many forest user groups in a highly food deficit district purposively put fire on in their community forests. In reality forest development and protection agencies had socially trapped the community people to plant pine tree species densely in their forestland which was historically managed for multipurpose uses including grazing. The understory growth of grasses was suppressed as the pine tree grew. The declining of grass production made it difficult for the small farmers or marginal landholders to sustain livestock business - a means of food security. The desperate farmers compelled to set fire on in the pine forest despite knowing that the fire setting in the forest is a criminal activity.

Conservation and enhancement of public and community resource complemented food security system would bring many benefits in addition to relieving the undernourished people and preventing poor farmers from being involved in criminal activity for food security.  It would provide a safety net for the resource users under the condition of natural disasters and political institution failure. Supporting in the uses of the resources, as in Satoyama farming system in Japan, would contribute to the existence of human residences in low populated and remote areas where emigration has been a serious social problem. Conservation of agro-biodiversity is another benefit. The community would also contribute in conserving the cultural heritage or social identity of mountain people and promoting indigenous knowledge.


·         Identification of and mapping the regions and communities where such system can make significant difference in food security and social wellbeing

·         Policy lobbying and advocacy at national and international levels to conserve and enhance the system

·         Exploring resource management options including period in both participatory approach and independent research

·         Development of resource management plans and enforcement institutions in participatory approach

·         Implementing the management plans

·         Research and intensive monitoring of work progress for timely correction of emerging problems and weaknesses.


I found it difficult to identify the appropriate work stream in the linked document. The work-streams and themes are not universal concepts; rather organizations or working committees classify them for management convenience.  The agenda might overlap with many streams or themes such as sustainable livelihood, ecosystem services, indigenous communities and mountain development. After reading many documents the issue was poorly related to the FAO work stream of “Forests for Food Security and Nutrition” as the program focused on “trees beyond forests”. Increasing trees beyond forests or intensification in private land makes little difference in alleviating food security problem in those communities due too small size of private landholding. The intensification of trees in private lands of some regions (e.g. high-mountain) can make food security worse due to high degree of effect of space, light and nutrition competition with other kinds of food production activities. In addition making functional of some of the systems requires lands in multiple communities including different ecological zones. Poor people cannot afford to have there.  Based on my reading of many documents  the FAO team working in the “Forests for Food Security and Nutrition” program seems inappropriate to lead this agenda because the team has not acknowledge this very important issue in any document. In addition the recommendations of “The International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition” organized by this team has not recognised the proven threats or problems of REDD+ and other forest protection initiatives for escalating food insecurity problem in developing countries. The initiative is rather considered an opportunity for food security of indigenous ethnic groups. The policies and programmes are the main obstacles to conserve the indigenous food security systems. It means the team cares little about poor communities, the public/communal resource based  people and indigenous practices. In essence, the work-stream makes small difference but the working team requires pro-community attitude and good level of knowledge of the system and root causes.


There are many reasons that FAO should play proactive role to address the growing problems of communal and public land resources complemented food production system. The root causes of escalating the food security problem in these areas are international policies and programmes. Dealing with this issue is under the work mandate of FAO.  In some areas (e.g. Nepal) FAO played some roles to create the problem in the system.  If FAO is committed to take corporate social responsibility of any bad impacts in societies it should accept the liability of past work programmes or policies.  The food security problems in developing countries and marginalized areas are the most powerful instrument of FAO to convince to and get funds from donor agencies. The communities with the forest resource based food production system are also living in marginal production areas and are socially, economically and environmentally vulnerable. Therefore they deserve the FAO support.  If some initiatives of protecting the systems are not taken in time, the opportunity of protecting the complex system based food security will be locked due to increasing social, legal and environmental complexities related to the resources. From my understanding FAO is the right organization to explain the threats and convince the stakeholders who play crucial roles in dealing with the problem of the indigenous food production systems. Finally, if FAO ignores the problems of marginalized people in developing countries for the sake of conserving forest to offset emission from industries and affluent societies and mitigate global warming, it will be nick named western vehicle.  


1.    The Local Environmental, Economic and Social Tragedies of Managing Community Forests for Global Environment Conservation: A Critical Evaluation. The Open Journal of Forestry. 2014. 4(1):58-69. DOI: 10.4236/ojf.2014.41010

2.    उपभोक्ता नै लगाउँछन् वनमा आगो (User group set fire up on their community forest). Nagariknews 17 April 2014.

3.    FAO. 2014. Recommendations, reflections and photos from the FAO conference Forests for Food Security and Nutrition. FAO Rome