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FAO recommends strong national policies, programmes on forestry

by Business News Report

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has recommended that countries should put strong emphasis on maintaining and enhancing the vital contributions of forests to livelihoods, food, health and energy. The recommendation is contained in a statement issued at the organisation’s headquarters in Rome, Italy, after the release of the 2014 edition of the State of the World’s Forest (SOFO) on Monday.

The statement said that the key findings of its biannual flagship publication on SOFO were reviewed by the FAO’s Committee on Forests (COFO) at the ongoing 22nd Session of the committee.

“FAO’s flagship publication of SOFO shows that a significant proportion of the world population relies on forest products to meet basic needs for energy. The population also relies on forest products to meet their shelter and some aspects of primary healthcare, often to a very high degree. However, the report finds that these socio-economic benefits are often not adequately addressed in forest and other relevant policies.

“It is not addressed despite their enormous potential to contribute to poverty reduction, rural development and greener economies,’’ it said.

According to the statement, the role of forests in food security is also often overlooked in spite of its importance. The statement quoted FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, as saying that the 2014 edition of SOFO focused on the socio-economic benefits derived from forests. It is impressive to see how forests contribute to basic needs and rural livelihoods. They are also a carbon sink, and preserve biodiversity.

“Let me say this clearly, we cannot ensure food security or sustainable development without preserving and using forest resources responsibly.’’

According to the statement, wood a major source of household energy, is being overlooked in terms of formulation of policies. The statement said that in many developing countries, wood energy was often the only accessible and affordable fuel for the majority of people.

“One in three households uses wood as their main fuel for cooking. Wood energy provides over half of the total energy supply in 29 countries, including 22 in Africa. In Tanzania, for example, wood fuel accounts for about 90 per cent of total national energy consumption.

“Wood energy is essential for the food security of billions of people, but forest, energy and food-security policies rarely fully recognise this. Much needs to be done to improve wood energy production, make it more sustainable and to reduce the burden on women and children, who collect 85 per cent of all firewood used in homes,’’ it said.

In addition, it said that forests performed many essential environmental services, such as erosion control, pollination, natural pest and disease control, and climate-change mitigation.

Furthermore, it also provides numerous social and cultural services and nutrients to local communities all year round; the statement quoted the report as saying. The statement quoted the FAO Assistant Director-General for Forests, Eduardo Rojas-Briales as saying that in the light of the data and analysis provided in the report, many national policies may need to be re-oriented.

“Countries should shift their focus, both in data collection and policymaking, from production to benefits – in other words, from trees to people. Policies and programmes, both in the forest sector and beyond, must explicitly address the role of forests in providing food, energy and shelter.

“ A new holistic concept of forests will make them more attractive to donors and investors and ensure that they benefit all people, especially those most in need,” the statement quoted Rojas-Briales as saying. The statement also said that FAO had appointed Prince Laurent of Belgium as its Special Ambassador for Forests and the Environment. It said that the appointment was in recognition of Laurent’s long-standing efforts to promote global development and sustainable technologies.

Therefore, it said Laurent would help FAO to raise awareness about, and foster policy dialogue on issues related to the sustainable management of forests and other natural resources. COFO is the highest FAO forestry statutory body. The biennial sessions of COFO bring together heads of forest services and other senior government officials, international organisations and NGOs as well as other stakeholders.

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