UN: Food security can be boosted by farming and forestry links
A recent UN report has suggested that boosting co-operation between the essential farming and forestry sectors of nations across the globe will help to lower deforestation and improve food security.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s State of the World’s Forests (Sofo) is a biennial report that is released in order to help inform policymakers and decision-makers across the world. Between 2000 and 2010, tropical nations suffered huge amounts of net forest loss, with more than seven million hectares per year being degraded, while farmland grew by six million hectares.
Therefore, improved collaboration between the two sectors would help to lower environmental damage as well as helping to improve social and economic horizons.
Eva Muller, director of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Forestry Policy and Resources Division, told BBC News: “The new Sofo report is about the relationship between forestry and agriculture. What comes out very clearly is that while it a lot of the [deforestation] was taking place in the temperate zones, in the more recent years it has been focused in the tropics.
“There has been a net forest loss of about seven million hectares in tropical countries. At the same time, there has been a net gain in agricultural land of six million hectares. You can deduct that a lot of the deforestation is taking place to gain more land for agriculture.”
Low income nations suffered the highest net loss of forests and net rise in farmland between 2000 and 2010 occurred in low income countries, due in part to the rural population rising. While deforestation was blamed in part on large-scale commercial agriculture — which contributed to around 40 per cent of deforestation — it was also caused by subsistence farming (33 per cent), infrastructure (10 per cent), urban expansion (10 per cent) and mining (7 per cent).
While large-scale agriculture caused the vast majority (70 per cent) of deforestation in Latin America, it accounted for only one third in Africa. Here, small-scale agriculture accounted for the highest level of forest loss.
Ms Muller said that many nations had proven that effective policies could boost agricultural production, as well as food security, without causing forest loss.
“Our analysis shows that in the past 25 years, there have been more than 20 countries who have maintained or actually increased their forest cover while, at the same time, making progress towards food security,” she said.
“The message is that you do not have to deforest in order to achieve food security. You need to have coordinated policies between forestry and agriculture, because in many countries the policies for agriculture are not co-ordinated with forestry policies at all; sometimes they even contradict one another. In countries that have achieved this there is more collaboration, improved investment in both improving agricultural production and the sustainable management of forests.”
This UN Sofo report is the first one to be published following the adoption of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by the international community.
FAO director-general Jose Granziano da Silva confirmed that far greater collaboration between the forestry and agriculture sectors could have tremendously positive impacts for the future.
“Forests and agriculture have an enormous role in achieving the 2030 Agenda’s historic commitment to rid the world of the twin scourges of poverty and hunger. However, this urgently requires closer collaborations and partnerships, cross-sectorally and at all scales,” he said.
GWD Forestry spokesman James Barrett said: “Working to promote food security across the globe is essential and news that improved collaboration between two crucial sectors — farming and forestry — could help to achieve this is an exciting prospect for the future.”