FAO, 22 February 2018, Rome - Maintaining productive, diverse and healthy forests is crucial for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. However, this can only be accomplished through political will and concerted action across sectors, stakeholders and institutions at all levels.
This is the key takeaway message from the international conference on halting deforestation and increasing forest area, held by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests and hosted by FAO, in Rome this week (20-22 February).
Over the course of a three-day discussion 300 participants representing a wide range of government institutions from forestry, agriculture, livestock and environment, as well as the private sector, small producer organizations, civil society, indigenous peoples groups, and research, highlighted the urgency of taking action to accelerate progress towards achieving global development goals and targets related to forests.
Integrating forests and agricultural activities
While global rates of deforestation have halved over the last two decades - from a net annual forest area loss of 7.3 million hectares in 2000 to 3.3 million hectares in 2015 - deforestation and forest degradation still continue at alarming rates, with an estimated 80 percent of forest loss being driven by conversion of forest to agricultural land. Participants highlighted the need to address the drivers of deforestation and degradation while providing sustainable alternatives to local communities for fuel, fiber, fresh water, and food.
Participants stressed that land-use competition between forests and agriculture could be solved by introducing diversified agricultural production systems that integrate trees, crops and livestock with a landscape approach. Restoring landscapes that have become degraded offers such opportunities in addition to responding to challenges such as meeting the food production needs of growing populations. It further ensures sufficient supply of wood fibre to meet the needs of predicted increased demand from a growing global population, where it is critical to stimulate the sustainable production and consumption of forest products, providing value to forests.
Examples include agroforestry systems in which harvestable trees or shrubs are grown among or around crops or in silvo-pastoral systems, combining agriculture, forestry and grazing of domesticated animals in a mutually beneficial way.
Doing so will increase agricultural productivity and resilience, food security and nutrition support incomes of small farmers and improve sustainable management of forests.
The participants also highlighted the need to underpin the stability of livelihoods and the role of forests as providers of ecosystem services by recognizing the many "hidden" values of forests, such as pollination, and by enhancing simple and direct systems of payments for ecosystem services.