With forests contributing directly to reducing extreme poverty and hunger, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has a key role to play in highlighting their importance for reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of slashing both scourges in half by 2015, according to an expert panel.
“Forest products can contribute directly to the goal of reducing poverty and hunger by providing cash income, jobs and consumption goods for poor families,” said David Kaimowitz, Director-General of the Centre for International Forestry Research, who chaired the meeting of experts invited to FAO headquarters in Rome.
The livelihoods of the approximately 240 million of the world’s poor who live in forested areas of developing countries depend on the protection and, in many cases, the rehabilitation of these forests. Poor people’s agricultural activities also benefit from the role of forests and trees through contributions to land productivity, enhancing crop and livestock production, and providing genetic resources, among other services.
Widely recognized environmental functions of forests include mitigating climate change, conserving biological diversity, maintaining clean and reliable water resources, sustaining and enhancing land productivity, protecting coastal and marine resources and enhancing urban environments, the panel noted.
It recommended that FAO assist countries to carry out analyses of the forest-poverty links in their national context and reflect poverty reduction and food security adequately in their national forest programmes.
“Forests not only make significant contributions to sustainable development, but failure to achieve environmental stability – including through sustainable forest management – will undermine social and economic development goals,” FAO Forestry Department Assistant Director-General Hosny El Lakany said.
“FAO is fully committed to helping countries realize the potential contributions of forests to their national development goals,” he added.