Beyond the Bugs: How Forests Contribute to Food Security
When the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization released two reports on food security in mid-May, insects captured all the headlines. The first report garnered the majority of media attention. It discussed the potential for insects as an untapped highly efficient protein source that could help fight food insecurity. The second report provided valuable new information on how forests could contribute to food security worldwide.

The FAO released its report “Forests for Improved Nutrition and Food Security” at the international conference May 13-15 of this year highlighted the direct and indirect ways in which forests, trees and woodlands support food and nutritional security, and provided policy recommendations on how those contributions could be enhanced and maintained.

According to the conference website, 870 million people go hungry every day. To meet the nutritional needs of the world’s population in the future, which is expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, global agricultural output will have to increase by an estimated 60 percent.

Escalating food, fiber, and fuel demands have triggered deforestation in many places that threaten ecosystems, diminishes the availability of water, and limits access to wood used as fuel. These shortages threaten food security, particularly for the poorest members of society.

There are additional, often overlooked, ways in which forests and trees contribute to fighting global poverty and hunger efforts. Uninhabited forests and forests bordering agricultural areas play an important role in food security. Many indigenous people rely on forest ecosystems for their survival because of protected catchments, which help deliver clean water to agricultural areas, and available foodstuffs, namely nuts, leaves, shoots, fruit, fungi and animals. Herders in semi-arid and arid regions also depend on trees to provide fodder for livestock.

The World Bank estimates that 60 million people are wholly dependent on forests for their survival and 350 million people living within or near dense forests depend on them for income or subsistence.

Forests, trees, and agroforestry systems provide vital contributions to nutrition and food security, the FAO says, but those benefits are often ignored in development and food security strategies. As a result, forests are left out of many food security and nutrition decisions. Farmers can improve food security by planting trees and forest plants, retaining trees on agricultural land and encouraging natural regeneration.

Eva Muller, director of FAO’s Forest Economic Policy and Products Division told The Interdependent that, “The big challenge is raising awareness… The link between forests and food security has not been clear for many people in the past.”

– Liza Casabona

Sources: FAO The Interdependent The World Bank
Photo: United Nations

Forests Contribute to Food Security
A long-standing strategy to strengthen food security by increasing crop production, even if it means destroying forests, has recently come into the debate. Scientists say that the reality of destroying valuable forest ecosystems could have a disastrous effect and may not solve food security and nutrition problems.

“A rampant increase in agricultural production as the global population increases could encroach on nutritional food sources found in forests,” warned Terry Sunderland, a scientist with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). Nutritional foods found in forests including rodents, wild birds, and larger animals, as well as fruits, nuts, leaves, stems, and mushrooms are a source of micro-nutrients for many rural communities. Currently, there are 1 billion people in the world that depend on forests for their livelihood. Furthermore, when agricultural production slows and food prices soar, many people living in poverty rely on scavenging tactics and forest-meat to make up for the loss of regularly farmed foods.

According to U.N. data, the global population will rise from 7 billion to more than 9 billion by 2050. Consequentially, this increase will threaten the already high rates of deforestation in tropical regions as well as increasing threats to global health. In a 2011 report presented by PNAS, a 100 to 110 percent increase in global crop demand from 2005 to 2050 would result in the conversion of about 1 billion hectares (2.5 billion acres) of land for agricultural use and is projected to encroach upon forested or heavily treed land.

The current, prevailing view of food security focuses on eliminating global hunger no matter the costs to the natural environment. To protect the natural environment, a balance must be obtained in consideration of current obstacles to the food supply system including waste, overconsumption, post-harvest loss and unequal distribution. Further research will reveal exactly how forests contribute to food security and to the future of nutrition.

– Kira Maixner
Source: TRUST
Photo: NASA

Protect the Forests!When talking about water on World Water Day, one cannot forget forests. Forests cover approximately a third of the entire globe and provide support for more than 1.6 billion people and thousands of different animal species. Forests are the source of 75 percent of all freshwater, help combat climate change by storing more carbon than is in the environment,  and are suppliers of wood-based fuel. Forests are important to the welfare of everyone.

Yet, each year, more than 13 million hectares of forest land is being destroyed. This fact has caused UN Chief, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, to urge businesses, governments, and people at large to pledge to protect forests and all of those who rely on forests to live. Protecting forests does not just mean reducing deforestation, which is occurring more rapidly because of urbanization and increased agriculture. Currently, deforestation accounts for over 10 percent of the gas emissions that are affecting global warming. And while expansion is necessary, it must be done in a way that does not infringe too much on the vital forests that exist across the world.

Forests must also be protected against climate changes, making it even more urgent for the global community to address climate changes. It is affecting all aspects of life, from figuring out where to vacation for the summer to farming cycles to certain animal migration or moving patterns to forests, the largest producer of freshwater.

Ban Ki-moon said that “We need now to intensify efforts to protect forests, including by incorporating them into the post-2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals.” Making forests a major part in sustainable development goals will benefit the planet in the future.

– Angela Hooks

Source: allAfrica
Photo: WWF