By Jan Joseph Dida, moderator of the food security discussion at the youth session. Share your thoughts by commenting at the end of this blogpost!
Feeding a burgeoning population without further damage to tropical forests is a contemporary global issue. Agricultural expansion is the primary course of decline in tropical forests and with a forecasted 9 billion people by 2050, many experts say that even more food needs to be produced in order to achieve global food security. If business as usual is allowed to continue, tropical forests face a grim future.
The benefits of forests in terms of dietary diversity and food security have been shown in various studies. In the eastern forests of Irian Jaya, the game and bush meat are regarded as direct sources of animal protein. In freshwater forests in the Philippines, the saps of Nipa palms and coconuts are sources of food and fuel as well.
Despite the obvious importance of forests and forest products to people living in and around them, these benefits are less known to the youth. A growing concern of many governments in both developed and developing societies is that agriculture, forestry and similar issues are not often issues of interest for young people.
A common example is the “our food comes from the supermarket shelves” mentality many young people have these days.
This is worrying. The interconnectedness between climate change, deforestation, agricultural sustainability and food security objectives means many young people today are likely to be unaware of the importance of forests and trees for direct and indirect contribution to food production.
Using trees outside forest concept might offer a catalyst for raising awareness about forests and trees importance for food security. In urban and peri-urban areas where the majority of young people live, fruit trees can provide an important source of food and help raise awareness of the links between trees, forests, and food security.
In Seattle, U.S.A. for example, trees such as walnuts and chestnuts are being planted in the urban areas for the public to freely harvest. Community projects like Conservation Farming Villages, a village-based agroforestry for biodiversity initiative, has been adapted in my home country, the Philippines, to support and improve local food supply and economy. Such landscape approaches are contributing to addressing the real issues of food access and poverty in local communities.
More is required from the youth on all fronts. It is now time to get organized and mobilized in shaping the future scenario we want.
I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on how active youth involvement can forward sustainable food provisioning and biodiversity conservation in Southeast Asia:
- In your home city, region, or country, can you think of any examples of where urban or agricultural trees, or forests, provide a source of food for local people?
- How can we promote the importance of trees and tree-based agricultural systems for food provisioning?
- In what ways can the youth get more involved in research, policy and practice of sustainable landscape management for food?
- Forest Food from Eastern Forests
- Nutrition and household food security: their importance for national forest programmes