How Forestry Contributes to SDGs
Forests and forestry make an important contribution across nearly every aspect of sustainable development. We’ve compiled a set of examples from evidence on the role of forests. Click on a topic to go to that section, or browse the whole list.
- Livelihoods, employment and poverty alleviation
- Food security and safety nets
- Nutrition and health
- Gender equality
- Economic growth
- Equality and inclusiveness
- Sustainable cities
- Sustainable production
- Climate change
- Marine resources
- Terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity
- Policy and partnerships
Livelihoods, employment and poverty alleviation
Goal 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere
Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
Around the world, forests make a significant contribution to livelihoods and poverty alleviation.
- 1.6 billion rural people depend on forests to some extent. This includes a wide range of groups, including Indigenous people, rural communities, smallholder farmers, and employees of forest-based enterprises (Chao, 2012).
- Over 90% of people living in extreme poverty depend on forests for all or part of their livelihoods (OECD, 2009).
- It is estimated that more than 13 million people are employed in the formal forest sector. This number increases to 73 million people when informal small and medium forest enterprises are included (FAO, 2011).
- Forests make up 22.2% of household incomes in developing countries (Angelsen et al., 2014).The main forest products that contribute to incomes are fuelwood, building poles, timber and building materials. Households also use a variety of non-timber forest products that contribute to food security, welfare, medicinal needs, and cultural practices (Angelsen et al., 2014).
For more information, see CIFOR’s factsheet on forests and livelihoods here.
Food security and safety nets
Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages
Forests provide food security and safety nets in times of need or crisis.
- Forests act as a safety net for farmers during seasonal food gaps. Forests can provide food security for households between harvests, or in times of drought, flooding, crop failure and other types of emergency (Arnold, Powell, Shanley, & Sunderland, 2011).
- Many HIV/AIDS-affected households in Africa have turned to forests to provide them with the extra food sources and traditional medicine they need. Local forest products and wild foods, including fruits, nuts, leafy vegetables and bushmeat, provide food security and nutrition for children and family members who are unable to work (Shackleton et al., 2006).
Nutrition and Health
Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Goal 3: Ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all ages
Forests provide a wide range of nutritious foods and protein.
- Forests are a source of nuts, berries, roots and meats that are often the only accessible nutritious food for rural people. Forest foods are high in micronutrients and fiber, while also low in sodium, refined sugar and fat, which helps children and adults maintain a healthy diet (Arnold et al., 2011).
- In parts of Africa, children who live in areas with more tree cover have more diverse and nutritious diets. In a study of 21 countries, the consumption of fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin A and leafy green vegetables among children were found to have a positive relationship with tree cover (Ickowitz, Powell, Salim, & Sunderland, 2014).
- Bushmeat is often the main source of animal protein available in remote forest areas of Central Africa and the Amazon Basin, and plays an essential role in ensuring healthy diets when livestock or other meat sources are not available (Nasi, Taber, & Vliet, 2011).
- In African cities, bushmeat is often the cheapest source of protein available to poor urban households. In rural areas of the Congo Basin, bushmeat accounts for up to 80% of the fats and proteins consumed by local communities (CIFOR, 2013c).
- All over the world, people rely on forests for medicine and health
- In many regions, medicinal plants from forests are the main source of treatment for maintaining health or overcoming sickness. This encourages not only conservation of trees, but also the continuation of cultural practices (UNEP, FAO, & UNFF, 2009).
- In the Amazon, villagers refer to the forest as their main source of food and health; in the words of one villager, ‘forests are the pharmacies and supermarkets of Amazonians’ (Thatcher, 2012).
- Up to 80% of people in developing countries rely on traditional medicines. Almost half of these substances originate from plants in tropical forests (CBD, 2008).
- Forests are intrinsically linked to human well-being. More than 75% of the world’s accessible fresh water is provided by forest catchments (CBD, 2008). People rely on this water for hygiene, cooking, drinking and food production.
Goal 4: Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Forests provide a range of learning materials, encouraging environmental education and sustainability.
- Higher education in forestry is a stepping stone to a multidimensional understanding of sustainability. Environmental services, biodiversity habitats, and the role of forests in climate change mitigation and adaptation are being incorporated into forest education, which encourages sustainable practices (CIFOR, 2014).
- In rural areas, income generated from selling non-timber forest products is often used to pay school fees and send children to school, as these can provide the only source of income between crop harvests (Shackleton, Shackleton, & Shanley, 2011).
- Forests can provide schools with materials and teaching resources for education on environmental processes. Student activities can include hiking, drawing, discussions and small projects on environmental products and change. This can have long-term effects on environmental knowledge and engender positive attitudes toward the environment (Farmer, Knapp, & Benton, 2007).
Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
Access to and control over forest resources is vital to women’s empowerment and gender equality.
- The long-term viability of community forest management is dependent on the inclusion of women. Policies and programs that ignore gender dimensions are at risk of creating or exacerbating inequalities, and ignoring women’s contribution to household livelihoods (Evans, 2015).
- Women living in forests can generate more than half their income from forests, compared to one-third for men (CIFOR, 2015e).
- Women are often responsible for the collection and trade of non-timber forest products (NTFPs). The gathering of food, fuel, and craft materials forms a significant component of women’s livelihoods. In isolated areas, NTFPs are often the only source of cash available to women (Shackleton, Paumgarten, Kassa, Husselman, & Zida, 2011).
- Economic enterprises that support the commercial production of NTFPs can support women achieve economic empowerment, and contribute to household wellbeing (Shackleton, Paumgarten, et al., 2011).
More information can be found at: http://www.cifor.org/publications/pdf_files/factsheet/4057-factsheet.pdf
Goal 6: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all
Forests play a key role in the global water cycle and the protection of water resources.
- During the wet season, forests act as giant sponges, soaking up rainfall and storing water. In the dry season, this water is slowly released into rivers and streams, and into underground aquifers. This supports vital water resources for drinking water, agriculture and other uses (CIFOR, 2013a).
- Around one-third of world’s largest cities obtain a significant proportion of drinking water directly from forests in protected areas (Dudley & Stolton, 2003).
- The State of the World’s Forests Report 2014 (FAO, 2014c) estimates that 764 million people rely on fuelwood to boil their water. In some cases, this may be the only source of drinking water available.
- Forests provide water storage systems that supply an estimated 75% of usable water globally (CIFOR, 2013a).
- Healthy trees and forests support natural filtration in streams, decreasing the amount of pollutants that reach local water resources. Vegetation along streams minimizes soil erosion and sediment runoff, and can also prevent flash-flooding and the downstream impacts of floods (FAO & CIFOR, 2005).
For more information, see CIFOR’s factsheet on forests and water here.
Goal 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all
Forests provide or support renewable energy sources, including hydropower, wood and charcoal.
- Wood energy provides 9% of the global primary energy supply, making it the most important source of bioenergy in the world (FAO, 2013). In Asia and Oceania, wood energy accounts for 5% of the total primary energy supply, 13% in Latin America and the Caribbean, and 27% in Africa (FAO, 2014c).
- In parts of Africa, fuelwood is the most affordable source of energy, accounting for almost 90% of primary energy consumption. In domestic areas, there is often no access to an alternative sources of energy, making fuelwood the number one source of energy for cooking and heating (CIFOR, 2013e).
- Rainforests in tropical countries have the potential to support large hydropower operations. As forest cover plays a crucial role in regional rainfall systems, deforestation and forest conversion can reduce water flow and inhibit energy generation. The success of hydropower energy generation is therefore dependent upon keeping tree cover intact, and ensuring rainfall systems are maintained in rainforests (Stickler et al., 2013).
- For households in Zambia and other parts of southern Africa, charcoal making is a way out of poverty. It contributes 3.7% of the national GDP in Zambia, with similar amounts in Malawi (3%) and Tanzania (2.3%). The positive impact of the industry extends throughout regions, supporting rural and urban incomes through the transportation, distribution and marketing of charcoal (Gumbo et al., 2013).
- Forest biomass (fuelwood and charcoal) has the potential to reduce the demand for oil as an energy source worldwide. However, the removal of fuelwood from forests is a driver of deforestation and forest degradation. Improved forest management and policies can play a vital role in responding to future energy demands, encouraging the sustainable production of fuelwood and providing economic opportunities (CIFOR, 2013e).
For more information, see CIFOR’s factsheet on fuelwood here.
Goal 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment, and decent work for all
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization, and foster innovation
Forest products contribute to the economic base of many countries by contributing to economic growth, revenue, trade and investment.
- Forest industries provide formal employment to 0.4% of the global labor force, contributing to nearly 1% of global GDP in 2008 (FAO, 2012).
- Forests contribute over US$250 billion to the economies of the developing world (Agrawal et al., 2012). This figure represents only officially reported monetary contributions, ignoring the informal sector and non-monetary values, meaning the contribution is actually much larger.
- Forests generate significant revenue for public institutions and governments. In countries such as Cameroon, forests generate 25% of public revenue through timber taxes and other fiscal instruments. This revenue can be redirected to be spent on other sectors, including for poverty-alleviation strategies (OECD, 2009).
- Forest products support economies through international trade. In 2010, the global trade in timber and timber products was worth more than US$200 billion (Global Landscapes Forum, 2014).
- As rural livelihoods continue to transition from smallholder agriculture to industrial plantations, forests will play vital role.
- In China, forest plantations contributed to 80% of total forest cover between 1962 and 2003 (Agrawal et al., 2012). In 1982, the Government of China began to focus on timber harvests from plantations, slowly transitioning to sustainable forest use and environmental protection policies. In 2012, total forest cover in China equaled 22.6% of total land cover, making it one of the five most forest-rich countries in the world (FAO & UN, 2010; World Bank, 2015).
- The large-scale planting of trees in some countries and regions is significantly reducing global net forest loss. While there is ongoing concern about the loss of primary forest areas, planted forests contribute significantly to global wood, fiber, fuel and non-timber forest products, as well as environmental services. In addition, these forests provide income and employment for millions of people worldwide. (FAO & UN, 2010)
Goal 9: Build resilient infrastructure, promote inclusive and sustainable industrialization and foster innovation
Forests provide essential products for infrastructure, housing development and sustainable cities.
- 18% of the world’s population use forests to form a significant part of their shelter, including walls, roofs and floors (FAO, 2014c).
- In Uganda, 46% of houses are constructed from mud and poles, retrieved from forests; 52% of houses are constructed using wood-fired bricks; and 42% of houses have thatched roofs. This equates to 97% of all houses constructed from forest products (UBOS, 2010).
- Forests contribute to “green infrastructure” – the use of natural vegetation to support stormwater management, climate adaptation, air quality, and sustainable food, energy and water production. This is often a natural process in rural areas, and is becoming used more frequently in the design of sustainable cities (Pötz & Bleuzé, 2012).
Equality and Inclusiveness
Goal 10: Reduce inequality among countries
Goal 16: Promote peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, provide access to justice for all and build effective, accountable and inclusive institutions at all levels
The collective ownership of forests in developing countries is becoming more common, providing access and rights to marginalized communities.
- At least 420 million hectares of global forests are legally owned or administered by communities, equating to 11% of global forests. These forests make up 22% of forests in developing countries (Molnar, Scherr, & Khare, 2004).
- The area of natural forest that is owned or administered by Indigenous people and traditional communities has been estimated at over 120 million hectares, which is about the size of South Africa (Molnar et al., 2004). However this figure is probably much larger because not all forest areas are recognized.
- Community-conserved forested landscapes in Africa, Asia and Latin America equate to approximately 370 million hectares, roughly 9% of the total forest area in the world (Molnar et al., 2004).
- Improved access and rights to forest resources for marginal groups are essential to promoting equality.
- Globally, forest policy is increasingly focusing on strengthening the tenure rights of people living in and around forests. Research into forest management has continuously highlighted the effectiveness of collaborative institutions. This is slowly being put into practice, with great benefits to communities and marginal groups (CIFOR, 2015a).
- Women often have less secure land rights and access to forests compared with men. They participate less in decision-making and forest management, despite their high dependence on forest resources. Improving the role of women in decision-making has positive effects on households, conflict management, and forest regeneration (CIFOR, 2015e).
- For many Indigenous people, forests are their basis for survival. However, traditional tenure systems are not always recognized, which can leave Indigenous forest people without rights and access to the forests on which their livelihoods depend. Participatory mapping of forests and traditional communities is being used in a number of countries to provide proof of use and ownership over forests. These steps are vital in achieving Indigenous rights and recognition around the world (UNEP et al., 2009).
Goal 11: Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable
Forests support more than rural communities – they also sustain livelihoods of people living in and around cities.
- Trees in urban environments provide incomes for poor people living in cities, who are often new migrants from rural areas. The extraction, transportation, processing, and sale of a variety of NTFPs provide poorly educated migrants with employment, giving them a chance to send their children to school and establish their new life in an urban environment (Stoian, 2005).
- Urban forests cool the environment, provide valuable habitats for birds and small animals, and shield against severe weather. This can help save energy, protect against strong winds and flooding, reduce the risk of landslides and stormwater runoff, and encourage healthy lifestyles (CIFOR, 2011).
- Forests in urban and surrounding areas provide employment opportunities in the nursery industry, gardening and food production, furniture industry, street vending and selling, transportation and more. In addition, home gardens can support food security, small businesses and fuelwood for cooking and heating (FAO, 2014a).
Goal 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
Goal 2: End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture
Forests support the sustainable production of agriculture and environmental products.
- Tropical forests provide homes for bees, bats and other pollinators, which are important for the growth of agricultural crops. Coffee crops cultivated near forests have been shown to have higher yields than those further away, due to their proximity to pollination services (Ricketts, Daily, Ehrlich, & Michener, 2004).
- Forests provide a wide range of water services required for agriculture. Forest cover and vegetation along rivers and streams improve the quantity and quality of water available for irrigation. Forests are vital in maintaining the soil and water base, providing optimal environments for agriculture and crop growth (CIFOR, 2013c).
- REDD+ funds have the potential to support the intensification of agriculture near forests, through the supply of fertilizer and other farm inputs. This could prevent forest clearance, as farmers are receiving a higher yield. This would lead to higher rural incomes and greater food security (Kovacevic, 2011).
Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
Forests are crucial in preventing the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and adapting to climate change.
- Forests represent the largest store of terrestrial carbon in the world: 77% of carbon stored in vegetation exists within forests, and 39% of carbon stored in soil occurs underneath the forest cover (Eliasch, 2008).
- Between 10% and 15% of global human-induced greenhouse gas emissions are released through deforestation and forest degradation (Van der Werf et al., 2009).
- Over time, Indigenous forest communities have developed strategies to adapt to climate change in rural and remote areas. Traditional knowledge, social networks, and Indigenous skills provide communities with unique capacities to cope with hazards and threats (Rampengan et al., 2014). The transfer of this knowledge to people living in similar circumstances throughout the world could play a crucial role in helping vulnerable groups cope with climate change in the future (Nkem et al., 2013).
- Forests can provide local resource owners or managers with income through Payments for Environmental Services (PES) schemes. PES schemes can cover watershed protection, carbon storage or habitat conservation. From 2005 to 2010, the Payments for Environmental Services amounted to approximately US$1.9 billion per year. In 2011, this increased to US$2.5 billion (FAO, 2014c).
For more information, see CIFOR’s factsheet on forests and climate change mitigation here.
Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas, and marine resources for sustainable development
Mangrove forests support coastal ecosystems, store ‘blue carbon’, and prevent sea-level rise.
- Mangrove forests serve as the first line of defense against extreme water levels. They protect against storm surges, soil erosion, and tsunamis (Murdiyarso et al., 2010). In Cameroon, the areas where mangroves have been cleared have experienced intensified flooding of coastal settlements. This has had social and environmental impacts, including biodiversity loss, a decline in fishery resources, and a loss of forest products used for construction and fuelwood (Munji et al., 2013)
- ‘Blue Carbon’ is carbon stored in coastal ecosystems, such as mangroves, sea grass, and salt marsh grasses. Unlike carbon stored in forests, blue carbon can remain trapped below ground for a very long time, resulting in extremely high carbon stocks (Howard et al., 2014). It is estimated that mangroves are one of the most carbon-dense types of tropical forests, possibly the second highest after peat swamps (Murdiyarso et al., 2010).
- Mangroves contribute to local livelihoods, as well as marine biodiversity. Building materials, food, medicines, fuel and other non-timber forest products are obtained from mangrove forests to support incomes and households. Mangroves also provide habitat for many marine species, including crabs, oysters, clams, crocodiles, snakes, seabirds and bats (Murdiyarso et al., 2010).
Terrestrial ecosystems and biodiversity
Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Forests are essential to maintaining biodiversity and supporting environmental processes.
- Forests contain an estimated 75% of all terrestrial plant and animal species, most of which are found in tropical forests (CBD, 2008).
- Forests combat land degradation and desertification by stabilizing soils, maintaining nutrient cycling, and reducing wind and water erosion (UNCCD, 2011).
- 8% of the world’s forest are protected for ecological functions, including desertification control, conservation of soil and water and biodiversity (FAO & UN, 2010).
- Biodiversity in forests is the driving force behind most ecological processes, including soil fertility, pollination, nutrient cycling, natural pest control and the maintenance of water resources (Sunderland, 2011).
Policy and partnerships
Goal 17: Strengthen the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development
Indicators and data on forests and their surrounding populations could provide much-needed information on poverty and livelihoods.
- The number of forest-dependent people is only one useful measure of the benefits derived from forests. Many of these people may depend on forests because they lack alternative ways to make a living. Information on how people derive their livelihoods from forests and whether this is helping them move out of poverty is crucial in designing effective poverty-alleviation strategies.
- Data on forest cover and carbon storage are becoming more important as interest grows in Payments for Environmental Services schemes and REDD+ (Reducing Deforestation and forest Degradation). To reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation, there first needs to be quantifiable data on forests, biodiversity and carbon storage. This can help target efforts for conservation, as well as policy and decision-making.
- Forest policy and management on both national and global scales can have a real impact on livelihoods and environmental sustainability.
- With the depletion of natural resources in many countries, economic growth will become dependent on sustainable practices. Private sector investment in the forest sector is seven times greater than the total official development assistance for the forestry sector in developing countries (World Bank, 2013). Forest cover acts as a flagship for sustainable practices, driving awareness and support for biodiversity values, climate change mitigation, and forest livelihoods.
- Growing awareness of the value of forests is resulting in sustainability pledges from the private sector, driven by pressure from consumers and multinational organizations. In Indonesia, large agroforestry businesses are pledging zero-deforestation and reduced carbon footprints, and committing to socially responsible actions. This could cause a significant reduction on greenhouse gas emissions and change consumption patterns globally (CIFOR, 2015c).
- Multilateral environmental agreements have the potential to provide political support for improved and secure access to natural resources, empowering people living in poverty. This can give a voice to communities in decision-making and governance processes, improving community welfare and management of resources (OECD, 2009).
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