Wild foods in Zambia

CIFOR, with funding from FAO, collected data from different agroecological zones in Zambia to get a better picture of how rural people use wild foods, which mostly come from forests. This builds on research in 21 African countries that found a positive relationship between tree cover and dietary diversity. To get a clearer idea of how much of a certain food, like caterpillars, is collected and consumed – something that is often difficult to quantify – researchers measured the actual buckets and containers that people use in their households for collection.

Zambia’s Forestry Department has shown interest in the research, noting that it could help raise awareness of forests’ value beyond timber and charcoal. The study shows that it is not so difficult to quantify forest food use, and if more countries do this, we can get a much better idea of the true contribution that forests make to food security.    


Find the latest updates on the BMU-supported Collaborating to Operationalise Landscape Approaches for Nature, Development and Sustainability project at cifor.org/colands.

Influencing international policies

Research on the USAID-funded Conservation and Sustainable Use of Tropical Forest Biodiversity project marked several milestones this year.

A joint technical report by CIFOR and the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will be used as a voluntary roadmap to a sustainable wild meat sector, and was widely cited in the draft chapters of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Thematic assessment of the sustainable use of wild species.

CIFOR is participating in the IPBES Biodiversity Value Assessment, specifically working to provide practical, science-based policy-support tools on the many ways biodiversity benefits people.

CIFOR was also invited to lead an expert panel to develop an indicator on the contribution of forests to food and nutrition security for the UN Strategic Plan for Forests 2017–2030. The indicator will form part of a Global Core Set of Forest-Related Indicators to streamline global reporting on forests.

The body of work on wild foods from forests shows that forests are not an obstacle to food security, but are actually an important element of it.

Amy Ickowitz

Team Leader, Sustainable landscapes and livelihoods

Project info


Wild foods in Zambia



Funding partners

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

CIFOR focal point

Amy Ickowitz, Team Leader, Sustainable landscapes and livelihoods

Forests in a
time of crises


In 2019, the world witnessed some of our greatest challenges shift gears from urgent to emergency – from climate crisis to landscape degradation to the wildfires that devastated ecosystems across several continents. But it also saw momentum build with the announcement of the UN Decade of Ecological Restoration, a focus on nature-based solutions, and the recognition of local forest communities and Indigenous Peoples are the best land managers for forest conservation.

Another exciting development – the merger of CIFOR and World Agroforestry (ICRAF) – set the stage for more evidence and solutions that will improve people’s lives, help to conserve and restore the ecosystems that support people and nature, and respond to the global climate crisis.

Our scientists advanced critical knowledge on forest landscape restoration, wild foods and timber legality in Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and peatland fires, biofuel, oil palm and wetland ‘blue carbon’ in Indonesia – with clear policy impacts in Southeast Asia from 10 years of social forestry research and engagement. Our ongoing Global Comparative Studies – GCS REDD+ and GCS Tenure – continued to bring science to policy makers across Africa, Asia and Latin America. Gender researchers looked deep into a myriad of topics, and we mourned the loss of principal scientist and Nairobi hub leader Esther Mwangi, whose legacy of achievements in gender and land rights won’t be soon forgotten. Finally the Global Landscapes Forum brought even more people together, both at events from Accra to Luxembourg as well as through exciting new digital innovations.