New report highlights the important interplay between sustainable forestry and food security and nutrition

Forest conservation is not only crucial for protecting the benefits of biodiversity in the natural world but also for maintaining the diversity of diets and aiding the nutrition of communities worldwide. These crucial links between forestry and food security and nutrition are examined in a new report, Sustainable Forestry and Food Security and Nutrition, commissioned by the Committee on World Food Security

The report harnessed the expertise of the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE), through a Project Team led by Terry Sunderland of CIFOR. The report has been in the making for two years and provides comprehensive global analysis on sustainable forestry and nutrition as well as the trade-offs between this interplay and pressures from market demands.

“What our research found is that people living in proximity to forests and tree-based landscapes have better diets than their compatriots, regardless of poverty,” says Sunderland. “If we’re serious about global food security, we can’t ignore the role of forests and trees in direct provisioning for both foodstuffs as well as ecosystem services.”

Across four chapters, the report looks at issues including the types of forest systems; the specific contributions of forest landscapes to food security and nutrition, including influence on agriculture, water systems, fuel supply, and medicine; challenges, threats, and trade-offs for forestry systems as they relate to nutrition; and how governance can support the role of forests in food security and nutrition.

A major goal of this study is to increase cross-sector collaboration in order to address this issue, seeing members of the forestry, conservation, and nutrition communities work together to share and harmonize knowledge and promote good governance. Furthermore, related human rights issues arose as one of the report’s major findings, highlighting the need to protect forests in order to ensure communities’ access to food, water, and fuel.

As the report is unveiled at various conferences and summits around the world this year, the project team hopes that it will lead to efforts not only to promote forests as food sources, but also to expose communities as to the importance of naturally diverse diets. As cash crop plantations grow and incomes of rural farmers increase, there’s a growing need to address the accompanying dietary transitions to packaged and processed food products, as well as the tendency to address food security by growing more simple carbohydrates.

“By 2050, there will be an estimated nine billion people in the world,” says Terry Sunderland. “In response to the growth in global population and incomes and to the evolution of diets, a continuation of recent trends would imply that global agricultural production in 2050 to be significantly higher than present. However, with the findings of this report we would hope such expansion would take into account the critical role of forests and trees for food security and nutrition.”

Read the HLPE report.