Food Market in Machachi, Ecuador (Photo by IUFRO)

Food Market in Machachi, Ecuador (Photo by IUFRO)

Forests play a major role in achieving Millennium Development Goal 1 to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and in striving for food security. Globally, millions of people depend on forests for their food security and nutrition, directly through the consumption or sale of foods produced in forests, indirectly through forest-related employment and income, forest ecosystem services, and forest biodiversity.

Current approaches to increasing food security tend to concentrate on agricultural solutions, ranging from intensification of agricultural production outside of forests to promoting agroforestry systems. Policy recommendations to establish a framework for promoting food security from forests, however, have so far been rather general and no framework addresses the relationship between forests and food security directly.

The “International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition”, held at FAO Headquarters in Rome in May 2013, inter alia conveyed the key message that forests, trees and agroforestry systems demand greater attention in strategies for food security and nutrition and in the fight against hunger. It also called for improved data collection at national and international levels.

In this context, the Collaborative Partnership on Forests has recently initiated a global scientific assessment on forests and food security in the framework of its Global Forest Expert Panels (GFEP) initiative. GFEP was launched in 2007 to provide objective and independent scientific assessments of key issues in order to support more informed decision-making at the global level. The assessments are carried out by thematic Expert Panels uniting leading scientists from around the world. Led by IUFRO, GFEP is now establishing a new Expert Panel on Forests and Food Security.

The issue of food security is high on the global political agenda and is currently addressed in several forums. The GFEP assessment focuses on informing stakeholders in relevant policy processes about the state of knowledge on this topic and aims to contribute to the discussions on a post-2015 UN development agenda. It intends to underscore the role of forests in achieving potential future Sustainable Development Goals and to ensure that approaches to achieve food security take into account the role of forests and woodlands. The outcomes of the assessment will be fed into discussions and negotiations in several UN bodies, including UNFCCC, CBD, UNFF and the General Assembly.

The new Expert Panel will carry out a comprehensive assessment of scientific knowledge regarding the relationship between forests and food security. In line with the established principles of GFEP, the assessment will be based on existing information and synthesize scientific outcomes of present initiatives. Two main outputs will be produced: a comprehensive, peer-reviewed scientific report; and a summary for policy makers (‘policy brief’).

The objectives of the analysis will be to clarify the different dimensions and the role that forests play in food security; to analyze the social, economic, and environmental synergies and trade-offs related to forest and land-use management and food security; and to identify policy options and governance frameworks required for achieving desired outcomes.

Specifically, the assessment will look at both the direct and indirect roles of forests in food security and the implications of forest loss and degradation on food security, including climate change mitigation issues. It will review of the diversity of forest management systems (including traditional/indigenous systems) and their impact on food security as well as land-related policies and governance frameworks and their intersection with markets in food and forest products. Moreover, the assessment will investigate social stressors like insecurity, inequalities, instability, conflict and migration, and highlight the landscape dimension.

Hosted by FAO, a scoping meeting will take place on 14 and 15 November. The participants, scientists, CPF members and donors, will work on developing a detailed outline of the study. Preliminary findings of the assessment will be presented at relevant international meetings and the report is planned to be launched at UNFF 11 in May 2015.

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