Forests ‘essential’ for the future, UN agriculture chief spells out in new report
Halting deforestation, managing forests sustainably, restoring degraded forests and adding to worldwide tree cover all require actions to avoid potentially damaging consequences for the planet and its people, according to the State of the World’s Forests 2018, referred to as SOFO 2018.
Forests and trees contribute more to human livelihoods than most people know – playing crucial roles in food security, drinking water, renewable energy and rural economies.
Moreover, they provide income for some 20 per cent of rural households in developing countries as well as cooking and heating fuel for one-in-three people globally.
“Forests are critical to livelihoods” said José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“Healthy and productive forests are essential to sustainable agriculture and we have proof of the significance of forests and trees for the quality of water, for contributing to the energy needs of the future, and for designing sustainable, healthy cities,” he added.
This year’s report documents the importance of forests for the 2030 Agenda – ranging from tackling climate change to conserving biodiversity, reducing inequalities and improving urban habitats.
“Trees and forests contribute to achieving multiple targets across the 2030 Agenda and need to be incorporated into strategies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Eva Mueller, FAO Forestry Director.
This year’s report documents just how essential forests are for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – ranging from tackling climate change to assuring drinking water and improving urban habitats.
Forests are critical to livelihoods – José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General
SOFO 2018 emphasizes the importance of clear legal frameworks on forest tenure rights; applauds the growing trend in local governance; and calls for effective partnerships to pursue sustainable goals.
Given that deforestation is the second leading cause of climate change, the report calls corporate responsibility for zero deforestation “key.”
While there is much work to be done, the publication points to numerous examples that indicate growing awareness and a gradual increase in sustainable practices to preserve the world’s forests.
For example, more than half of paper is recycled today and by constructing wood panels from discarded materials, production has grown four-times faster than fresh timber requirements over the past two decades.
What’s more, one-in-five people globally count on non-wood forest products for food, income and nutritional diversity – the mainstays of human life – generating more than $88 billion in income, according to SOFO 2018.
While many of the world’s major watersheds have lost tree cover, the report notes a worldwide increase over the past 25 years in forest areas now managed for soil and water conservation.
Further underscoring their value, wood fuel accounts for as much of the world’s renewable energy supply as solar, hydroelectric and wind power, and forests contain the equivalent of 142 billion tons of oil – roughly 10 times the annual global primary energy consumption.
SOFO 2018 has been released prior to the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, which will begin on 9 July in New York.
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Fisherwomen of Lake Chad show optimism in face of multiple challenges
In her nets she has perhaps fifty fish, a good enough catch, given she started fishing just five hours earlier. But, it is not sufficient to feed her eleven children.
“I can sell this fish and use that money to buy grain to feed my family,” she said, “but the grain doesn’t go far. I have been fishing for twenty years and it is becoming more difficult to catch fish.”
Fishing has traditionally sustained communities in the Lake Chad Basin area, supporting nearly 30 million people living along its shores in Chad, but also Cameroon, Nigeria and Niger.
However, the once huge lake which covered 250,000 km2 has now shrunk to one tenth of its original size, largely due to unsustainable water management and the corrosive effects of climate change.
With fish now more scarce, and fishermen needing to travel further to find them, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has stepped in to offer support.
“We have been helped by a project which has supplied new nets, so my catch is increasing,” said Falmata Mboh Ali, “so I am hopeful that my family’s life can improve.”
The precarious situation local people now find themselves in has been compounded by insecurity related to the activities of the Islamist Boko Haram terrorist group, across the whole Lake Chad region.
The insurgency the group has mounted in north-eastern Nigeria and neighbouring countries has displaced more than 2 million people and led to humanitarian crisis. The UN estimates that around four million people don’t have enough to eat.
And if more refugees flee into Chad from the conflict in the Central African Republic, the food and nutrition crisis is likely to worsen.
Perhaps not surprisingly the Lake Chad region is amongst the poorest in the world, where access to food, health services and education is extremely low.
Fisherwomen including Falmata Mboh Ali, explained the challenges they face to a high-level joint United Nations-African Union delegation, visiting Bol on Thursday; a visit which also included the Foreign Minister of Sweden, Margot Wallström.
The African Union Special Envoy for Women, Peace and Security, Bineta Diop who was part of the mission said: “The challenges are great but we can act. Gender roles are changing, women now go out to fish, when before it was men, so they are playing a bigger role in society.”
The steps being taken by fisherwomen are small but significant, according to the UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina Mohammed, who is leading the delegation to Chad.
“Women’s economic empowerment is a critical tool for their access to leadership and decision-making positions,” she said. “I encourage the women to take part in all political, peace, security and development processes that will sustain their communities.”
The UN and the wider international community is supporting efforts by countries in the Lake Chad Basin to regenerate the region.
Ultimately, it’s hoped that Lake Chad itself could be given new life with rising water levels, allowing fisherfolk to carry out their traditional activities of years gone by, while providing them with a more secure and stable economic and political future.
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Action needed to end deadly clashes between African herders and farmers: UN chief
More than 80 people in central Nigeria were killed in land disputes between the two sides this week. However, this has been a long-standing issue with similar incidents occurring in other countries in Africa, causing more than 1,000 deaths over the past year alone, according to media reports.
In a statement issued by his spokesperson, UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed deep concern over the mounting violence, as well as the resulting banditry, extortion and cattle rustling.
“He condemns the resulting loss of life, property and livelihoods, as well as population displacement, which undermines peaceful coexistence between communities in many of the affected countries. It is also detrimental to regional stability,” the statement said.
The UN chief urged all concerned governments, regional organizations, civil society and other parties to work together to find solutions to the conflicts.
He underlined the readiness and commitment of the UN to support national and regional efforts in this regard.
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