FAO calls for better coordination between forestry and agriculture
This is the key message of the FAO's flagship publication The State of the World's Forests (SOFO), presented at the opening of the 23d Session of the FAO Committee on Forestry (COFO).
Forests play a major role in sustainable agricultural development through a host of channels, including the water cycle, soil conservation, carbon sequestration, natural pest control, influencing local climates and providing habitat protection for pollinators and other species.
"The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, as well as the Paris Agreement on climate change, recognizes that we can no longer look at food security and the management of natural resources separately," said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva in his opening remarks to the Committee on Forestry.
"Both agreements call for a coherent and integrated approach to sustainability across all agricultural sectors and food systems. Forests and forestry have key roles to play in this regard".
"The key message from SOFO is clear: it is not necessary to cut down forests to produce more food," he added.
Agriculture accounts for the lion's share of the conversion of forests. According to the report, in the tropics and subtropics large-scale commercial agriculture and local subsistence agriculture are responsible for about 40 percent and 33 percent of forest conversion, respectively, and the remaining 27 percent of deforestation happens due to urban growth, infrastructure expansion and mining.
On the flip side of the coin, the report stresses that forests serve many vital ecological functions that benefit agriculture and boost food production.
"Food security can be achieved through agricultural intensification and other measures such as social protection, rather than through expansion of agricultural areas at the expense of forests," said Eva Müller, Director of FAO's Forestry Policy and Resources Division.
"What we need is better cross-sectoral coordination of policies on agriculture, forestry, food and land use, better land use planning, effective legal frameworks, and stronger involvement of local communities and smallholders."
She added: "Governments should provide local communities not only with secure land tenure but also with secure forest tenure rights. A farmer knows best how to manage his or her own resources but often lacks legal instruments to do so." ■