Forests give food, medicine, and energy to over 1 billion people – new FAO report

By The Inspirer Staff

From tackling poverty and hunger to mitigating climate change and conserving biodiversity, the positive impacts of forests and trees are fundamental to our existence, a new report titled “The State of the World’s Forests 2018:  Forest Pathways to Sustainable Development” says describing forests as ‘super hero.’

Forests and trees make vital contributions to both people and the planet, boosting livelihoods, providing clean air and water, conserving biodiversity and responding to climate change, the report titled says.

The survey released this month was prepared by the FAO Forestry Policy and Resources Division in collaboration with a number of international organizations involved in forestry programmes.

Forests act as a source of food, medicine and fuel for more than a billion people.

“We have greater evidence on how forests are critical to livelihoods of the world’s poorest, with a better understanding of the trade-offs and more exact confirmation that healthy and productive forests are essential to sustainable agriculture,” said
José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General.

In addition to helping to respond to climate change and protect soils and water, forests hold more than 75% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, provide many products and services that contribute to socio-economic development and are particularly important for hundreds of millions of people in rural areas, including many of the world’s poorest.

The livelihoods and food security of many of the world’s rural poor depend on vibrant forests and trees. Evidence shows that around 40 percent of the extreme rural poor – around 250 million people – depend on vibrant forests and trees.Access to forest products, goods and services are vital for the livelihoods and resilience of the poorest households, acting as safety nets in difficult times.

An estimated 50 percent of the fruit we eat comes from trees.

Some studies suggest that forests and trees may provide around 20 percent of income for rural households in developing countries, both through cash income and by meeting subsistence needs.

Non-wood forest products (NWFPs) provide food, income, and nutritional diversity for an estimated one in five people among over 7.2 billion people around the world, notably women, children, landless farmers and others in vulnerable situations

Forests provide 75% of freshwater that people and crops need

Water quality, essential to the health and life of both rural and urban populations, is directly related to forest management, according to information from the report.

Changes in land cover, use and management have grave implications on a nation’s water supply. While three-quarters of the globe’s accessible freshwater comes from forested watersheds, research shows that 40 percent of the world’s 230 major watersheds have lost more than half of their original tree cover. Despite this, the area of forests managed for soil and water conservation has increased globally over the past 25 years, and in 2015 a quarter of forests were managed with soil and/or water conservation as an objective.

FAO states that modernizing the traditional wood energy sector has the power to improve livelihoods, create sustainable value chains and unlock resources for investments in sustainable forest management.

The potential of forests is perhaps no better illustrated than in the fact that wood grows back. Around one-third of the world’s population, or about 2.4 billion people, make use of wood to provide basic energy services such as cooking, boiling water and heating. Overall, forests supply about 40 percent of global renewable energy in the form of woodfuel – as much as solar, hydroelectric and wind power combined. Emphasis must now be on producing woodfuel more sustainably to reduce forest degradation, as well as more cleanly and efficiently to improve the health of millions of people, particularly women and children.

As governments determine how best to commit national efforts to achieve transformational change, The State of the World’s Forests 2018 (SOFO 2018) analyses the role that forests and trees – and the people who use and manage them – can play in helping countries achieve their objectives and bring about a brighter future.

It shines a light on the profound interlinkages that exist between forests and many other goals and targets of the 2030 Agenda, enabling policymakers to strike the right balance in actions, investments and partnerships directed towards food security, poverty alleviation, ecological conservation and, ultimately, to find pathways to sustainable development.


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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,( is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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