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A glance at the HLPE report on Sustainable Forestry for Food Security and Nutrition

Photo: Mangosteen by John Walker, Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

A glance at the HLPE report on Sustainable Forestry for Food Security and Nutrition

This year’s HLPE report, on Sustainable Forestry for Food Security and Nutrition, links forests and agriculture. Still there is a strong and persevering tradition in dividing these into separate silos e.g. in research and policy formulation. Terence Sunderland, HLPE Project Team Leader: “A broad multi-stakeholder approach is the way forward. Break down silos! People working in complex landscape systems (like sustainable forests and sustainable agriculture) need to meet and work together.”

The High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE) is the science-policy interface of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS). The HLPE prepares reports on requested topics, with the main aim to improve policy making by providing independent, evidence-based analysis and advice at the request of CFS. Each year one specific theme linked to food security and nutrition (FSN) is in focus at the CFS Plenary Session, and in October 2017 the different aspects of forestry for FSN will be presented and debated at the 44th CFS Plenary Session.

This year's HLPE report is focused around the multiple contributions of forests and trees to FSN in the four pillars of food security identified by CFS; availability, access, utilization, and stability. Key issues in the report concerns optimization at different spatial and temporal scales, climate change and the increasing and competing demands on land, forests and trees for e.g. food, energy, timber and ecosystem services. Also, the social and cultural dimensions of sustainable forestry and FSN have been of particular interest to the authors, including livelihoods, gender, equity, tenure and governance.

HLPE report_P Caron

In the report, seven clusters of recommendations for future actions are identified for policy makers and other stakeholders:

  • Develop and use policy-relevant knowledge on the direct and indirect contributions of forests and trees to FSN.
  • Enhance the role of forests in environmental processes at all scales without compromising the right to adequate food of forest-dependent people.
  • Support the contributions of forests to improve livelihoods and economies for FSN.
  • Promote multifunctional landscapes for FSN that integrate forests and trees as key components.
  • Acknowledge the importance and strengthen the role of forests and trees in enhancing resilience at landscape, community and household levels for FSN.
  • Recognize and respect land and natural resource tenure and use rights over forests and trees for FSN.
  • Strengthen inclusive forest governance systems across sectors and scales for FSN.

During the launch of the report in FAO, Maria Helena Semedo, the FAO Deputy Director-General highlights the importance of the report for FAOs work with promoting a multi-sector land use approach in policy development. She also encourages the important implementation tools that can be created based on the Sustainable Development Goals, the recommendations in the report and thus, the upcoming CFS conference in October 2017.

Terence Sunderland, the leader of the HLPE project team authoring the report explains during the report launch, that all seven major recommendations will not be relevant to all countries or conditions. “The report presents recommendations, but not solutions. The seven cluster of recommendations that we put forward in the report are not all relevant to all countries / regions. The purpose of the recommendations is that each country can pick up those that are relevant to the specific conditions of the specific country.”

HLPE report_P Holmgren

In the report, four broad categories of forestry systems are used to better identify distinct challenges and sustainable development pathways for each of the systems; primary (or old-growth) forests, secondary forests, plantation forests, other wooded land. To formulate a complete and complex report, Sunderland and the HLPE needed to find representatives for all relevant competences. The members of the HLPE project team were appointed by thematic expertise, for example distinguished by forestry systems and climatic domains (tropical, temperate and boreal forests).

Q&A with HLPE project team member Camilla Widmark (SLU)

Camilla Widmark

Camilla Widmark, a senior researcher at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), is a member of project team authoring the HLPE Report on Sustainable forestry for FSN. Her research is mainly focused on land use policy and land use conflicts; especially focusing on common pool resources, governance issues, ecosystem services and forest policy. She is also teaching, as well as being the vice head of the Department of Forest Economics at SLU. In addition, Camilla is head of office for EFINORD (The North European Office of the European Forest Institute).

Camilla was invited to join the project team in early 2016, when it was identified that the team lacked the boreal expertise, especially regarding governance and indigenous people. Initially the members of the team had been assigned to different chapters of the report depending on their expertise. For Camilla, the work turned out a bit different, since her boreal perspective was needed in all chapters. Last week, we got a chance to talk to Camilla about her work with the report.

Question: When we think about food, forest is probably not the first thing that comes to mind, yet this year’s HLPE report is about the role of forestry in food security. Why is that?

Camilla explains: “The main purpose of the report is to show how forests and FSN relate to each other, focusing on the forest as a resource, and the "forest-dependent people". To make sure that we addressed all relevant factors, we started by identifying both direct and indirect links between forests and FSN. The direct links includes foods, vitamins and fodder for the animals, bringing the concept of agroforestry to mind. Among the indirect links, Camilla highlights firewood as a source of household energy to cook food and boil water. Other indirect links are income and work, ecosystem services such as pollination (including agriculture) and soil control, as well as climatic resilience.

The role of forest for humanity takes very different forms for people in different parts of the world. One of the aspects where Camilla directly contributed to the report was to highlight the role of the forest for human health, also mentally. “This may be true especially in Europe and North America where we are not as dependent on forest food, but it is also highly important in the many forest-dependent cultures around the world.”

The results of the report were in general quite expected for Camilla, but she was surprised at how little we in northern Europe think about the many important links between forest and food. "We never talk about forest and food in the same sentence, but maybe we need to change that now? We do not know, for example, how many people in northern Sweden and Norway that are dependent on meat from hunting, and many Swedes do not understand what a wonderful resource our wild berries and mushrooms are. But will we be able to pick these in the future? Perhaps we need to broaden the themes, and in addition to ensuring food security also start talking about the role of forest for food quality.”

Question: One can expect a lot of compromises in a global UN report, where many interests and areas should be taken into consideration. Do you think that the report adequately includes the range of contributions that sustainable forestry and forests can make to FSN?

Generally, Camilla does not think there is any important components missing in the report. However, the authors had to limit themselves due to the available time and space. Therefore, some prominent forest-related challenges are not included, such as deforestation and subsequent natural disasters. Also, some concepts were not available in all languages, which caused some challenges. For example, in Russia it is not talked about bio-economy, instead we used the concept of circular economy.

Question: Did you, during the work with the report, identify data gaps that needs to be addressed in the future to formulate better policies for sustainable forestry and FSN?

“The availability of reliable statistics is very unevenly spread across the world, which made it challenging to compare certain parameters. Also, there are often major differences between regions and countries. For example, fires are often a crucial factor in food safety for people in developing economies. The report is research-based, which means that we only included information that we can base on reliable data. Therefore, some things we may know are not included. But this, says Camilla, gives quality to the report.”

Question: What are the largest challenges in linking forests and food?

“It is to identify a governing system that utilizes the complexity of the various values that the forest covers. There are many values in the forest that are so important - and many of them are contradictory. It is also a challenge that there is a growing demand for land areas to meet all the different interests, from e.g. agriculture, cities, industries and forests.”

Question: From your Nordic perspective, what can the global north learn from the global south in terms of sustainable forestry for food security, and vice versa?

Camilla points out that this is her personal reflections. "We in the north have a lot to learn in appreciating and taking use of the resources we have in our forests, such as blueberries and wild meat. In the global south, the habit of taking use of all the resources that the forest and the soil provide is much more common, such as in agroforestry systems. Nevertheless, in developing countries, it would be useful to apply a multiple use approach and circular economy to a much greater extent than what is done today, as well as to identify and value the social values of forests. Also, from the north we have a sustainability focuses in forest management that could be used also in the global south, although this is largely already well incorporated in the cultures of many forest-dependent people.”

Camilla concludes, “I hope that the report will be an eye-opener, highlighting the forest as part of something bigger. And I believe that the report will give emphasize to the human perspective of forests - how important the forests actually are, for all the people in world."

Text and interview by Malin Gustafsson, Focali Project Coordinator, who attended the HLPE report launch at FAO HQ in June 2017.

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