Recommendations, reflections and photos from the FAO conference Forests for Food Security and Nutrition

The FAO Headquarter in Rome, Photo: Maria Ölund

Recommendations, reflections and photos from the FAO conference Forests for Food Security and Nutrition

The International FAO Conference was held at FAO 13-15th of May with the aim to increase the understanding the role that forests, trees on farms and agroforestry systems can play in improving food security and nutrition especially in developing countries.

A conference summary including key messages and recommendations have now been published. The recommendations propose ways to integrate the knowledge on forests and food in policy decisions at the national and international levels. More than 400 participants from over 100 different countries participated in the conference, including representatives and experts from governments, the private sector, academia, civil-society organizations, indigenous and other local communities and donors and international organizations. Two Focali members participated in the conference, Susanne von Walter and the Focali coordinator Maria Ölund.  

Publications and links about the conference: 

• Tweets about the conference: #Forests4FoodSecurity 

Some snapshots from the conference, written by the Focali coordinator:

The importance a cross-sectorial landscape approach, where forests and trees are analyzed in a broader context and where indirect multiple benefits of trees for food-security are acknowledged, were highlighted by numerous speakers. The role of ecosystem services provided by trees was discussed in several conference sessions. Peter Holmgren (CIFOR) raised the concern that ecosystem services often are discussed one by one, e.g. carbon sequestration, while we tend not to talk as often about other important ecosystem services. In different sessions representatives from CIFOR stressed that “sustainable landscapes” can be part of a new development narrative. However the well-known challenge of “political silos” was identified, by Holmgren, as a barrier for a more integrated landscape approach.  
Bina Agarwal (University of Manchester) raised the challenge of access rights to forests and trees and reminded the conference participants of the unequal access within countries, unequal access rights to public forests and unequal role in decision-making and management of forests and tree resources. Agarwal gave the introductory presentation at the session “access rights to resources, and competing land uses”. In this session Samuel Nguiffo (from The Centre for Environment and Development in Cameroon) discussed agro-industries versus local food security. He stated that agro-industries promoting monocultures is a threat for the collection of NTFPs (non-timber forest products) as well as different indirect benefits of a diverse landscape. Agarwal commented on the tension between agriculture and forests and affirmed that even if forests can play an important role for food-security it is important to see that “people can´t entirely sustain themselves from forests – but what they can gain needs to be better recognized”. 
Christine Padoch (CIFOR) emphasized how to use local expertize to manage landscapes for food-security. She said that it is important to work within mixed systems, like the agro-forestry system “parklands”, together with people rather than “reinventing landscapes” from outside. She presented that tree-dominated areas are integral parts of many smallholder landscapes and stated that the local experience from managing these landscapes “is a resource we can´t afford to ignore”. She pointed at the fact that smallholders often don´t make a distinction between trees and agricultural land, when she discussed the challenge of bridging sectors such as agriculture and forests. Padoch then discussed the challenge that food production in diverse landscapes “challenges the existing agricultural development paradigm” - where land homogenization is leading to a greater separation of agriculture and forestry areas. With reference to a recent article (by Castella et al. 2013) she presented that this has detrimental impacts on people’s livelihoods and that rather than a greater separation of these two sectors we need to learn how to embrace complexity in the landscape. 
At the side event “Nutrition-sensitive landscapes” Terry Sunderland (CIFOR) reconfirmed this image. He stated that even if real multi-functionality of landscapes is the goal - “in reality segregation is the norm”. In addition he expressed concern over a too simplifying and narrow focus on direct provision of food, production from agriculture and forests, while the relationship between ecosystem services and food security is less often highlighted and not as well understood. 
It is consequently important not only to focus on “nuts and berries” but also to better understand the importance of indirect benefits of trees and forests on a landscape level such as the role well-functioning watersheds play for agriculture, how trees prevent soil erosion and help to restore degraded soils and how a diverse vegetation cover help reducing vulnerability. Other important indirect benefits of trees for food security are e.g. pollination services, increased biodiversity and certain trees role for enhanced soil quality.
In different sessions and side events the need for multi-disciplinary research, on forests and food, and greater research – policy – practice collaboration was emphasized. To face these challenges policy oriented transdisciplinary networks such as Focali play an important role to increase collaboration and information sharing across research disciplines as well as between sectors.  
For more information about how Focali work to address these challenges or for suggestions of collaboration ideas please contact the Focali coordinator Maria Ölund: 

Some photos from the conference:

(Click on the photos to enlarge them) 
Tony Simons

Keynote presentation by Tony Simons, Director General, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).


Susanne von Walter

Focali member Susanne von Walter during the opening session


FAO roof

View over Rome from the roof of the FAO building

Christine Padoch presentation

Christine Padoch (CIFOR) emphasized how to use local expertize to manage landscapes for food-security.



The joint Focali-SIANI brief and the conference recommendations - that were distributed and discussed during the final session in the plenary.


Yaya Olaniran

Yaya Olaniran, Chair of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) held an inspirational speech at the closing session.


Photos: Maria Ölund, Focali 

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