Major forest ecosystems could provide answer to chronic hunger and malnutrition that affects one in nine people globally, says a report launched by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO).
Experts stressed that forests have the potential to shield rural communities from hunger, poverty and poor health.
“Forests are the building blocks of food security and sustainable development. There is a compelling case for community level engagement to re-imagine forests and agriculture systems,” said Assistant Secretary General for Policy at the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs Thomas Gass.
Sixty eminent scientists authored the report dubbed “Forests, Trees and Landscapes for Food Security and Nutrition which was received by Xinhua on Saturday.
The report reveals that benefits of trees are manifold to include source of food for rural communities alongside vital ecosystem services like water supply and air purification.
Forest products, according to the report, provide abundant supply of proteins, vitamins and minerals to the rural poor.
It added that forests provide animal fodder that enable communities to obtain meat and milk. Globally, one in six people depend on forests for food and income while a further 2.4 billion depend on them to meet energy needs.
The report indicates that in the Sahel region, trees contribute 80 percent to household incomes through Shea nut production.
Experts noted that investments in forest conservation will have multiplier effects on livelihoods.
A Scientist at the Nairobi based World Agro forestry Centre (ICRAF), Stepha Mc Mullin noted that forests will cushion rural communities from food insecurity occasioned by climate change and shrinking arable land.
“Directly, forests and other tree based systems like agro forestry provide a number of highly nutritious edible tree crops such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and edible oils. They can help address seasonal food and nutrition gaps,” McMullin said.
The international community should explore innovative policy and funding incentives to promote sustainable management of forest ecosystems.
Chief Scientific Advisor at ICRAF Meine Van Noordwijk urged countries to tap funds from multilateral agencies and the private sector to invest in forest conservation.
“There are experiments with systems that provide a more structural and long-term funding to forest conservation. They are however pegged on the ecosystem services they provide to communities,” Van Noordwijk said. Enditem