UN Report Stresses Importance of Increased Agriculture and Forestry Cooperation For A Sustainable Future
A recent UN report states that improved cooperation between nations’ agriculture and forestry sectors is crucial to tackling deforestation and improving food security.
From 2000 to 2010, tropical countries witnessed a net forest loss of 7 million hectares per year while gaining 6 million hectares of farmland, it said.
The study, which has been published in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) State of the World’s Forests (Sofo), suggests increased collaboration between the sectors would lower environmental damage while also improving social and economic outcomes.
“The new Sofo report is about the relationship between forestry and agriculture,” said Eva Muller, director of FAO Forestry Policy and Resources Division. “What comes out very clearly is that while a lot of the [deforestation] was taking place in the temperate zones, in the more recent years it has been focused in the tropics.”
“There has been a net forest loss of about seven million hectares in tropical countries. At the same time, there has been a net gain in agricultural land of six million hectares. You can deduce that a lot of the deforestation is taking place to gain more land for agriculture.”
The report showed that large-scale commercial agriculture accounted for the majority of deforestation (40%), with subsistence second (33%), then infrastructure (10%), urban expansion (10%), and mining (7%).
A notable regional variation within the data was Latin America where large-scale agriculture accounted for 70% of deforestation.
Muller stressed that although the current rate of deforestation was unsustainable, some countries demonstrated how effective policies could both increase agricultural productivity and food security, without deforesting more land.
“Our analysis shows that in the past 25 years, there have been more than 20 countries who have maintained or actually increased their forest cover while, at the same time, making progress towards food security,” she commented. “The message is that you do not have to deforest in order to achieve food security.”
The main factors contributing to increased production and reduced deforestation were secure land tenure and effective land-use planning, such as precision agriculture and IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) technologies.
“You need to have coordinated policies between forestry and agriculture,” explained Muller. “In countries that have achieved this there is more collaboration, improved investment in both improving agricultural production and the sustainable management of forests.”
There has been a net forest loss of about seven million hectares in tropical countries. At the same time, there has been a net gain in agricultural land of six million hectares. You can deduce that a lot of the deforestation is taking place to gain more land for agriculture. ”
Historically, agriculture has been a much more lucrative venture than forestry and therefore there has been little incentive to not deforest land.
Muller has recognised this as a significant problem but is confident that things can and have changed:
“If you look at a country like Costa Rica, they have made huge progress to solve this problem by paying for the environmental services that the forests provide. Forests, in the long-term, are very important for agriculture because they regulate water flow, protect soils, control climate.”
“But these are all indirect benefits that are not normally at the forefront but if you recognise these benefits financially, and offer an incentive to farmers to maintain at least some of the area in forests, you can protect these benefits. This is a very smart way of doing things.”
This is the initial report to be published by Sofo since the international community embraced the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In the report, Jose Granziano da Silva, director-general of the FAO, emphasized the necessity for greater cooperation between forestry and agriculture sectors.
“Forests and agriculture have an enormous role in achieving the 2030 Agenda’s historic commitment to rid the world of the twin scourges of poverty and hunger,” wrote da Silva. “However, this urgently requires closer collaborations and partnerships, cross-sectorally and at all scales.”