Better cooperation between nations’ farming and forestry sectors will help reduce deforestation and improve food security, according to a new United Nations report.
The report shows that the greatest net loss of forests and net gain in agricultural land between 2000-2010 occurred in low income countries, where rural populations were growing.
The findings have been published in the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) State of the World’s Forests (Sofo), a biennial report that provides data to help inform policymakers and decision-makers.
The report highlights the following:
- Agriculture remains the most significant driver of global deforestation, and there is an urgent need to promote more positive interactions between agriculture and forestry.
- Where large-scale commercial agriculture is the principal driver of land-use change, effective regulation of change, with appropriate social and environmental safeguards, is needed. Private governance initiatives, such as voluntary certification schemes and commitments to zero deforestation, also have a positive impact.
- Where local subsistence agriculture is the principal driver of land-use change, wider poverty alleviation and rural development measures should be implemented alongside actions to improve local agricultural, agro-forestry and other land-use practices.
- Integrated land-use planning provides a strategic framework for balancing land uses at the national, sub-national and landscape scales. This should include meaningful stakeholder participation to ensure the legitimacy of land-use plans and obtain stakeholder buy-in for their implementation and monitoring.
- Food security can be achieved through agricultural intensification and other measures such as social protection, rather than through expansion of agricultural areas at the expense of forests.
According to a BBC news story, the report points out that large-scale commercial agriculture accounted for about 40 percent of deforestation; subsistence farming was responsible for 33 percent; infrastructure 10 percent; urban expansion 10 percent; and mining 7 percent.
However, there are large regional variations within those figures, the BBC reports. For example, large-scale agriculture accounted for 70 percent of deforestation in Latin America but just one third in Africa, where small-scale agriculture was the biggest cause of deforestation, according to the report.
Eva Muller, director of FAO Forestry Policy and Resources Division, told BBC News the current pattern of deforestation was unsustainable. Still, there are countries that have demonstrated how effective policies can increase agricultural production and improve food security without cutting down forests, she said.
“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 observed. “The message is that you do not have to deforest in order to achieve food security.”