News / Africa

Forest Conservation is Key to Food Security

After 160 million years as an integral part of the Beech and Magnolia forests in the southeastern US, the Stinking Cedar now faces extinction due to habitat destruction and a widespread fungal disease. (Atlanta Botanical Garden)After 160 million years as an integral part of the Beech and Magnolia forests in the southeastern US, the Stinking Cedar now faces extinction due to habitat destruction and a widespread fungal disease. (Atlanta Botanical Garden)
x
After 160 million years as an integral part of the Beech and Magnolia forests in the southeastern US, the Stinking Cedar now faces extinction due to habitat destruction and a widespread fungal disease. (Atlanta Botanical Garden)
After 160 million years as an integral part of the Beech and Magnolia forests in the southeastern US, the Stinking Cedar now faces extinction due to habitat destruction and a widespread fungal disease. (Atlanta Botanical Garden)

Multimedia

Audio
Over 1 billion people worldwide depend on forests to sustain their livelihood, and billions more depend on forests to provide them with clean air and water. 

In addition, it has been noted that forests are home to an estimated 80 percent of a diversity of  plants and animals.  But over the years many forests have been subject to destruction and degradation. However, some scientists are devoting their lives to conserving and rebuilding these precious life sources. 

Terry Sunderland is one such scientist.  He is a senior researcher with the Center for International Forestry Research, CIFOR, based in Bogor, Indonesia.  He has spent many years in central Africa, and is an expert on the continent’s dry forests, biodiversity and food security. 

He said one of the challenges of forest conservation in the past has been either just focusing on forest conservation. or just concentrating on protecting the livelihoods of those who depend on forests. 

“One thing we are doing at CIFOR is looking at conservation and development and people’s livelihoods as a single thing, if you like, and integrating conservation on a landscape scale,” explained Sunderland.

He said a big challenge to the integration process is that it involves multiple scales of involvement.

“It’s all very well in approaching local people, and talking to them about how they conserve and manage their environment.  Then you have the government over-lapping claims on a particular landscape, and we have regional claims on a particular landscape, and you have multi-national claims on a particular landscape.  It’s like peeling back an onion,” said Sunderland.

Sunderland, who spent many years in central Africa, said he found that small-scale farmers in Africa do take measures to protect their land from degradation.

“Small-scale farmers do tend to practice what we consider very low impact agriculture.  It is the larger expansion of agriculture crops, in particular palm oil, biofuel, which are the main contributors to deforestation and land degradation,” said Sunderland, who added people become more vested in their land if they have tenure.  “Tenure is the fundamental contributor to what people do on the land.  If you have access rights, the long term result is you will invest in protecting it.  If you don’t, then people would tend to invest in more destructive practices.”

Sunderland said biodiversity contributes to food security on many levels.

“We are now dependent on only 20 crops for our food security.  At any one time, it is estimated that over 2,000 crop species contribute towards human food security, and 95 percent of food consumed is based on only 20 of those.  A few of those--rice, wheat, and maize--contribute to more than 50 percent of global food consumption,” explained Sunderland.

By narrowing our genetic base in terms of food, said Sunderland, we are exposing ourselves to enormous risks, particularly with climate change.  He said widening our bio-resources not only provides nutritional benefits to humans but also provides more resilience to the dramatic effects of climate change.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs