News / Africa

Forests and Trees Key to Food Sustainability


Kim Lewis
The International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition wrapped up on Wednesday, May 15, in Rome.
The event, sponsored by the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, brought scientists and leaders from around the world together to address the importance of including forests and agroforestry systems in discussions for solutions to world hunger. 

The FAO said forests, trees and agroforestry systems contribute to food security and nutrition in a number of ways, but the critical role forests play in food sustainability has been over-looked as a reliable, readily available source of food for people, especially in developing nations.

Douglas McGuire is the team leader of the forests resources management team for the forestry department of the FAO.  He said a big part of making sure the forest sector becomes an integral part of discussions on food security is creating the awareness of its vital role.

“We tend to approach the world in our different silos and not really look at the importance of how trees and forests are really contributing in a really significant way in many communities around the world to food security,” he explained.

He also pointed out that it is rare that in talking about agricultural policies and land use policies, the two sectors are combined in a way that people see as available resources.

One of the big highlights that came out on the first day of the conference was the critical role insects play in fighting world hunger. While, insects stole the spotlight at the conference, McGuire added there are a lot of edible products that come out of forests and tree based systems.

“In terms of food products, either direct or indirect, you have the production of many non-wood forests products, mushrooms that are coming from forests ecosystems.  You have indirect services as well that are coming and supporting food production and agricultural production.  So there is a whole range of goods and services that are coming,” said McGuire.

One important thing that is over-looked he explained, is the need for long-term support to sustain agricultural systems.  He said many forests are providing ecosystem services by helping to regulate water flow, and helping to protect against soil erosion.

McGuire explained these types of services are necessary for not only sustainable crop and livestock production, but sustainable agriculture overall.   

He also warned that unless the agricultural systems are increased to the point where they are able to provide higher productivity over a long period of time, the world’s food resources could be in trouble because agriculture production would be limited.

McGuire emphasized that this conference is significant because it is the first international conference that really looked at the importance of trees and forests to agricultural food security and nutrition. He said these sectors have a lot to offer in terms of food security not just as an afterthought, but as a necessity. 

“We’re hoping that from this we’re going to see significant changes in policies that so far have been just focused on food production, that will now realize the importance of forests and trees and incorporate those fully into policies that will translate into better action on the ground,” said McGuire.

He said this conference was the bridging of a very big gap that has been present for many years.

You May Like

Guatemala Mudslide Death Toll Rises to 86

Death toll is expected to continue to rise as emergency crews dig through tons of earth for an estimated 350 people still missing More

Goodbye Pocahontas: Photos Reveal Today's Real Native Americans

Weary of stereotypes, photographer Matika Wilbur is determined to reshape the public's perception of her people More

Debris Found in Search for Missing Ship

Objects located Sunday have not yet been confirmed to be from the 240 meter container ship, El Faro, which disappeared in the eye of Hurricane Joaquin, according to US Coast Guard More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europei
Luis Ramirez
October 02, 2015 4:45 PM
European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Russia’s Syria Involvement Raising Concerns in Europe

European nations are joining the United States in demanding that Russia stop targeting opposition groups other than the Islamic State militants as Russian warplanes continue to conduct raids in Syria. The demand came in a statement from Britain, France, Germany, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United States Friday. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video First Self-Driving Truck Debuts on European Highways

The first automated semi-trailer truck started its maiden voyage Friday, Oct. 2, on a European highway. The Daimler truck called 'Actros' is the first potentially mass-produced truck whose driver will be required only to monitor the situation, similar to the role of an airline captain while the plane is in autopilot mode. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Migrant Influx Costs Europe, But Economy Could Benefit

The influx of hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants is testing Europe’s ability to respond – especially in the poorer Balkan states. But some analysts argue that Europe will benefit by welcoming the huge numbers of young people – many of them well educated and willing to work. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

Video New Fabric Helps Fight Dust-Related Allergies

Many people around the world suffer from dust-related allergies, caused mainly by tiny mites that live in bed linen. Polish scientists report they have successfully tested a fabric that is impenetrable to the microscopic creatures. VOA’s George Putic has more.

Video Burkina Faso's Economy Deeply Affected by Political Turmoil

Political turmoil in Burkina Faso over the past year has taken a toll on the economy. The transitional government is reporting nearly $70 million in losses in the ten days that followed a short-lived coup by members of the presidential guard earlier this month. The crisis shut businesses and workers went on strike. With elections on the horizon, Emilie Iob reports on what a return to political stability can do for the country's economic recovery.

Video Fleeing Violence, Some Syrians Find Refuge in Irbil

As Syrians continue to flee their country’s unrest to seek new lives in safer places, VOA Persian Service reporter Shepol Abbassi visited Irbil, where a number Syrians have taken refuge. During the religious holidy of Eid al-Adha, the city largely shut down, as temperatures soared. Amy Katz narrates his report.

Video Nigeria’s Wecyclers Work for Reusable Future in Lagos

The streets and lagoons of Africa's largest city - Lagos, Nigeria - are often clogged with trash, almost none of which gets recycled. One company is trying to change that. Chris Stein reports for VOA from Lagos.

Video Sketch Artist Helps Catch Criminals, Gives a Face to Deceased

Police often face the problem of trying to find a crime suspect based on general descriptions that could fit hundreds of people in the vicinity of the crime. In these cases, an artist can use information from witnesses to sketch a likeness that police can show the public via newspapers and television. But, as VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, such sketches can also help bring back faces of the dead.

Video Thailand Set to Build China-like Internet Firewall

Thai authorities are planning to tighten control over the Internet, creating a single international access point so they can better monitor content. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok on what is being called Thailand’s own "Great Firewall."

Video Croatian Town’s War History Evokes Empathy for Migrants

As thousands of Afghanistan, Iraqi and Syrian migrants pass through Croatia, locals are reminded of their own experiences with war and refugees in the 1990s. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from the town of Vukovar, where wartime scars still are visible today.

Video Long Drought Affecting California’s Sequoias

California is suffering under a historic four-year drought and scientists say even the state's famed sequoia trees are feeling the pain. The National Park Service has started detailed research to see how it can help the oldest living things on earth survive. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs