CIFOR Paper Discusses Role of Forests in Food Security, Nutrition and Sustainable Food Production

CIFOR13 May 2013: The Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) has released a discussion paper suggesting that forests and wild foods contribute to food security and nutrition, but that knowledge is limited about both the extent of this contribution and the implications of deforestation on food access and nutritional health. The authors argue that further attention is needed regarding the role of forest management in global food security, nutrition and sustainable food production.

The CIFOR paper discusses the role of agricultural production in deforestation, noting that a doubling of global food production will result in the conversion of 1 billion hectares of land by 2050. Replacing forests with mono-cropped agriculture would have implications for biodiversity, the authors note, and they argue that major conversion may not be necessary, and that achieving global food security is more of an issue of food distribution management than of agricultural production.

The paper notes that food security is about access to diverse nutrients and not just calories, and that forests and tree-based agriculture contribute to micronutrient access. According to the paper, forests contribute to the livelihood of over one billion people worldwide, and billions suffer globally from micronutrient deficiency, which is associated with increased morbidity and mortality. Forest products, the authors highlight, enhance diets with micronutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, meats and fish, all accessed in diverse ways.

While studies on the association between forest cover and food security or nutrition have been limited, the paper cites some studies, such as one that found an association between tree cover and children's dietary diversity, as well as research from CIFOR that found a statistically-significant relationship between tree cover and fruit and vegetable consumption in 21 countries in Africa.

The paper calls for a deeper understanding of the impacts of agriculture on forests and biodiversity, and for identifying landscapes and land use systems that protect both biodiversity and productivity. The authors recommend that future development initiatives focus on managing forested landscapes for food as well as addressing how forest biodiversity and ecosystems relate to sustainable food production and food security. The authors also recommend collecting information on how communities use forest resources during times of climate variability, as well as building research on the relationship between forests, food security and climate change.

CIFOR is a member of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).  [Publication: Food Security and Nutrition: The Role of Forests]