Preserve biodiversity through sustainable forest management

deforested by naqi via Flickr CC

Deforestation is the greatest threat to valuable biodiversity, with around 10 million hectares lost to deforestation each year, mainly for agricultural expansion, according to a new report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The key to thwarting deforestation is sustainable forest management, the report says. “Protecting the animals, plants, fungi, and microorganisms that thrive in forests must become a fundamental goal of sustainable forest management worldwide.”

The world’s forests provide habitats for about 80 percent of amphibian species, 75 percent of bird species and 68 percent of mammal species. In addition, about 60 percent of all vascular plants occur in tropical forests. The importance of sustainable forest management has long been recognized, but more action in a concerted manner is needed.

“The conservation of the world’s biodiversity is utterly dependent on the way in which we interact with and use the world’s forests,” said Tiina Vähänen, Deputy Director of FAO’s Forestry Division, of the report, Mainstreaming Biodiversity in Forestry.  The report was released at the 8th World Forest Week on the sidelines of the 26th Session of FAO’s Committee on Forestry.

The report assesses tools and methods of ensuring the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is integrated into forest policy, strategy and management. Through a series of case studies from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Finland, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Peru, and the United Kingdom it explores lessons learned and identifies good practices.

It recommends actions that governments and development partners can take “to facilitate the mainstreaming of biodiversity in forest management”:

  • Halting and reversing deforestation
  • Combating illegal and unregulated forest activities
  • Recognizing the forest tenure of Indigenous Peoples and local communities
  • Preventing the conversion of natural forests into monospecific forest plantations
  • Ensuring the sustainable management of harvested species
  • Managing and controlling invasive and overabundant species
  • Leveraging global momentum on restoration to enhance biodiversity conservation
  • Adopting a multisectoral perspective
  • Providing economic incentives
  • Facilitating market-based instruments
  • Investing in knowledge and capacity development

“We hope that the wealth of information and recommendations made in this study will inspire action from those involved in forest management and conservation,” said FAO Forestry Officer Kenichi Shono.

The role of forests in maintaining biodiversity is explicitly recognized by the United Nations Strategic Plan for Forests 2017–2030 and in 2019, FAO adopted the Strategy on Mainstreaming Biodiversity across Agricultural Sectors.

Lots of hope, lots of studies: time for action.

FAO on food loss and waste

Fresh mangoes, like many other fruits, spoil rapidly because of their high moisture content and delicate nature. © FAO/Miguel Schincariol.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations asserts that minimizing food loss “is easier than you think” by adopting simple solutions that can help “break the vicious cycle of food loss and climate change.”

The FAO article, released in connection with the International Day of Awareness of Food Loss and Waste 2022, notes that each year, approximately 14 percent of the food we produce is lost between when it is harvested and before it reaches the shops. A further 17 percent of our food ends up being wasted by retailers and consumers.”

FAO continues: “Food loss and waste is also a major contributor to the climate crisis, accounting for up to 10 percent of global greenhouse gas (GHGs) emissions. In some countries, the food supply chain is already on course to overtake farming and land use as the largest contributor to GHGs emissions, adding to an unstable climate and extreme weather events such as droughts and flooding.”

Alarming numbers, to be sure, but simple solutions? It seems that nothing is ever simple anymore.  

The UN organization has implemented several projects designed to reduce food loss and make agriculture systems more efficient. The Asia region is showing some promising results. Consider the mango.

Like other fruits, fresh mangoes spoil rapidly because of their high moisture content and delicate nature. If not harvested at the correct stage of maturity, and if not handled properly throughout the distribution chain, mangoes suffer both in terms of quality and quantity, resulting in losses and reduced income for all involved in their production and post-harvest handling. Furthermore, improper handling and infestations shorten their shelf-life, which in turn limits their sales, resulting in economic losses.

In southern Asia, for example, FAO experts found that local farmers often have scarce knowledge of how to handle fruit and vegetables after the harvest and also lack the resources to address quality issues in the supply chain. This can result in more than half of vegetable harvests being lost due to diseases, pest infestations, improper harvesting techniques, careless handling, poor packaging, and transport conditions.

That does not sound very simple, but apparently, training is a key factor. “When FAO trained the farmers to apply good post-harvest management practices and use reusable plastic crates instead of single-use mesh sacks to transport their produce, the switch produced dramatic improvements.”

Using plastic crates for bulk packaging reduced losses to a minimum during transportation. Also, “shelf lives in shops and markets improved significantly for the mangoes that underwent a hot-water treatment that controls post-harvest diseases. New harvesting tools and techniques, such as improved picking poles or trimming the fruit stem with scissors and gloves rather than pulling them off by hand, reduced mechanical injury to the fruit, while the trimming of the stems reduced latex staining of the fruit when packed in the crates, making them more attractive in shops and markets.” 

Improvements in the post-harvest handling practices, together with the hot water treatment, resulted in better quality mangoes having a longer shelf life in retail, with a 70 – 80 percent reduction in the number of mangoes wasted due to decay over a period of five days.

FAO is promoting its findings and practices around the world. About 5 000 smallholders across Asia have been trained in fresh fruit and vegetable production and marketing.

 The FAO conclusion? “With the rise of food prices, the growing impact of climate change, and the persistence of global hunger, there is no excuse for food loss and waste at any level.”

It does sound simple, but simple is often complicated.

The story and photos can be found here:  https://www.fao.org/fao-stories/article/en/c/1605721/

FAO report: fisheries and aquaculture slammed by Covid

United Nations Flag by sanjitbakshi via Flickr

Disruptions in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors will increase as supply and consumption are affected by lockdown, according to the report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The February report, “The impact of COVID-19 on fisheries and aquaculture food systems,” was featured during the 34th session of the Committee on Fisheries (COFI) hosted by FAO.

Fish supply, consumption and trade revenues for 2020 will all likely decline due to containment restrictions, the report noted, while global aquaculture production is expected to fall by about 1.3 percent, the first fall recorded by the sector in several years.

“The pandemic has caused widespread upheaval in fisheries and aquaculture as production has been disrupted, supply chains have been interrupted and consumer spending restricted by various lockdowns,” said FAO Deputy Director-General, Maria Helena Semedo. “Containment measures have provoked far-reaching changes, many of which are likely to persist in the long term.”

The FAO report indicated that in aquaculture there is growing evidence that unsold production will result in increasing levels of live fish stocks, creating higher costs for feeding as well as a greater number of fish mortalities. Sectors with longer production cycles, such as salmon, cannot adjust rapidly to the demand shifts.

Global catches from wild fisheries are also expected to have declined slightly in 2020, as, overall, there has been a reduced fishing effort due to COVID‑19-related restrictions on fishing vessel crews and poor market conditions.

As a result of Covid-19, consumer preferences have shifted. While demand for fresh fish has waned, consumer demand for packaged and frozen products has grown as households look to stock up on non-perishable food.

Aggregate prices for 2020, as measured by the Fish Price Index are down year-on-year for most traded species. Restaurant and hotel closures in many countries have also led to a fall in demand for fresh fish products.

The climate crisis is also impacting the food, fish, forest and water sectors

– In other news from FAO, two projects, one focusing on agroforestry in sub-Saharan Africa and the other on water management in the Near East, have received $80 million, paving the way to improve the livelihoods of more than 250 000 smallholders.

The Board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) approved the funds for initiatives in the Republic of Congo and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Both are the first GCF-funded projects in those countries, underscoring FAO’s focus on expanding the use of global tools to advance climate action in food and agriculture. FAO’s GCF portfolio has now risen to $878 million, supporting 15 projects.

– Opening the high-level ceremony to mark the International Day of Forests, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, described forest restoration as a path to global recovery and well-being. 

“Healthy forests mean healthy people. Forests provide us with fresh air, nutritious foods, clean water and space for recreation, and also for civilization to continue,” the Director-General said. 

More than 1 billion people depend on forest foods and 2.4 billion people use fuelwood or charcoal to cook their daily meals, noted the Director General. “Forests are also green pharmacies. In developing countries, up to 80 percent of all medicinal drugs are plant-based.” 

Yet, despite their importance, the area of forests continues to shrink. FAO’s most recent Global Forest Resources Assessment says that each year, the world loses more than 10 million hectares of forest – an area about twice the size of Costa Rica. “We can change this. We have the knowledge and the tools,” said the Director-General.

– Covering 41 percent of the global land area and home to 2.7 billion people, drylands supply about 60 percent of the world’s food production and support more than a quarter of our forests and woodlands, according to Building climate-resilient dryland forests and agrosilvopastoral production systems.   

With four billion people projected to be living in drylands by 2050,the publication outlines the transformational change required to ensure the sustainability of food production systems under climate change and after COVID-19, which includes giving a greater voice to marginalized dryland populations. 

FAO also launched the report, Local financing mechanisms for Forest and Landscape Restoration to highlight financing opportunities for restoration that support local-level actors, including smallholder farmers, foresters and landowners.

– Acute hunger is set to soar in over 20 countries in the coming months without urgent and scaled-up assistance, warn the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP) in a new report issued on 23 March.

Yemen, South Sudan and northern Nigeria top the list and face catastrophic levels of acute hunger, with families in pockets of South Sudan and Yemen already in the grip of or at risk of starvation and death according to the Hunger Hotspots report.   

Although the majority of the affected countries are in Africa, acute hunger is due to rise steeply in most world regions – from Afghanistan in Asia, Syria and Lebanon in the Middle East, to Haiti in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

Already, over 34 million people are grappling with emergency levels of acute hunger (IPC4) – meaning they are one step away from starvation – across the world. 

“The magnitude of suffering is alarming. It is incumbent upon all of us to act now and to act fast to save lives, safeguard livelihoods and prevent the worst situation,” said Qu. 

“In many regions, the planting season has just started or is about to start. We must run against the clock and not let this opportunity to protect, stabilize and even possibly increase local food production slip away,” urged Qu.  

“We are seeing a catastrophe unfold before our very eyes. Famine – driven by conflict, and fuelled by climate shocks and the COVID-19 hunger pandemic – is knocking on the door for millions of families,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. 

“We urgently need three things to stop millions from dying of starvation: the fighting has to stop, we must be allowed access to vulnerable communities to provide life-saving help, and above all we need donors to step up with the US$ 5.5 billion we are asking for this year,” he added.