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Sierra Leone News: Time is running out for the world’s forests – FAO

Time is running out for the world’s forests, whose total area is shrinking by the day, warns a new FAO report urging governments to foster an all-inclusive approach to benefit both trees and those who rely on them.
Halting deforestation, managing forests sustainably, restoring degraded forests and adding to worldwide tree cover all require actions to avoid potentially damaging consequences for the planet and its people, according to The State of the World’s Forests 2018.
The report, which was released last week, indicated that 9.4% of Sierra Leone’s forests are managed primarily for clean water. Globally, almost 9.5% of forests are managed primarily for water and/or soil, almost 2% for clean water and about 1% each for coastal stabilization and soil erosion control.
“Forests and trees contribute far more to human livelihoods than is commonly known, playing crucial roles in food security, drinking water, renewable energy and rural economies” the report said. “They provide around 20% of income for rural households in developing countries – notably more in many areas – and fuel for cooking and heating for one in every three people around the world.”
This year’s report documents just how essential forests are for 2030 Agenda objectives ranging from tackling climate change to conserving biodiversity, reducing inequalities and improving urban habitats. It offers concrete proof of the multiple contributions forests make and maps pathways for them to do more.
“Forests are critical to livelihoods,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva in a statement. “Healthy and productive forests are essential to sustainable agriculture and we have proof of the significance of forests and trees for the quality of water, for contributing to the energy needs of the future, and for designing sustainable, healthy cities.”
“Trees and forests contribute to achieving multiple targets across the 2030 Agenda and need to be incorporated into strategies to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” said FAO Forestry Director Eva Mueller.
The report emphasizes the importance of clear legal frameworks regarding forest tenure rights, applauds the growing trend in local governance, and calls for effective partnerships and private sector engagement to pursue sustainable goals. Given that deforestation is the second leading cause of climate change after burning fossil fuels, it notes that “corporate responsibility for zero deforestation is key.”
While there is much work to be done, the publication points to numerous examples that indicate growing awareness and a gradual increase in sustainable practices regarding the world’s forests and trees.
For example, more than 56% of paper is recycled today, up from less than a quarter in 1970. Meanwhile, using discarded materials to make wood panels for construction has allowed production to grow four times faster than fresh timber requirements over the past two decades.
Healthy forests and trees do far more than provide lumber. One in five people around the world count on non-wood forest products (NWFP) for food, income and nutritional diversity, the mainstays of human life. Globally, income generated from NWFPs amounts to $88 billion USD, but the real figure is likely much higher.
That is especially important for the estimated 250 million people – mostly in Africa and Asia and comprising around 40% of the extreme rural poor – who live in forests and savannah areas that are “hotspots for poverty” across the tropics.
Around one-third of smallholder farmers in Africa cultivate trees on their land, and derive around one-sixth of their gross income from them in various ways, on top of added benefits ranging from soil fertility to shade from the sun.
By Zainab Iyamide Joaque
Tuesday July 10, 2018.

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