Trees are associates in the fight against poverty and in the long run losing forests means losing the fight against poverty, a study has said.
The research was carried out by 21 international scientists on the Global Forest Expert Panel (GFEP) on Forests and Poverty.
The panel, chaired by Daniel Miller of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, United States, and led by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), is an initiative of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) chaired by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations.
The study launched by the International Union of Forest Research Organisations on Thursday was titled ‘Forests, Trees and the Eradication of Poverty: Potential and Limitations’.
The study consolidates available scientific evidence on the wide range of contributions forests and trees outside forests make to curbing poverty.
Also, it looks at the effectiveness of diverse forest management policies, programs, technologies and strategies.
It was done based on an understanding of poverty, not only in terms of money, but also as an obstacle that keeps people from attaining a certain level of well-being and participating fully in society.
“This global assessment comes at a critical time. More extreme weather events associated with climate change, widening inequality, and the spread of infectious diseases, among others, are making an already insecure situation worse for the poor,” says Hiroto Mitsugi, assistant director-general, FAO, and chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.
Mr Mitsugi said reviewing the role of forest in development in general and in achieving poverty eradication, is essential.
Poverty eradication has therefore found a place at the top of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Mr Miller says, “Forests and trees are critical to the well-being of many of the world’s poor people who have been able to harness the goods and services they provide to manage and mitigate risk, especially in the face of crises. To secure and improve this important function, we need to adequately protect, manage and restore forests and to make forests and trees more central in policy decision making.”
He said the global assessment examines a variety of policy and management measures implemented by governments, civil society organisations, and the private sector for their potential and limitations to alleviate poverty.
According to the study, some of the strongest evidence for poverty reduction comes from agroforestry systems.
However, benefits and costs from forests and trees to human well-being are unevenly distributed.
The study found that in many forest and wildlife-rich countries in Africa, for example, timber and tourism are major contributors to national economies.
Although the benefits may not amass at the local level as local communities may bear the cost of these activities through environmental degradation and limited access to protected areas.
It revealed that the poor are rarely able to capture the bulk of benefits from forests even as forest and trees are often vital in terms of subsistence.
The study added that the Covid-19 pandemic has driven thousands of people back to rural areas and has cut remittances. The full range of its effects on forests and rural livelihoods remains to be seen.