Can forests and agriculture work together to tackle climate change & food insecurity?

from CGIAR
Published on 16 Nov 2012

With food prices soaring and land available to grow new crops scarce, experts will gather on the side-lines of the U.N. climate summit to debate one of the most pressing issues facing policymakers: Can the world’s forests and farms work together to tackle pressing food security challenges and climate change?

Forest Day 6 – one of the leading annual global platforms on forests and climate change – will bring a fresh perspective to a debate that has often pitted forests against agriculture.

The conference will unravel some of the options available for policymakers as they grapple with challenges related to food security and development in a world vulnerable to climate change. A panel of experts will highlight how better collaboration between the forestry and agriculture sectors could tackle the food security crisis, and still meet conservation, climate change and development needs.

“Too often, conservation of forests is seen to be in opposition to agricultural development, yet forests provide food, fuel, income and clean water to almost two billion of the world’s poorest people,” said Peter Holmgren, Director General for the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

“If we avoid the false dichotomy between forestry and agriculture, we will find that these differing sustainability objectives can actually support each other.”

Agriculture has often been portrayed as the enemy of forests. Land clearing for crops and cattle ranching is already responsible for 80% of deforestation and 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions. The cost of staples such as wheat and maize may double by 2030, and as multinational conglomerates snap-up large tracts of land for cattle ranching and biofuel production, land available for food crops is increasingly in short supply.

It is evident that with 2 billion extra mouths to feed by 2050, ‘business as usual’ cannot continue, said World Bank Vice President Rachel Kyte at last year’s Forest Day in Durban. “Forests cannot be sustained if people are hungry.”

“Hunger places a direct burden on forests when people are forced to push deeper into forested areas to grow crops. And when hunger and poverty take their toll, people resort to making and selling charcoal faster than the natural rate of forest regeneration in order to buy food,” she said.

Negotiators at this year’s United Nations Framework Convention Conference on Climate Change of Parties in Doha (UNFCCC COP18) are set to discuss how agriculture can be incorporated into the international climate agenda.

Climate smart agriculture, agroforestry, landscape approaches and agricultural intensification — new buzz words in the sector — have all been proposed as possible solutions to the food crisis. However, they are not without their critics. Can they successfully bring together sectors that have often worked in isolation to tackle the current food crisis and what do they really mean for the future of world’s forests?

Interested to know more? Join us at Forest Day on December 2 in Doha. Visit or email to register.

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