State of the World Forests 2014 - Making better use of socio-economic benefits of forests

Sources of employment, energy, nutritious food and a wide range of other goods and ecosystem services, forests, but also agroforestry systems and the trees present on farms, play a crucial role in the livelihoods of rural populations throughout the world.

They can play a significant role in achieving sustainable development and "greener" economy. However, we do not have data that would clearly establish these facts, the data which are needed to underpin the policies for the management and use of forests and to ensure that the benefits derived from forests, both in terms of environmental protection and the broader plan of social issues are taken into account in the development program for the period after 2015.

This edition of The State of the World's Forests aims to fill this gap. There will be gathered and analyzed, a comprehensive set of data on the contribution of forests to livelihoods, food, health, housing and energy sources. It will also see how to improve the information available and adjust policies to take better advantage in the future of the socio-economic benefits from forests.

This edition of The State of the World's Forests analyzes a whole set of data on the socio-economic benefits of forests. This analysis shows that well-managed forests can contribute in a very large measure to sustainable development and food security, objectives which are at the heart of FAO's mandate.

We know that forests are the largest deposit of terrestrial biodiversity in the world. They also play a vital role in mitigating global climate change and contribute to the conservation of soil and water in many fragile ecosystems.

In addition, forests contribute significantly and in many ways to the food security. Millions of people depend on food from forests and trees outside forests, to improve the nutritional quality and diversity of their diet. This dependence is felt especially during the seasonal food shortages, in case of extreme climate event and in areas of conflict. Forests which, through the production of goods and services, provide jobs and therefore income, also contribute to provide means of livelihood in the rural areas and reduce poverty.

For about a third of the world population, mainly in the least developed countries, wood is the main source of energy, or even the only one. Firewood allows these people to prepare meals that nourish and provide the necessary sanitary qualities and, in many cases, to boil water to sterilize it. Forests can also help to reduce poverty because they provide for the housing, economical construction and materials that meet the criteria of sustainable development.

To better assess the importance of forests, we need to better understand how people who live in the forest or from forests and who, very often, depend directly on the forest environment for their subsistence. One of the main recommendations of the State of the World Forests 2014 therefore is that data collection should focus on people and not just the trees.

These remarks are timely because 2014 has been proclaimed the International Year of the family farming and that the FAO has the honor of having been appointed coordinator on behalf of the entire United Nations system.

People living in the forests, as small farmers, pastoralists and artisanal fishers, already play in many countries, an important role in food security, sustainable development and the preservation of biodiversity and yet they are among the most vulnerable groups.

We express the hope that the 2014 edition of State of the World's Forests will excite the reader and arouse in him new ideas on the multiple links between people and the forest and the work that remains to be done in common to promote food security and sustainable development.