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FAO Conference Examines Role of Forests in Food Security

forests-for-food-security-and-nutrition16 May 2013: At the first International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition, participants examined the role of forests and agroforestry systems in supporting livelihoods around the world.

The conference was organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and was held from 13-15 May 2013, in Rome, Italy. In particular, the meeting discussed forest foods, such as leaves, seeds, nuts, honey, fruits, mushrooms and forest animals, noting the importance of these items as high nutrition supplements to diets, as well as the contribution of forests to ecosystem service provision. Participants also considered: the value of giving incentives to small-scale forest producers; improving access to trees and land through the application of the Voluntary Guidelines for the Governance of Tenure; considering the role of ecosystems services in agricultural production; and encouraging cooperation across sectors.

Dozens of speakers presented in nine sessions and numerous side events on a range of topics including access to resources, policy and institutional challenges, innovative policies, and issues around fair trade, forests and food security. Tony Simons, Director General of the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), underscored the role of a landscape approach that considers soil quality, agroforestry, and the importance of developing robust food security indicators. During a session on gender, nutrition and forests, it was underscored that women are the primary users of forests as they are generally tasked with the collection of fuelwood, medicines and food. A draft conference summary was debated during the closing session and will be circulated for comments. Participants encouraged the FAO to share conference recommendations with the next sessions of the Committee on World Food Security, the Committee on Forestry and the Second International Conference on Nutrition.

During the meeting, the FAO also released a new publication on edible insects and their contribution to food and feed security. The report underscores that over 1900 insect species are consumed by humans worldwide, and that they can play an important role in food security. The report notes that raising insects to feed on waste materials, and subsequently feeding insects to animals is forbidden in most industrialized nations, and the report calls on the international community to consider opportunities for investment in insect farming. [Edible Insects - Future prospects for food and feed security] [FAO Press Release on Forest Products] [Website on International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition] [ICRAF Press Release] [UN Press Release] [CIFOR Live Blog of the Meeting] [Publication: Forests and trees outside forests are essential for global food security and nutrition: Summary of the International Conference on Forests for Food Security and Nutrition]