The COVID-19 pandemic has made the eradication of hunger and poverty both more challenging and more urgent. Recovery needs to address the impacts of the pandemic and related containment measures, which have hit vulnerable people especially hard.

Even before the pandemic, much of humanity’s progress had come at considerable cost to the environment. A combination of intensified agricultural production processes and the clearing of forests to produce ever more food and other agricultural goods has led to environmental degradation and is contributing to the climate crisis. Continuing along current agrifood production pathways is unviable.

Transformation of global agrifood systems has started, as evidenced by the 2021 United Nations Food Systems Summit and related initiatives. There is a need to recover both from a short-term crisis – the human health pandemic – and the longer and deeper emergency caused by a “planetary health” crisis.

There are alternative pathways for the future of food and agriculture that should be considered. FAO has done this through its Strategic Framework 2022–31 around the four fundamental aspirations of “better production”, “better nutrition”, “a better environment” and “a better life for all – leaving no one behind”. FAO has also put forward a vision for sustainable agrifood systems based on five principles and 20 interrelated actions, applicable across sectors and scales.

In this report, we explore three forest and tree-based pathways that complement other actions aimed at achieving more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable agrifood systems, namely: halting deforestation and maintaining forests; restoring degraded lands and expanding agroforestry; and sustainably using forests and building green value chains. The balanced, simultaneous pursuit of these pathways can help address the crises facing people and the planet while also generating sustainable economic benefits, especially in (often remote) rural communities. Forests and trees are valuable assets that, through the forest pathways, can support recovery and build more resilient local economies. The pathways are set out on the premise that solutions to interrelated planetary crises have economic, social and environmental implications that need to be addressed holistically.

Overall, the outcomes of the 2021 Glasgow Climate Change Conference supported all three of the forest pathways. More than 140 countries have pledged, through the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests and Land Use, to eliminate forest loss by 2030 and to support restoration and sustainable forestry. To this end, an additional USD 19 billion has been allocated to help developing countries achieve these objectives. The area of forest and farm landscapes managed by family farmers, smallholders, forest communities and Indigenous Peoples exceeds 4 billion hectares, and these actors are crucial for the effective implementation of the pathways.

This report sets out the steps by which the world can further pursue the three forest pathways, a green recovery and the move towards more circular economies. There is no time to lose – we need to act now to keep the global temperature increase below 1.5 °C, reduce the risk of future pandemics, ensure food security and nutrition for all, eliminate poverty, conserve the planet’s biodiversity and offer young people hope of a better world and a better future for all. FAO is committed to supporting Member Nations explore the potential of the three forest pathways for further investment and effective implementation, in close collaboration with partners.

Qu Dongyu
FAO Director-General

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