News / 18 March 2022

International Forests Day: the importance of forests for livelihoods and a healthy environment

Today is International Day of Forests. An ever more important day, as the amount of forest and forested area's on this globe is shrinking at a fast pace. One the main causes is our ever increasing demand for products such as soy and palm oil from area's that have been deforested for their cultivation. The current proposed EU-deforestation law to prevent this, is not strict enough and does not include the protection of other crucial natural areas such as grasslands, savannas and swamps, as well as the human rights of the millions of people living in these area's. During these past few weeks we therefore participated in the campaign #Together4Forests, calling on citizens to send a letter to their own responsible ministers. The campaign paid off: almost 54,000 letters were sent to European ministers across the European Union, demanding a strict forest law that guarantees the import of only deforestation-free products in Europe.

To celebrate this International Day of Forests, we would like to emphasise the great value of forests and other natural areas, directly or indirectly, for the livelihoods of at least 2 billion people. Below, we selected some examples that show how, throughout the world, local communities use many different ways to collect and produce food and other natural products in a sustainable way, while protecting and restoring the forests and forested area's they are so dependent upon.

Analog Forestry

Analog Forestry promotes a sustainable and future-proof production system and supports, among other things, the transformation of degraded land into food forests. Forests are crucial to the livelihoods of many people in developing countries, to pick fruits, nuts and berries, harvest honey and resin, gather herbs used as medicine, find construction materials for their houses and collect firewood. The International Analog Forestry Network, of which Both ENDS is a member, has been successful in transforming degraded lands into productive food forests (Analog Forests)

See in this video for yourself.


Non-Timber Forest Products

About one in every six people, particularly women, directly rely on forests for their lives and livelihoods, especially for food. This shows how important non-timber forest products (NTFPs) and forests are, especially for women, to ensure their own and their community's resilience. Forest products are not only derived from trees, but from all plants, fungi and animals for which the forest ecosystem provides habitat. Examples of NTFPs are wild honey, fruits, edible leaves and roots, medicinal plants, spices, gum, fuel wood and rattan. The NTFP-Exchange Programme, an international network supported among others by Both ENDS supports, promotes the cultivation and harvesting of non-timber forest products.

Agroecology and agroforestry: the example of Kenya

Agroecology is a collective term used for agricultural practices that aim to reconcile agriculture and local communities with natural processes for the common benefit of nature and livelihoods. Agroecological practices provide a sustainable solution for family farms. In Kenya, agroecology is also a way to fight against water pollution while securing food production. In addition agroforestry in Kenya has been helping in the recuperation and multiplication of indigenous seeds varieties (mainly of traditional food crops) in central and eastern Kenya.

 Community-based restoration

 As seen in the examples above, although they can be very different, community-based restoration and land use initiatives have important common features that might explain their success, be it on a large or a smaller scale. Firstly and most importantly – they are community-based. This means that they have to be grounded within the community itself and be adopted and implemented by its members – with or without support from others. When people feel ownership and see their needs met in both the short and the long run, they are more inclined to use a certain method as analternative way. Another important feature is inclusiveness: all people that might be positively or negatively affected by sustainable land use or restoration activities (herders, farmers, women, youth and water users, amongst others), should be involved in the decision making and implementation of these initiatives. A good example of how this can be achieved is the 'Communities regreen the Sahel' - programme, designed and executed together with over twenty partner orginisations in Sengal, Niger and Burkina Faso.

More information:

The above examples are just a few of the many, many initiatives, methods and approaches that people across the globe are starting, using and optimising in order to protect biodiversity and ecosystems while at the same time maintaining their families and communities. Below, you can find more related content.

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