Sustaining forests and livelihoods in a changing world

N Munal Meitei *

Cut teak logs in a forested region
Cut teak logs in a forested region :: Pix - TSE

Human originate from forests and forests had supported all the requirements for mankind. But now forests are the home to only some of the world's poorest and most vulnerable people. Thus some of the helping hands of the world such as World bank are assisting the countries to improve governance of their forest sectors, enforce laws, and ensure local residents in decision making of people, economic and the environment problems.

Hundreds of millions of people around the world depend directly on forests for their income and subsistence. Forest resources contribute to the natural environment on which food production depends. Forests cover about a third of the Earth's land surface and together absorb around 15 percent of the planet's greenhouse gas emissions. They also protect vital watersheds such as a river, lake, or sea and reduce the risk of natural disasters, including floods and landslides.

Forests have a central role to play as the world confronts the challenges of climate change, food shortages, and improved livelihoods for a growing population. If predictions prove correct, the world will need to shelter, feed, clothe, and provide livelihoods for another four billion people by 2050. By the time, mankind will require two Earths for our requirement.

This presents a staggering challenge, showing that world temperatures could raise by about 6 C at the end of this century, impacting water availability, agriculture, and severe weather events. By 2025, two-thirds of all nations will confront water supply stress, and 2.4 billion people will live in countries unable to provide sufficient water for basic health, agriculture, and commercial needs. The world's forests are a critical but endangered resource in addressing these challenges.

For centuries, forests have served as a kind of natural safety net for communities during times of famine or other events that impact agricultural and food production; they provide fruits, leaves, gum, nuts, timber, and wood for fuel. Forests feed people and the animals they might depend on for trade or meals when crops fail.

At the same time, many of the world's remaining forests are under increasing threat because of human activities and climate change. Although the pace of deforestation has slowed in some regions, the world still loses about 14.5 million hectares of forests each year.

The rate of loss in tropical forests is about the size of a football ground per minute. In parts of the Amazon rainforest, rising temperatures and changing rainfall patterns are connected with the increased risk of catastrophic dieback with dangerous local, regional and global consequences. In the Congo Basin, a recent analysis of deforestation trends published by the World Bank highlights the intense pressure that agricultural expansion, mineral exploitation, growing energy needs, and an improved transportation network will pose to the integrity of this vast rainforest area.

If countries are able to pursue inclusive green growth strategies that overcome some of the more severe trade-offs between growth and forest protection, the deforestation that has historically accompanied development in many countries could be slowed, making an important contribution to climate change mitigation. If the world is to confront the challenges of mitigating and adapting to climate change while meeting the demands of a rapidly-growing global population, it is vital that we find the balance between conserving and regenerating forest areas with economic growth for poverty reduction.

A forest is not simply a physical asset that can be cleared, logged or protected. In fact, a forest influences and is impacted by linkages to an array of other activities and sectors, particularly agriculture and water, but also energy, mining and transportation at the local, national and even global level. Forest reduces poverty, integrate better economies, and protect and strengthen the environment, locally and globally.

More resilient, integrated landscapes for poverty reduction

Over the centuries, the world has experienced vast forest loss with the spread of agriculture and population growth.

To reverse deforestation trends requires a change in policies and laws, institutions, and incentives, in and beyond the forestry sector.

This "landscape" approach embraces activities such as restoring degraded forest land, boosting agricultural productivity, realigning farm and forest incentives to protect forests from being converted into farmland, introducing trees on farms and ranches, and involving local communities more directly in the design and oversight of forest management. In Manipur, our so claimed forests areas are having with a very thin growing stock.

Therefore, these areas can be regenerated under the integrated landscapes management plan. One of the approaches is from integrating farming approaches including crop production, livestock, and tree farming into one area, to diversify livelihoods, increase resilience to economic and climate shocks, and capitalize on natural synergies, for example in the water, carbon and nutrient cycles. Besides mitigating greenhouse gas emissions and reducing soil erosion, the increase in forest cover has had significant impacts on people's livelihoods. For the Planet, an estimated 2 billion hectares of lost or degraded forest landscapes could be restored and rehabilitated.

If those "landscapes of opportunity" were to be restored to functional and productive ecosystems, they could help deliver a triple win by improving rural livelihoods and food security, increasing climate resilience, and helping mitigate greenhouse gases - while taking pressure off pristine forests.

Managing natural capital for economic growth

In forest-rich countries, forestry can be a source of economic growth and employment. More than 160 million people worldwide find work through forest enterprises. If harvested responsibly, forests are also a renewable source of building material, fiber and fuel tremendous assets as the world looks to reduce the carbon footprint of human activities. At the same time, forests are one of the most mismanaged resources in many countries, partly because they are undervalued and partly because poor governance has fuelled illegal activities.

Helping governments to improve economic policy and the management and governance of the forest sector is therefore an important priority. Our planning programme should be how can practices that have often led to significant forest degradation, tax evasion and corruption, be reformed, so that forests contribute more revenue to the state, produce more and better jobs, and result in more sustainable development. The costs of inaction are severe.

Not only in our State, worldwide, the failure by governments to collect royalties on the legal use of forests, costs them as much as $5 billion a year in lost income. Illegal logging costs another $10-$15 billion every year in countries in which each dollar of state income is needed to reduce poverty.

This sum is more than eight times the amount of money available from official. The causes of illegal logging and sawing of timber and also other forest crimes are complex, and sometimes lie outside the forestry sector. Weak governance, including unclear or nonexistent policies or legislation on the use of forest resources is a key issue. Weak institutional structures and an inability to monitor and enforce regulations also hamper progress in many countries. These weaknesses are difficult to address politically, since well-connected interest groups tend to benefit from the status quo and resist change.


Forests provide many essential environmental services, from absorbing and stocking carbon, to regulating water cycles, hosting 80 percent of the world's terrestrial biodiversity including pollinators crucial to food security, maintaining soil quality, and reducing the risks of natural disasters such as floods at a time when many of these systems are coming under tremendous pressure.

The emerging green economy provides a valuable opportunity to take due account of the economic values that forests provide to people. The complexity of the current threats to forests notwithstanding, the use of innovative market and policy mechanisms can internalize the true economic value of forests as productive natural assets that generate goods and services across the local, regional, and international levels and it will ensure for the preservation of natural resources sustainably with the present day changing World.

* N Munal Meitei wrote this article for The Sangai Express
This article was posted on March 08, 2013

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