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It’s time to get smart about sustainable forests. Here’s how.

It isn’t just our technology that cries out for “smart” solutions. The development challenges of an increasingly connected world demand ever more comprehensive answers – and forests are no exception. The risks to forested lands stem from multiple sources, from the development of mining and road infrastructure, to expanding agricultural production, to the growing demand for woodfuels. To address these challenges in a sustainable manner, we need to partner with leaders and stakeholders in other sectors to develop solutions that minimize or avoid damaging effects and enhance forests’ contribution to environmental, economic and social benefits. In short, we need solutions that are “forest-smart.”

To make these objectives a reality, PROFOR continues to develop a forest-smart approach that emphasizes the role of forests within a broader landscape, where changes in forest cover can have very real and wide-reaching impacts on people and their wellbeing. We are partnering with experts outside of the forestry realm, including mining, disaster risk management, energy and agriculture, to help turn these sectors into forest champions. PROFOR’s ultimate goal is to transform how other sectors operate by identifying opportunities for mutual benefit, and devising innovative solutions that benefit people and the environment, and can be carried out at a large scale.

For instance, green infrastructure like mangrove forests can act as a buffer against storms, flooding, and coastal erosion – and unlike traditional “gray infrastructure” like sea walls and levies, mangroves provide valuable fish habitats, which translates into benefits for fisheries, tourism and local jobs. In Jamaica, PROFOR-supported work on nature-based infrastructure is guiding national planning for managing risks from natural disasters.

The extractive industries are another area where we can get smarter. The footprint from mining operations and their related infrastructure (such as constructing roads and settlements) can be devastating to forests, biodiversity, and forest-dependent communities. However, an array of new tools has emerged on ways to minimize or offset these negative impacts. PROFOR’s forest-smart mining program is building understanding for how to apply these new practices across a range of different contexts.

Agriculture, too, presents forest-smart opportunities. PROFOR research highlighted the many benefits of growing trees on farms, including boosting productivity, supplementing household incomes, and sequestering greenhouse gases. Especially promising is the tremendous potential for applying these tree-based practices at the national level.

While all of PROFOR’s forest-smart programs have implications for reducing poverty, PROFOR has also identified ‘poverty’ as a core thematic concern when it comes to sustainable forests. While there is growing evidence on forests’ contribution to the livelihoods and subsistence of poor communities, much less is known about the extent to which forests can provide a pathway out of poverty. To help fill this knowledge gap and make the case for forests as tool against poverty, PROFOR is collaborating with an ongoing household survey initiative to collect nationally representative data. PROFOR is also strengthening its focus on gender, contributing to more inclusive projects that take into account the different ways in which men and women access, use, and manage forests.

In essence, forest-smart strategies deliver benefits for the climate as well as for development.  These strategies are increasingly in demand as countries face multiple competing pressures on their resources and lands, and the magnitude of climate change risks become more and more apparent. To build the necessary resilience to face these challenges, we can’t afford to be anything less than forest-smart.   

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Last Updated : 07-19-2017