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PROFOR in 2016: The importance of forests across all levels and sectors

The year 2016 was a powerful reminder that trees and forests play a critical role in our environment, economy and society – and that we face tremendous obstacles in protecting and sustainably managing them. With 2016 on track to be the hottest year on record and major development challenges remaining, forests are integral to addressing climate change and building more resilient and economically prosperous communities worldwide. These concerns are seeing progress in global commitments like the Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement; building the knowledge base to fulfill these objectives is more important than ever.    

Here at PROFOR, our work over the last year reflects the need to improve our understanding of forests over multiple dimensions. We supported research not only across a range of levels, from fields to countries to landscapes, but also across an array of sectors, since the factors impacting forests are almost always tied to external development agendas. This was made possible through PROFOR’s new programmatic approach, which takes a broad view of forestry’s links to sectors like energy, small and medium enterprises, extractive industries, and disaster risk management, but also areas like poverty and gender.    

Our latest research sheds light on the economic benefits of growing trees on farms in Africa, and how improving methodologies for valuing forests can pinpoint how much they contribute to economic growth. While it’s been known for a while that over a billion people worldwide depend on forests for their livelihoods, it’s less clear if and how forests can provide a pathway out of poverty – PROFOR is supporting a number of forest partners in finding answers.

In Mexico and Kazakhstan, we promoted forest programs with strong community participation. These projects are creating jobs, reducing illegal logging, and building resilience in the face of climate change’s uncertain impacts. In other areas, our research has shown that investing in forests holds significant untapped potential. In the Congo Basin, for instance – home to the world’s second largest tropical forest –building a formal, professional timber industry could go a long way towards improving livelihoods, strengthening legal and sustainable timber markets, and protecting biodiversity-rich ecosystems. Around the world, forests could play a much larger role in reducing the impacts of natural disasters like landslides and storm surge.  

Even where economic development and sustainable forestry seem intractably at odds, PROFOR is helping to find a way forward. In the Republic of Congo, where pressures to exploit minerals and develop agriculture threaten the forests that millions of people rely on, PROFOR helped to produce a roadmap for integrated land use planning. In Mozambique, we supported a roadmap for biodiversity offsets, a “last resort” conservation solution for protecting habitats while tapping into the country’s much-needed mineral and petroleum resources.             

In addition to supporting some 40 activities in 2016 (listed below), PROFOR team members voiced the importance of designing gender savvy development projects; scaling up agricultural practices and innovative financing to restore landscapes; and sustainably managing Southern Africa’s endangered Miombo Woodlands.  

As we assess the achievements of 2016 and look to the challenges in the year ahead, the centrality of forests remains clear, for people and for the planet. This tenet will continue to drive PROFOR’s progress in improving what we know – and shaping how we act – when it comes to our valuable forests.

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Last Updated : 05-07-2017