Forests are vital to life on Earth. They purify the air we breathe, filter the water we drink, prevent erosion, and act as an important buffer against climate change. Forests offer a home to much of the world’s diverse array of plants and animals and provide essential natural resources from timber and food to medicinal plants. Forests also support the lives of local communities and help them to thrive.
But forests around the world are under threat. Despite the key role forests play in the world’s environmental and economic health, we continue to lose forests, along with the endangered animals that live in them. In 2020, the tropics lost more than 12 million hectares of tree cover. That’s roughly 30 soccer fields’ worth of trees every single minute. Illegal logging, poor forest management practices, and growing demand for forest and agricultural products contribute to their rampant destruction. Deforestation is especially severe in some of the world’s most biologically diverse regions, such as the Amazon, Borneo and Sumatra, the Congo Basin, and the Russian Far East. As a result, nearly half the world’s original forests have been lost.
According to FAO, the world’s forests continue to shrink as populations increase and forest land is converted to agriculture and other uses. Some 129 million hectares of forest – an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa – have been lost since 1990, according to FAO’s Global Forest Resources Assessment 2015.
– 60% of deforestation is caused by the extension of agro-industrial intensive farming (soya, palm oil, corn…);
– 30% is caused by small-scale farmers’ activity to develop their subsistence crops and energy resources (cooking wood).
Forest degradation is held responsible for 18 to 20% of greenhouse gas accumulation in the atmosphere. It is one of the main contributors to global warming. If we don’t stop deforestation, rainforests will have completely disappeared by 2040. Therefore, the various stakes of such a cause imply:
– The fight against global warming and carbon storage;
– Ecosystems and biodiversity protection: preserve one of the world’s largest living species reserve, fauna and flora all together;
– Protection of natural resources including freshwater resources;
– Food sovereignty: People’s right to healthy local food, resulting of sustainable production systems;
– Preservation of the cultural identity of the forests’ populations.
The evolution of temperatures has taken a dramatic turn, uncomparable with the past: +0.6°C increase in average global temperatures over the last century, on track to reach a 4°C increase by 2100. According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the main cause of global warming is human enhancement of the natural “greenhouse effect”, i.e. the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the atmosphere.
Deforestation is the second source of carbon emissions (~20% of global GHG emissions), after the production and consumption of fossil fuels: 69%. Yet each year, 13,000 hectares are deforested worldwide, an area equivalent to Greece. Agricultural expansion is responsible for 90% of worldwide deforestation
Forests have four major roles in climate change: they currently contribute about one-sixth of global carbon emissions when cleared, overused or degraded; they react sensitively to a changing climate; when managed sustainably, they produce woodfuels as a benign alternative to fossil fuels; and finally, they have the potential to absorb about one-tenth of global carbon emissions projected for the first half of this century into their biomass, soils and products and store them – in principle in perpetuity. – FAO
Deployment of forestry projects such as agroforestry, biodiversity preservation or development of alternative economic activities in partnership with disadvantaged communities (small farmers, natives, village associations) are a holistic remedy to these problems. They include every issue of sustainable development enabling:
There are agro-ecological technics as agroforestry that allow to harmoniously combine the protection of forests and farming development. Participating to reforestation promoting agroforestry in concert with small-scale farmers around the world constitutes a major stake and the social and environmental benefits to the Planet and Human kind are enormous.