14th World Forestry Congress – Moving from ‘tree hugging’ to sustainable forestry management

Children play at Batang Buat river, Lubuk Beringin village, Indonesia.

Children play at Batang Buat river, Lubuk Beringin village, Indonesia.

Delegates attending the 14th World Forestry Congress will seek tangible solutions over the next two days to the global challenge of feeding a growing human population – including a burgeoning, consumptive middle-class – while limiting the extent of climate change and environmental degradation.

One of the major trends that have emerged over the opening three days of the gathering has concerned the sustainable use of forest resources.

The notion of tree hugging, leaving forests to grow for their own good, is quite clearly being replaced by a notion of sustainable development and hence an engagement with our forestry sector that allows for sustainability – and certainly, use.

The theme for the World Forestry Congress is, Forests and People: Investing in a Sustainable Future. The Congress concludes on Friday.

Delivering a Tree Talks presentation today, Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), John Scanlon, said advances in technology and transport afforded people the potential today – through unregulated, unsustainable or illegal trade – “to wipe out a species in no time at all”.

We’ve also seen fantastic increase in the middle-class, a lot of prosperity generated… a lot of disposable income is available… We are confronting heavily armed organised criminals who are stealing wildlife at an industrial scale. The future of wildlife is going to be determined by the actions taken by each one of us, both as consumers and as citizens.”

A highlight of Day Three at the congress was a Wildlife Forum to address the intersection between forests, flora and fauna.

Speakers addressed a broad range of issues from governance and land tenure, to human-wildlife conflicts, trade-offs and wildlife crime.

Addressing the Wildlife Forum, CEO of South African National Parks, Fundisile Mketeni, said improved wildlife management held the promise of improving the lives of poor people in rural areas. “That is at the heart of living sustainably in the long term,” he said.

Dr Ken Dickensen, Senior Forestry Officer of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, said there was increasing recognition that the demands for wood, food and other forest products would continue to increase as the human population increases. There was a need to increase food production “in the right places”.

Director-General of South Africa’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Edith Vries, 13% of South African land is arable; if used properly it is enough to feed the people without forest encroachment

She quoted former President Nelson Mandela saying: “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Statement by Trevor Abrahams, Secretary-General of the 14th World Forestry Congress
Picture courtesy Tri Saputro (CIFOR).

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