When I tell people that I am a forest specialist, they sometimes assume my work is forest first, people second. But the really exciting part of my job is that better forests make better communities.
There is mounting evidence that forest management improves people’s livelihoods all over the world. Standing forests are worth much more than cut ones and we are setting out to prove this in Mozambique, where protecting forests is among the fastest and most affordable ways to cut emissions and promote sustainable development.
For five years now, the global community has been observing the International Day of Forests on March 21. It is an occasion to celebrate the wide range of economic and social benefits that forests and trees bring to humankind. Since joining the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF) as its president in July 2016, I have been paying lots of attention to forests in West Africa, which is the world’s leading source of cocoa. These tropical forests, and others like them around the world, play an indispensable role in fighting global climate change by storing carbon. They also meet vital local needs, by cooling temperatures, helping generate rainfall, and purifying the air and water. Healthy forests help rural communities thrive. The paradox is that, over the last 10 years, life-giving forests in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana were felled at an alarming rate as cocoa farmers, faced with challenges such as low prices, climate change, and low productivity, have expanded the land area on which they grow cocoa. The crop, essential for the chocolate and cocoa products that many of us love, is now seen as a major driver of deforestation in these countries.
REDD+ Ghana: Engaging People in Sustainable Forest Management and Bringing Community Benefits
This is the first blog in a series on forests and livelihoods.
Africa’s forests, landscapes, and ecosystems have many contributions to development. They contribute directly to the well-being and food security of poor people. According to the World Bank Forest Action Plan, the impact of forests on poverty is greatest in Africa, with forest-related income lifting 11% of rural households out of extreme poverty. Forests also supply critical raw materials needed to grow the economy, provide habitat to rich flora and fauna, regulate hydrology, and sequester carbon.