Sustainable food systems include food from forests

Globally, it is estimated that billions of people depend on forests and trees. This is true for many people living in developing countries, for whom forests are an essential part of a sustainable food system.

Action is needed to better manage forests and their genetic resources to ensure long-term availability of these food resources to rural people who depend on them for their nutrition and livelihoods. Such action requires heightened awareness of the important contribution of forests and trees to food security and nutrition, especially among policymakers.

"People normally associate forests with trees and the wood they provide, but most people don't see a direct link to food security," said Eva Muller, Director of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) Forest Economics, Policy and Products Division, adding that there are many valuable food sources that come from forests - in the form of leaves, honey, fruits, seeds, nuts, roots, tubers, mushrooms, insects and wild animals. The wood is a source of energy for cooking for 2.4 billion people in many parts of the world.

Yet forest foods are often neglected, despite some being important sources of high-calorie and nutritious foods needed by people living in hunger or poverty. One such example is the purple fruit of the Bush butter tree (Dacryodes edulis ), which makes a popular snack in big cities in Cameroon yet is a forgotten food in smaller villages.

What can be done? Experts say research can inform policies that could improve forest management for sustainable resources, and a new policy briefTowards food security and improved nutrition: increasing the contribution of forests and trees available from FAO includes five specific recommendations for policymakers and documents the many contributions of food from forests.

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