With the coronavirus pandemic driving millions of people into poverty, a new report argues that forests and agroforestry are an under-appreciated way of providing a safety net for some of the poorest people in the world.
More than 1.6 billion people in the world live within 5km of a forest. For the poorest among them, trees are essential to both local ecology and economies.
The report, by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO), also acknowledges that agroforestry systems can help insure people against risks such as crop losses so that some can avoid sinking into poverty and the already poor do not become destitute.
They can also improve soil fertility, water supplies and other services that support their livelihoods. Agroforestry is also an important way to fight climate change—yet another disaster which disproportionately affects poorest populations.
The report warns, however, that forests and trees risk further degradation and destruction without greater understanding of how to manage them at the local level to ensure that local people reap the greatest benefits.