RegenerAction 2022: Giving back to the forests for sustainable development

The Challenge: Managing forests sustainably for all

To date, forests are one of the most affected victims of our current models of production and consumption. Exploiting natural resources without respecting their reproductive cycles can only lead to the progressive loss of these assets and a reduction of the health of the surrounding areas.

Deforestation and forest degradation are advancing at full speed: FAO reported how in the last 25 years there has been a loss of 5,2 million hectares every 12 months. The tropical belt is the region suffering most from deforestation practices, but also boreal forests such as the ones located between Canada and Siberia are constantly threatened by acid rains, logging, fires, and the effects of climate change.

Also climate-related events, such as fires and floods, heavily affect forests. As a consequence of Australia’s 2019 fires alone, 7.7m hectares were burned, with more than a billion animals killed further pushing already threatened species closer to extinction.

Managing forests sustainably is crucial for ensuring natural cycles, preserving biodiversity, maximizing water security, and even ensuring adequate human nutrition, as forests and wild biodiversity provide fruits, vegetables, bush meat, and high nutrient foods.

Why it matters: Agro-forestry to boost agricultural productivity

We all know that forests are crucial allies for human survival and well-being on Earth. They are a primary source of oxygen production contributing up to 50% of global output, while also absorbing carbon dioxide, mitigating climate change, protecting water resources thanks to forested watersheds, contributing to the preservation of the world’s biodiversity (over 80% of all species are hosted in forests), and controling soil erosion.

Halting deforestation could in fact save both humans and the planet from emitting 3.6 gigatons of carbon dioxide equivalent while protecting more than half the global terrestrial biodiversity, states the latest FAO report on forests.

Forests indirectly provide various tangible and intangible goods, such as timber, food, water, and medicine, providing for the subsistence of around 1,6 billion people, and they promote aesthetic, cultural, and recreational values, encouraging social aggregation and open air activities.

Restoring 1.5 billion ha of degraded land and fostering agro-forestry could boost agricultural productivity on 1 billion ha.

There are also monetary benefits related to ecosystem regulations services that derive from forest activities: just in Italy, as an example, they amount to 338 billion euros as reported by the Superior Institute for Environmental Protection and Research (ISPRA).

EU forest strategy for long-term planning and monitoring

Forests are clearly a protagonist in the realization of the European Green Deal, which has recently been enforced with the adoption of the New EU Forest Strategy for 2030.

The EU Forest Strategy sets a vision and concrete actions for increasing the quantity and quality of forests in the EU as a fundamental part of the solution to climate change and to fight the current loss of biodiversity. Given this strict interconnection, it is clear that the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030, adopted to put Europe’s biodiversity on the path to recovery by 2030, sets out a pledge to plant at least 3 billion additional trees by 2030 in full respect of ecological principles with long-term planning and monitoring.

The commitments and actions proposed in the Strategy will contribute to achieving the EU’s greenhouse gas emission reduction target of at least 55% by 2030, as set out in the European Climate Law which will be implemented by the measures laid out in the recent EC Fit for 55%package.

With the new EU Forest Strategy, that positions the EU in the implementation of the international goals included in the Agenda 2030 (and in particular the Sustainable Development Goal 15), the Commission is presenting an ambitious vision, building on the strong engagement, motivation, and dedication of all forest, land owners, and managers.

Agroforestry Collaborations for social impact

Although forests play a vital role in the sustainable production of food, their state is heavily influenced and affected by conventional agricultural practices, which are the leading causes of deforestation and forest degradation.

It is within this challenge and in order to accelerate the path towards integral ecological regeneration – where forests have a crucial role, that the Future Food Institute places part of its mission. This means promoting and fostering good practices to reconnect human activity with forests’ needs for regeneration and care, supporting participatory agroforestry strategies, coherent policies for sustainable agriculture and forest management, restoring forests and protected areas, transforming food systems, and implementing innovative agroforestry and agro-ecological techniques and inclusive decision making.

These are all activities that since the end of 2019 have led us to become part of the Moody’s Foundation partner portfolio, becoming the first Italian company to obtain a grant in the carbon project sector. Thanks to this collaboration, we are supporting the agroforestry carbon project “Fazenda São Paulo” in Brazil, generating positive environmental and social impacts.

Sustainable farming and grazing, agro-forestry strategies, preservation of the natural environment are also key pillars of the Future Food Academy that, through our Boot Camps, educational trainings, and the valuable collaboration with the FAO elearning Academy, offers Climate Shapers all around the world the possibility to deep dive into regenerative agricultural practices, sustainable forest management, and other key aspects in embracing a more regenerative lifestyle.

Most recently, this mission is perfectly embedded in our Living Lab in Pollica where decarbonizing agriculture through agroecology and ecosystem regeneration is achieved thanks to the expertise, knowledge, and courage of local and international food heroes.

From Pollica, we are also about to host the EU AgriFood Week, where forest preservation will be among the topics addressed in the multi-dimensional panels. It will be an opportunity to further discuss these matters with high-level institutional profiles, to design new strategies and policies that can align to improve the health of our beloved and much needed woodlands.

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