CIFOR-Monty Python and tropical forests. Really?



In your best John Cleese voice: “All right… all right… but apart from better sanitation and medicine and education and irrigation and public health and roads and a freshwater system and baths and public order… what have the Romans ever done for us?”



Monty Python’s famous skit from the movie “The Life of Brian” illuminates the fact that, despite the provision of all those goods and services, the Romans weren’t always an appreciated presence.



The same could be said for the world’s tropical forests.

While many people tacitly appreciate that forests and trees have some intrinsic and aesthetic value we, as scientists, have been pretty unsuccessful at convincing policy makers and big business that they are critical, not only to human well-being, but also to the global economy.



One would think the scientific evidence we have to hand would be sufficient to enable their protection and sustainable management. But it ain’t necessarily so.




Most of us are aware that many of our most important plant-based commodities originate from the tropical forests. Tea, coffee, cocoa, quinine, oil palm and others, all have very interesting, and often complicated development histories that have allowed the expansion of economic systems that, while based on somewhat exploitative colonial economies, have changed the very nature (often quite literally) of the very societies we inhabit.



Who knew, for example, that the island of Manhattan was actually ceded to the British by the Dutch in return for their monopolistic access to the nutmeg-rich spice islands of Indonesia, making them a European economic heavyweight in the 18th and 19th centuries?



Or that the planting in India of the enigmatic Cinchona tree, endemic to the highlands of Ecuador, would allow the European settlement of much of the Far East (for better or for worse) by providing a treatment for malaria with the medicine contained within its bark – quinine – saving many millions of lives in the process.



Or that the scrubby bush found only in isolated valleys of Ethiopia would yield the global coffee trade that feeds an industry for a product that many people, every day, seem incapable of functioning without?



Or that the bitter cacao of Latin America, a favorite of the British Elizabethan court, would fuel a chocolate indulgence shared by so many in the developed world?



However, as we have often seen, as soon as a forest product is commercialized, it is removed from the forest economy and can, in fact, lead to the destruction of its very source. The expansion of oil palm over the past twenty years is a classic example of global demand arguably leading to deforestation on a greater scale than many other commodities.



So, where does that leave those of us who are trying to make the case that forests, not only have a role to play in conservation, but also sustainable development?




Recent research has revisited the paradigm that forests are extremely valuable for people – but with a much stronger evidence-base.



It is estimated that up to 1 billion people rely on forests in some way for their livelihoods and that women are often more reliant than men.



In many instances, rural households generate almost 30 percent of their income from forests. We know there is a significant correlation between access to forests and trees and dietary diversity, and therefore better nutrition.



We also know that the ecosystem services provided by forests are critical to modern-agriculture in terms of pollination, water and other services. We also know that forest play a major role in both climate change mitigation and adaptation.



But so what? This research has been well received in certain circles. It provides a useful, if not compelling, evidence-base as to the value of forests for local livelihoods, food security, poverty alleviation and climate change. And many of us are, rightly so, excited by that.

However, a question asked recently by a major donor when presenting this work made me think more about our overall mission. The question was: “… great research, but are you suggesting we keep people forest dependent?”



An interesting observation, and one that certainly requires some reflection on our own mission.



Basically, we should emphasize that we are talking about a much bigger picture.

Because yes, people who live closer to forests often have better diets than those who make that urban transition regardless of how much money they may have to hand.

Yes, the services provided by forests and trees support much of our global agricultural systems.


But the global trend towards achieving global food security has traditionally been based on clearing forests for agriculture regardless.



We possess considerable evidence that forests, and their services, touch all of us in some way. Important though it is that forest-based communities benefit from access to wild and cultivation fruits, vegetables and medicines, it doesn’t end there.



Your swig of coffee in the morning is dependent on forest-based pollinators, without which, your daily caffeine intake is going to cost you a lot more.


For more Information, please check: HERE

Go back


WWF: Rainforest deforestation more than doubled under cover of coronavirus -DW

Tropical rainforests shrank by 6,500 square kilometers in March — an area seven times the size of Berlin. Criminal groups are taking advantage of the pandemic and the unemployed are getting desperate, the WWF said.

Read more …

Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park Monthly update April 2020

"At a time when many countries are beginning their gradual deconfinement and when there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon of returning to normal life, I wanted to share with you some good news that also fills us with hope for the future of the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park."

Read more …

Resources and follow-up from the virtual FAO-EcoAgriculture Partners Roundtable

Last April 30th FAO and EcoAgriculture Partners organized a virtual Roundtable on Territorial Perspectives for Development, in which over 170 people participated.

Read more …

ATIBT -CBFP: Private Sector mobilized around the CBFP Facilitator of the Federal Republic of Germany

ATIBT co-facilitated the mobilization of the private sector of the timber sector to participate in the first meeting of the private sector college of Congo Basin Forest Partnership with the new facilitator Dr Christian Ruck and his team German Facilitation.

Read more …

Development and institutionalization of a PAFC certification system for the Congo basin: opening of the second public consultation on Sustainable Forest Management Certification Standard, 23 May 2020 - 22 June 2020

This second public consultation will be open for a period of 30 days from tomorrow Saturday the 23rd of May 2020 and will be closed on Monday the 22nd of June 2020. The public consultation is open to all stakeholders of forest management in the Congo Basin interested in participating to the PAFC Congo Basin certification standards development process.

Read more …

Forest defenders on the COVID-19 frontline stand ready to assist the global EU response – Fern

These efforts go hand in hand with ensuring continued responsible management of natural resources and preventing unsustainably and illegally sourced forest commodities. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, forest-monitoring organisations Observatoire de la Gouvernance Forestière (OGF) and Réseau des observateurs indépendants des ressources naturelles (RENOI) are set to carry out COVID awareness-raising in at-risk forest areas, and will also assess COVID’s impact on forest management and governance commitments under the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI). Across the Congo Basin, fears that a proper lack of oversight may put forests and forest peoples in danger are looming despite emerging initiatives.

Read more …

22 May 2020 International Day for Biological Diversity

The theme of the 2020 International Day for Biological Diversity is “Our Solutions are in Nature”. It shows that "Biodiversity remains the answer to a number of sustainable development challenges that we all face. From nature-based solutions to climate, to food and water security, and sustainable livelihoods, biodiversity remains the basis for a sustainable future."

Read more …

CBFP News Archive


There are no news items for this period.