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Forests  contribute to poverty reduction, economic growth and employment, and generate essential ecosystem services that sustain key sectors such as agricultural, energy, and water. Forests also help countries respond to climate change.

Forest goods provide an important “hidden harvest” for rural populations, keeping many people out of extreme poverty. About 350 million people who live within or close to dense forests depend on them for their subsistence and income. Forests are an important aspect of rural livelihoods, with rural households living near forested areas deriving as much as 22 percent of their income from forest sources according to the Poverty and Environment Network (PEN). This contribution is greater than that of wage labor, livestock, self-owned businesses or any other category aside from crops.

Forests support rural economies in many countries and create jobs and wealth  for populations with few alternative off-farm employment options. Forests produce more than 5,000 types of wood-based products, and generate an annual gross value add of just over US$ 600 billion, about 1% of global GDP (in some countries that contribution is much higher, reaching for example 6% of GDP in Cameroon).

Healthy forests provide critical ecosystem services important to people and economies such as habitat for biodiversity, provision of drinking water, water and climate cycle regulation, erosion prevention, crop pollination, soil fertility, and flood control. For instance, more than three-quarters of the world’s food crops rely at least in part on pollination by insects and other animals, and up to US$577 billion worth of annual global food production relies directly on pollinators. Biodiversity is essential to ecosystem health and the provision of these services. However, the Living Planet Index (LPI), which measures trends in selected species populations, shows an overall decline of 52% over the last 40 years.

Deforestation, forest degradation and land use change contribute about 12% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and many of the world’s remaining forests are under increasing threat due to agriculture expansion, timber extraction, fuelwood collection and other activities. At the same, land restoration with trees would provide a crucial services is their capacity to slow climate change by absorbing CO2 released from the burning of fossil fuels through photosynthesis. All pathways to limit global warming to 1.5 oC identified by the IPCC (2018) include planting forests and protecting existing ones to reduce and avoid further emissions.


Last Updated: Apr 10,2019