Our diet is deteriorating. Can trees and forests produce better food for everyone?

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The agro-forest spice and fruit system is the Zizifus Mauritiana, also known as the Indian Jujube, Curcuma Longa or turmeric below in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, India. Photo by Devashri Naik / ICRAF.

Despite all the advances in technology and information in recent decades, we have so far failed to provide enough, reliable, nutritious, and sustainable food for our people around the world.

More than 2 billion people are facing food insecurity; Nearly 700 million people are malnourished. And 39% of all adults are classified as overweight or obese.

A major contributing factor to these health challenges is the acute malnutrition: only 15 crops provide 90% of human energy and not enough nutritious food. For example, only 40 countries, which represent 26% of the world’s population, have enough fruits and vegetables to meet their recommended daily consumption.

Meanwhile, our global food system generates more than a third of global anthropological greenhouse gas emissions. It takes up about 70% of all clean water; And is responsible for the fourth oceanic acidity associated with severe soil erosion and the destruction of natural habitats and biodiversity.

In a July 2022 issue of New Vision, the editors stated that “nothing but radical dietary change will eliminate global hunger and malnutrition and move to acceptable limits by changing the environmental damage caused by our diet to permissible limits. Lead Magazine, Lancet Planet Health.The new global diet should not only provide too many calories, but also produce more amounts of nutrients. It should also produce these nutrients in a sustainable manner, reversing the current deforestation and serving as a net carbon cleaner and biodiversity reservoir.

So how can we help bring about that change?

According to the authors, trees and forests play an important role.

So far, this has been largely ignored in the dietary reform discourse, “because of the lack of a comprehensive and systematic diet, the problems of measuring and recording large contributions from trees and forests and the focus on the forest, wood sources rather than food ፎችን trees and forests primarily Our view is that we are in danger of repeating mistakes in discourses in the international development community, which we see as a global carbon offset. ”

So how can we help bring about that change? The point of view shows that trees and forests are part of the solution, but not yet understood.

“We are amazed and saddened by what we have learned and the obvious role of forests and trees,” said study author Amy Ecowitz. Senior scientist with International Forest Research and CIFOR-ICRAF.

“Forest conservation and the promotion of trees for food security and nutrition are just some of the obvious ways to achieve ‘winners’: global malnutrition, declining biodiversity and climate change are hardly enough to overcome the smallest challenges.” Of course, there are obstacles. – Institutional, economic and logistical – but all of these can be resolved, once there is agreement that food systems should be dragged in this direction. In our view, we offer some tips on how to do this. ”

Quiet service providers

The authors draw attention to the many ways in which trees and forests contribute to a healthy diet and sustainable nutrition. For example, tree bark is associated with increased nutritional value and the consumption of nutrients such as fruits and vegetables. Almonds, and more than half of all human fruits, grow on trees. Forests provide valuable wildlife sources, including vegetables, fruits, and meat, to 1.6 billion people, especially those within five miles[5 km]. Trees and forests support meat and dairy production by providing fodder for animals.

Trees and forests provide wood for energy, which is an important source of energy for nearly 2.4 billion people to cook, and therefore provides nutrients such as meat and grains. They also support food security and nutrition by growing and selling tree crops such as coffee and cocoa. Work in log or ecotourism; And collecting and selling non-wood forest products. Agriculture will benefit from ecological services provided by trees and forests such as pest and disease control, pollen habitat, micro-climate control, water and nutrient cycling, carbon sequestration, soil erosion and nitrogen fixation.

Moreover, trees and forests contribute to the stability and stability of food systems, for example, the tendency to survive severe weather conditions better than annual crops; Their role in supporting wild-type diets by providing wild foods; Their ability to fill seasonal gaps in food production; And the ‘Safety Net’ in the supply of wood and non-wood products that can be sold for income.

“Both direct and indirect food, forest and tree products are often the only resources for women and other marginalized groups in crisis and are key resources to reduce their vulnerability,” the authors said.

Areas of Intervention

The authors outline four key areas for intervention to maximize the multifaceted benefits of involving trees and forests in dietary change. First, they recommend building on existing knowledge by adding solutions to the existing tree-based farming system. Most of these solutions have not yet been adequately measured to make a significant impact but may provide the necessary support. “This is not the case for many tree growers yet,” they write, adding that in many cases it requires reliable tree and land tenure.

“To be effective, measures to increase land security must be linked to incentives for sustainable practice, including tree care on farms.”

Drivers have also been found to be highly context-oriented to take agricultural forest action, emphasizing the need to work with them and enhancing the environmental awareness of any agricultural forest intervention.

Second, the authors recommend diverting agricultural investments from major crops to more diverse, nutritious foods.

Over the past half-century, major crops such as wheat, corn, and rice have invested billions of dollars, which has increased their productivity and reduced their purchasing value compared to nutritious foods such as fruits. Nuts and vegetables. To increase their consumption, better food choices through education and social marketing will help to increase their productivity and reduce costs in order to raise awareness of health and environmental benefits.

Third, producer and consumer incentives need to be reused for nutritious foods and more sustainable production practices. This requires policy changes, both nationally and internationally. Incentives such as direct subsidies and targeted fertilizer subsidies are now shifting production to major crops.

“These incentives should be reduced or eliminated and governments, directly or indirectly, are designed to take a closer look at dietary needs and environmental impacts,” the authors wrote.

Such subsidies can focus on the production of nutrients and the integration of trees into farms.

Fourth, food and nutrition objectives should be clearly integrated with forest rehabilitation and conservation practices and policies. The global deforestation agenda has so far taken carbon offsets. However, reforms that are too narrow – and neglect the needs of the local people – often fail. It helps to plant food trees, write authors, solve multiple goals at once, support environmental participation and sustainable livelihoods with carbon expansion.

The authors make it clear that trees and forests make a positive contribution to food and the environment around the world.

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