March 3rd, 2017

Indigenous peoples are key to protecting wildlife and rural livelihoods

Local communities need support to mitigate conflicts between people and wildlife

Rome - Actively involving indigenous peoples and local communities in wildlife conservation is key to maintaining biodiversity and ensuring sustainable rural livelihoods, FAO said on the occasion of World Wildlife Day.

The urgent challenges that the world faces in maintaining biodiversity worldwide requires that indigenous peoples are empowered to act at the national level with assistance from the international community, FAO said.

“The cultures of indigenous peoples and local communities involve the stewardship of wildlife. They simply cannot imagine their life divorced from nature and their interest in the sustainable use of resources is strong,” said Eva Müller, Director of FAO’s Forestry Policy and Resources Division. “Empowerment of these groups combined with their knowledge and long-term planning skills is essential to ensure the survival of future generations – of both humans and wildlife”.

The relationship between humans and wildlife is highlighted in a new edition of FAO’s quarterly forestry publication Unasylva.  The publication is jointly produced by the Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management (CPW), comprising 14 international organizations and secretariats, including FAO.

The publication cites several case studies from various countries to illustrate how indigenous peoples can optimize the benefits for their livelihoods while also safeguarding wildlife, provided they are given the rights to make their own decisions in the territories they inhabit.

In the northern part of Mount Kenya, for instance, the Il Lakipiak Maasai (“People of Wildlife”) own and operate the only community-owned rhino sanctuary in the country. These indigenous peoples have managed to alleviate the human – wildlife conflicts that arise in the area due to the intrusion of wild animals searching for water, prey and pasture during drought. They achieved this by reducing bush-cutting to ensure more fodder for wildlife on their lands. Through this conservation strategy, indigenous peoples have demonstrated that they can coexist harmoniously with wildlife while supporting their own pastoral lives and cultures.

Finding ways leading humans and wildlife to a mutually beneficial co-existence

Several wildlife species may cause significant damage to crops and livestock systems, threatening peoples’ food security, safety and well-being. In extreme cases, attacks by wildlife species such as elephants and crocodiles can cause human injuries and death, the publication noted.

Human-wildlife conflicts have become more frequent and severe particularly in Africa, due to increasing competition for land in previously wild and uninhabited areas. This is often the result of human population growth, increasing demand for natural resources, and growing pressure for access to land, such as expansion of transport routes, agriculture and industries.

More specifically, the publication stresses that in central and southern Africa, wildlife and people will continue to share landscapes and resources with conflicts likely to worsen unless actions are taken.

In view of this, FAO, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development (CIRAD) and other partners have developed the first Human-Wildlife Conflict (HWC) toolbox, which has helped a local community in Gabon’s Cristal Mount National Park.

Local farmers in this area were particularly frustrated by the fact that animals such as cane rats, roan antelopes, bush pigs and elephants, were destroying their entire crops, and thus threatening their livelihoods. At the same time, laws prohibited these farmers from taking action by hunting the protected animals either for meat or to protect their crops.

Solutions offered by the toolkit included fencing the plantations to block animals from reaching the crops, lighting fires or making noises to scare the animals away, and posting guards to keep watch on plantations at night – measures that were relatively easy and inexpensive to implement.

Trophy hunting could benefit rural poor and wildlife

The publication also touches upon the controversy over trophy hunting, arguing that, if well managed, it can play a positive role in supporting conservation as well as livelihoods of poor people in rural areas. It says that the impact of blanket bans on trophy hunting can be detrimental for indigenous peoples and the environment, and that a more nuanced approach is needed.

In many contexts, trophy hunting overlaps with hunting for food. Many deer hunters, for example, may hunt animals with larger antlers as trophies, but if they cannot find these, they will hunt others for meat.

In addition, benefits to land owners from hunting can make wildlife an attractive land-use option, encouraging them to maintain and restore wildlife habitat and populations and carry out anti-poaching activities.

For example, in the Pamirs in Tajikistan, trophy-hunting concessions for wild sheep and goats are showing higher densities of the threatened snow leopard than in nearby areas without trophy hunting. This is likely due to higher prey densities and reduced poaching.

There are valid concerns about legality, sustainability and ethics of some hunting practices, and the contributions of trophy hunting to the livelihoods of local communities and wildlife vary enormously by context and region.

In some cases, there may be feasible alternatives to trophy hunting that can deliver the same benefits for wildlife and people, but identifying and implementing these requires engagement with national governments, the private sector and communities, the publication concludes.

Source: FAO

November 22nd, 2016

“Coherent coordination” is key to achieving Sustainable Development Goals

Head of UN’s ECOSOC visits FAO to emphasize how agencies must leverage expertise in pursuit of common goals

The “truly universal, comprehensive and inspirational” nature of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development puts a premium on “system wide coherence and coordination” across all United Nations agencies, the head of the UN’s Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) said today at a meeting in Rome.

“More than ever, the UN system will be required to leverage on the distinct expertise and comparative advantages of its parts in order to ensure cohesion and avoid duplication in implementing this cross cutting Agenda,” said Frederick Musiiwa Makamure Shava, who is Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the United Nations as well as head of ECOSOC, a governance organ in change of coordinating work done by specialist agencies.

He spoke at an informal seminar attended by permanent representatives to FAO as well as officials from the World Food Program and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

FAO’s work in areas such as food security and nutrition, agriculture, livestock, fisheries and forestry go well beyond the cardinal objective of eradicating hunger and are critical “for the achievement of the entire Agenda,” Shava said.

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, opening the meeting, agreed that the “overlapping and closely interconnected” nature of the Sustainable Development Goals will require closer and more coherent collaboration among all partners, including within the UN system.

FAO has also agreed to support a preparatory meeting on agroindustry in Victoria Falls,  Zimbabwe, early next year.

Fostering inclusive value chains for smallholder farmers in developing countries, and more decent employment in rural areas, is a cornerstone of FAO’s approach on the ground. It also converges with Shava’s choice to make sustainable industrialization the thematic focus of his ECOSOC presidency.

Monitoring progress on the SDGs

FAO has already overhauled some of its internal processes and intends to further bolster and streamline its contributions to the 2030 Agenda through the creation of a new senior post in charge of coordinating SDG implementation activities.

While ECOSOC is tasked with making sure that efforts to fulfill the SDGs are on track, FAO is the custodian for 21 of the indicators to be used to measure progress.

Graziano da Silva said FAO intends to create a new Office of the Chief Statistician to be in charge of that project and work under the new Deputy Director-General for Programmes. In recognition of the cross-cutting challenges the SDGs present, FAO has organized staff efforts around five goal-oriented strategic programme leadership teams to complement its traditional disciplinary divisions.

“FAO is strongly aware of the importance of deepening our collaboration with other organisms of the UN system, especially between the three Rome-based agencies,” Graziano da Silva said, noting that FAO, WFP and IFAD have produced a joint paper to guide their actions in this regard and will jointly present it to countries before the end of the year.

At the same time, FAO supports the role specialized agencies can play in the UN system, considering specific mandates and expertise to represent forms of comparative advantage.


October 22nd, 2016

Uganda: UN Official Warns of Severe Hunger, Poverty Over Deforestation

By Paul Tajuba

Entebbe — A top United Nations official has warned that poverty and hunger will continue to plague the country if the current rate of deforestation is not tamed.

Ms Almaz Gebru, the United Nations Coordinator, who also doubles as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Uganda Country Director, said weather patterns are changing for the worse and there is no way millions of Ugandans trapped in poverty and suffer from hunger, will be relieved if natural resources continue to be depleted.

“Poverty and hunger will persist when we do not use our natural resources including forests in a sustainable manner,” Ms Gebru said in a speech read on her behalf by Mr UN Food and Agriculture Organisation country representative, Dr Alhajji Jallow.

“With faltering weather patterns, failing seasons and destroyed biodiversity, we will only become our own enemies,” she added.

This was at the Reducing of Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation and the role of conservation of biodiversity, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of carbon stocks (REDD+) policy dialogue in Entebbe, Wakiso District.

The dialogue that attracted Members of Parliament on Agriculture and Natural Resources committees is seeking to create awareness creation about REDD+ and progress on Forest Reference Emission Levels (FRELs)

According to FAO report released early this year, at least four million people were food insecure and even those who had food, they eat of unbalances.

A joint Water and Environment Sector Review Report (2016), indicated that the deforestation had decimated forest cover from 24 per cent in 1990 to a mere 11 per cent in 2015.

Mr Paul Mafabi, the director of environment affairs of the Ministry who represented Water and Environment minister Sam Cheptoris said the country has a target to plant 200 million trees by 2020.

“Uganda’s desire for Greening Economy and forest landscape restoration (FLR) is the long-term process of regaining ecological functionality and enhancing human wellbeing across deforested or degraded landscapes,” Mr Cheptoris said.

UN Food and Agriculture Organisation country representative, Dr Alhajji Jallow talks to Tororo Municipality MP Ofwono Yeri and Treasury Parliamentary Forum on Climate Change.


July 22nd, 2016

COFO remarks on forests, wildlife and food security

Key Events from COFO23: World Forest Week include an admission about the undeniable links between forests, wildlife and food security.

This from the summary of key events from COFO23 (

For the communities living in and around forests, wildlife – from large mammals to insects – has always been a major source of nutritious food. Its consumption also ensures that forest peoples are not vulnerable to debilitating micronutrient deficiencies. However, as evidence presented by a panel at a WFW5 event and Tree Talk suggests, in many parts of the world hunting wildlife for food has become unsustainable, with implications for food security, ecosystems and human health.

A host of factors renders wildlife’s role as a future source of dietary protein and micronutrients highly uncertain: demographic increases; the progressive conversion of wildlife habitats to agricultural crop production; growing illegal wildlife trade as a result of increasing urbanization; and higher levels of household wealth with consequent greater demand for animal protein. This calls for new thinking about wildlife conservation while ensuring the wellbeing of indigenous forest peoples. It includes ensuring that these peoples’ exclusive territorial and wildlife hunting rights, which are threatened by unregulated trade, and their cultural identity are respected.

However, to make wildlife and the forest communities that depend on it sustainable requires robust policy coordination and regulatory measures across the sectors covering forests, wildlife and nutrition, the event suggested. Tree Talk moderator David Wilkie said this means striking a balance between wildlife conservation and its use in three ways: respecting and protecting the legitimate rights of indigenous peoples living in intact forests; increasing the supply of domestic sources of animal protein for families living in towns within tropical forests; and halting the luxury consumption of wild meat in urban areas.

FAO and its partners will move forward to promote action in this vein.

Read more at the websites of the Collaborative Partnership on Sustainable Wildlife Management and FAO Forestry non-wood forest products.

July 21st, 2016

New tool for managing the fuel needs of displaced populations

Rome – A FAO-UNHCR handbook offers a new tool for helping displaced people access fuel for cooking food while reducing environmental damage and conflicts with local communities.

At the end of 2015, over 65 million people worldwide were displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, generalised violence or human rights violations, many living in refugee camps or improvised settlements, according to UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency.

Fuel for cooking food is a critical resource for displaced people as well as the communities that host them, crucial to their food security and nutrition.

But growing numbers of refugees and displaced people often puts pressure on forests, due to rising demand for biomass fuel such as wood and charcoal. Left unmanaged, this increased competition for natural resources can lead to conflicts with local populations.

And overexploitation of forest resources for fuel purposes can lead to forest degradation or deforestation in areas surrounding the camps.

There are other risks as well.

Respiratory illness from cooking over open flames or using inefficient cooking technologies are another cause for concern in displaced communities. Where wood is scarce, people sometimes spend their wages or sell off food rations to buy fuel. Undercooking or skipping meals due to an inadequate supply of cooking fuel can also be a problem.

A step-by-step method for a careful assessment

The new technical handbook, “Assessing woodfuel supply and demand in displacement settings” contains a methodology that humanitarian workers and camp managers can use when tackling such issues.

The handbook outlines a step by step process for assessing energy needs and the nature and availability of local fuelwood sources and using geographic information system and remote sensing data to map the distribution and changes over time of woody biomass resources.

The methodology relies on field inventory data and high-resolution satellite images and relevant technical and socio-economic data that permit an in-depth assessment of woodfuel supply and demand dynamics.

One of the places it was field-tested is the Shimelba camp in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, which was established in 2004 and now hosts 6,000 people with very limited access to natural resources.

As wood is becoming increasingly scarce in this area, residents need to walk long distances – sometimes up to 9 hours – to gather fuelwood. The local population is reportedly unhappy about the situation and refugee women, in particular, have expressed concern for their safety during fuelwood collection.

A guide to better informed-decision making

In the case of the Shimelba camp, the assessment process showed a degradation of forest and shrub resources. The methodology also helped camp managers to estimate stocks of above-ground woody biomass available and anticipate variations of these stocks.

According to the authors, the information yielded by the methodology enables camp managers and other field-based actors to take better informed decisions. The data collected can be used to monitor fuel consumption and evaluate trends, support decisions to boost afforestation and reforestation activities or to introduce changes to how fuel is sourced or used – for example with the introduction of alternative fuel and more efficient cooking technologies.

The handbook notes that fuelwood can be supplied through a variety of tree and forest systems, such as mixed forest plantations, or through integrated food energy systems that produce both food and energy, such as agro-forestry or multiple cropping systems.

FAO will continue to help refugees and internally displaced persons on the ground in collaboration with UNHCR by providing technical advice. Building people’ resilience to threats and crises is a core priority for the Organization.