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Landscape approach boosts global socio-economic benefits – experts

The need to promote sustainable development through communication across sectors.

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Cross-sector sustainable development must be promoted effectively to protect forests and livelihoods. CIFOR/Michael Padmanaba

WASHINGTON (3 July, 2013) — World leaders must take a unified view of forestry, fisheries and agricultural management to boost food and nutrition security as the global population expands to 9.6 billion by 2050, said experts meeting at a policy seminar hosted by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR).

Tackling the current “big five” development challenges — food security, climate change, biodiversity, a green economy and the post-2015 anti-poverty U.N. global development agenda — as part of a unified, landscape approach to forests is vital to ensure long-term sustainable livelihoods, said Peter Holmgren, director general of CIFOR.

“Currently, these ‘big five’ are communication silos, so we get a patchwork,” Holmgren said. “We’re moving toward the planning and implementation of multiple objectives — governance, production systems, sustainable intensification — to see how these can work at different scales.”

In the past 50 years, per capita GDP, food production, food insecurity and greenhouse gas emissions have tripled, Holmgren said, adding that although food production has increased and become less expensive in real terms, the number of people who go hungry has stayed the same.

According to U.N. food agencies, at least  870 million people go hungry and more than  2 billion suffer from micronutrient deficiency, or “hidden hunger,” while at least 1.4 billion people are obese or overweight, many suffering from such related non-communicable diseases as diabetes and heart problems.

Forests cannot be sustained if governance of natural resources is inadequate or if people are hungry, said Geeta Sethi, an economist with the World Bank.

“Hunger places a direct burden on forests when people are forced to push deeper into forested areas to grow crops; hunger and poverty again take a toll when people resort to making and selling charcoal faster than the natural rate of forest regeneration in order to buy food,” she said.

Traditional development approaches, which are often addressed sector-by-sector, are struggling to produce lasting results — issues of poverty, food security and access to energy are integrally linked, she said.

“Most of us now see landscape approaches as needed to promote sustainable development and intensification of food production systems.”


The economic cost of malnutrition is $3.5 trillion, or 5 percent of global Gross Domestic Product, said Shenggen Fan, director general of IFPRI.

Economic growth is critical to improve nutrition, he said. A 10 percent increase in GDP per capita leads to a 6 percent decrease in child stunting, IFPRI statistics show.

“What we need is sustainable intensification,” he said. “We have to use science and technology to produce more while saving water, energy and forestry.”

Poverty must be the center of sustainable development, he added, proposing a food-land-water-energy nexus approach to promote sustainable development effectively across sectors.

We need to have much better evidence to assess the impact of cross-sectoral policies – to show how the agricultural sector and natural resource use in forestry, water and energy strategic policy would affect food security and vice versa, he said

The “triple-wins” of climate-smart agriculture — productivity, adaptation and mitigation — are part of the solution, but also part of the problem, he added, noting that agriculture contributes to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

However, despite its potential harmful impacts, by careful planning and adopting the right policies, agriculture can actually help mitigate climate change while providing food for the poor and hungry, and reducing food waste that can alleviate pressure on natural resources, Fan said, proposing that policymakers could institute taxes that would be collected from unhealthy, unsustainable food and used to support healthy and sustainable food production.

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For more information on the issues discussed in this article, please contact Peter Holmgren at P.Holmgren@cgiar.org

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