Sweden and Sida are helping to promote the long-term sustainable usage of forests that contributes to ensuring vulnerable people’s ability to provide for themselves using the forests’ resources.

Photo: Anders Hansson

agriculture and food security


Updated: 15 December 2014

More than 90 per cent of estimated 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty are dependent on forests for their livelihood. Development assistance from organisations such as Sida increases their chances to use forests in a way that also promotes long-term economic development.

The world’s forests are precious resources for all of us. In recent times, the importance of forests in mitigating global climate change has been well documented. Forests also contribute to regulating and cleaning water supplies, preventing soil erosion and providing us with food and medicine.

The importance of forests in production of timber and pulp is well recognised in a country like Sweden, where much of the export income comes from forests. However, there are many people around the world for whom access to forest is a means of survival. This particularly applies to those living in regions with widespread poverty. Many of them have been living close to forests for generations, having never been granted formal ownership or usufruct rights over the natural resources they had been using. It is rather customary law that determines who has the right to collect wood, hunt, gather food, look for fuel, fetch water or feed cattle.

The Mangrove is an important kind of forest in coastal areas of tropical countries. They are extremely critical for resilience* and for prevention of coastal erosion. They also contribute to food production, as they are birth places for most of the coastal fish species. For those who have access to arable land, forests might serve as an additional resource to fall back on in the event of a bad harvest.

If forests and other natural resources are to contribute to economic development, those who use them must receive payment for what they gather, manufacture or repair.

Supporting sustainable management at a local level

Sida contributes to promotion of a long-term sustainable use of forests that help people living in poverty earn their living from that resource. This support is mainly allocated to creating a sustainable forestry sector, including related politics, administration, governance and education.

Several of the programmes supported by Sida are about decentralising the management of forest resources, including legislation and guidelines, as well as dialogue with responsible authorities and decision makers. The combination of a local and shared responsibility over natural resources, small-scale use and the right of the local community to set the rules, has proved to be a successful way for sustainable use of forest resources. At the same time, it is beneficial for people living in poverty who depend on forests for their livelihoods.

Another indication that there is awareness about the role of forests in climate change is that the world’s wealthy countries now fund those with few resources to hold back deforestation. Sida is a part of the global REDD initiative that works to reduce climate change by giving financial incentives to countries to supress their deforestation.

Support to authorities and institutions

Sida supports both international and national organisations that promote economic development in Sweden’s partner countries. This might include raising awareness globally, or funding interventions in relevant areas.


* Resilience is the long-term ability for a system to cope with change and continue to evolve.

Page owner: Communication Unit

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