Sweden and Sida contribute to promoting a long-term sustainable use of forests, which contributes to securing disadvantaged people’s opportunities to make a living.
Photo: Anders Hansson
More than 90 per cent of the around 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty are directly dependent on what the forest provides for their sustenance. With development assistance from Sida, among others, their possibilities improve of using the forests in a way that reduces poverty and hunger at the same time that it enables a long-term economic growth.
The world’s forests are invaluable resources for us all. The forest dampens global climate changes and also contributes to regulating and cleaning air and water, preventing soil erosion and providing us with benefits, such as grazing, food and medicines.
The significance of the forests to production of timber and paper pulp is well-known in a country like Sweden, where a large part of the export income comes from the forest. But there are a large number of people worldwide for whom it may be a matter of survival to have access to a forest. This is particularly true of those who live in regions with widespread poverty.
Many poor people have lived near the forest for generations, without ever having owned it in a formal sense or having a formal right to use the forest or the natural resources they have cultivated. In these communities, common law has instead decided who has had the right to harvest timber, hunt, cultivate and gather food, look for fuel, get water or gather feed for livestock.
Globally, the trend is that these people’s possibilities of using the forest and the natural resources are increasingly obstructed from many directions, which seriously impedes their possibilities of living off of the forest. Large areas of forest are cleared to make way for large-scale production of industrial crops, such as soy, palm oil and grain. Small-scale farmers are prevented from using the forest and the land in the ways they did before.
In the Western World, one wants to differentiate agriculture and forestry. For the poor people in developing countries, the dividing line is not so clear. In a household, one often has a little farming and cultivation, access to a little forest and also dispersed trees in one’s fields. For self-sustenance, one gets products from the entire landscape.
For forests and fields to lead to further economic development, besides the self-subsistent household, people must have a lasting right to use their land and not risk being evicted by the state or companies. They must also be able to afford what they need for their cultivation, knowledge to develop the business and a possibility to sell part of what they gather, make or prepare.
Support for sustainable administration at a local level
Sida contributes to promoting long-term sustainable use of forests, which makes it easier for vulnerable people to live on the forest’s resources in a longer perspective. The support goes mainly to sustainable forest production, which also includes changed forest policy, improved administration, governance and education.
Several of the programmes that Sida supports are about moving the administration of the forest resources from central authorities to the local level, closer to the people. The support goes, for example, to reforming laws and guidelines and dialogue with responsible authorities and decision makers. A local, often joint responsibility for the forest in combination with a small-scale use, where the villagers themselves decide how it should be done, has in many cases proven to be a successful way to sustainably use the forest’s resources. At the same time, it benefits poor people who are dependent on the forest for their living.
A sign of the significance of the forests to the climate is also that the world’s rich countries now pay for poor countries to slow deforestation. Among other things, Sida is involved in the global initiative REDD, which aims to reduce climate changes by getting countries to reduce their deforestation with the help of economic incentives.
Support for authorities and institutions
Moreover, Sida supports both international and national organisations that can promote economic development in Sweden’s partner countries. This can involve global advocacy work or efforts in the actual area.