“Forests and trees outside forests contribute to food and income security through consumption or sale of forestry products. This programme advocates for food security policies that are cognizant of the ecosystems. The aim is not only to alleviate hunger in the short term but also ensure the capacity of ecosystems to support long-term food security in the face of shocks and stresses,” said David Phiri, FAO's Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa, and FAO Representative in Zimbabwe.
60 000 vulnerable families to benefit
Forests have important multiple functions which are critical to the livelihoods of poor rural communities. These include: forest foods, fodder, shelter, medicines, timber, other construction materials as well as firewood for energy. Since most the agriculturally marginal areas are well endowed with forests and trees outside forests, it is imperative to integrate agriculture with sustainable forest management and agroforestry to improve food security and food availability, particularly among the vulnerable communities living in these areas.
The programme is targeting 60 000 vulnerable households in selected districts within the provinces of Mashonaland East, Manicaland, Matabeleland south and Matabeleland north. “These regions are characterized by low crop productivity, and are vulnerable to climatic shocks and adverse environmental conditions. They are also the areas where forest management and agroforestry initiatives have a huge potential to increase and diversify sources of food and income for small-scale farmers, thereby increasing their resilience to shocks,” said Mr Phiri.
Getting the communities involved
The focus on participatory forest management ensures that all stakeholders play an active role. Participatory sustainable forest management results in improved management of forest resources, reduction in conflicts and incidences of forest fires and enhances production of forest products and contributes to poverty reduction. The resulting increased benefits to communities will motivate them to sustainably manage their forest resources.
The action will facilitate the formulation of an enabling policy and legal framework, using applied research and will help communities to increase and diversify sources of food and income from forests and trees. This will be done through:
• Formulation of a national forest programme;
• Aligning of forest policies and laws with communities’ needs;
• Generating diversified sources of income through integration of forestry and agro-forestry activities into existing agricultural activities;
• Strengthening and establishing market linkages between communities and the private sector dealing in forestry products;
• Improving the management of Forest fires and pests.
FAO will manage the programme while implementation will be done in partnership with the Centre for Applied Social Sciences (CASS), Environment Africa, Practical Action, Southern Alliance for Indigenous Resources (Safire), and Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (ZELA).