The United Nations’ World Day to Combat Desertification (WDCD) is observed on June 17 every year. This year’s theme focuses on the “attainment of food security for all through sustainable food systems.”
Desertification refers to the persistent degradation of dryland ecosystems by human activities — including unsustainable farming, mining, overgrazing and clear-cutting of land — and by climate change.
Model Forests contribute to local, regional and global food security by strengthening local engagement and participatory governance over the natural resources within their territories. The link between governance and food security is about making better choices based upon robust, informed discussion and collaboration among stakeholders.
Some examples of sustainable food systems in Model Forests include:
In the Araucarias del Alto Malleco Model Forest (Chile) where a high concentration of Araucariaaraucana trees are found, early Model Forest activities focused on inventorying the forest and assessing its condition. This work lead to the identification and development of market opportunities for piñon products (the nut of the Auracaria tree). Building on these successes, the Model Forest implemented a project focused on broader non-timber forest product (NTFP) development, which also included mushrooms and rosehips. The project is enhancing the capacity of local producers to create new products and bring them to regional, national and international markets. The NTFP activities supported by the Model Forest are part of a long-term initiative aimed at improving the livelihoods of local community members, including youth and women, through alternative income generation while contributing to the sustainable management of the larger landscape and the natural resources found there.
Once abundant in Cameroon’s forests, giant African snails were consumed only by village elders, a convention that protected the snails from over-harvesting and helped guarantee the continuity of the species. Today, however, snails are much in demand because they are high in protein and the amino acid lysine (sold in supplement form for its various health benefits). A heliciculture project (the raising of snails) has been initiated in the Campo Ma’an Model Forest with the aim of protecting giant African snails and providing an alternative source of food and income for local residents, which in turn reduces poaching. Raising snails also helps to promote the proliferation of earth worms, further enriching the soil and contributing to its conservation efforts. Research on the giant African snails is continuing in the Campo Ma’an Model Forest, as is further exploration of ways to sustainably develop heliciculture in order to benefit local communities.
Truffles are the most valuable NTFP in Croatia’s River Mirna Basin Model Forest, providing a living income for approximately 1000 families in the area. Their reproduction is slow and unpredictable making them a highly sought after ingredient for experienced chefs the world over. Historically, NTFPs have been gathered with little or no attempt at deliberate management and the exploitation of truffles is no exception. The increasing number of illegal truffle hunters, inadequate legislation and unsustainable collection practices has led to the devastation of this precious mushroom in Croatia. As the most valuable NTFP in the region, with production valued in the multi-millions of dollars, the Model Forest has developed a Sustainable Truffle Strategy that will enable the continued growth of truffles in this region while protecting its habitat and raising its commercial value.
NTFPs are an attractive resource in many Model Forests as they can contribute to the sustainable development of an area and provide an often needed alternative source of employment in forest-dependent communities.
The IMFN Secretariat published theInternational Model Forest Network Recipe Book – Featuring Non-Timber Forest Products from Model Forests around the World. Thanks to the Model Forest participants who graciously provided recipes and photos, the book highlights an eclectic mix of recipes including main courses, sides, desserts and beverages…all using plants found in Model Forests throughout the IMFN. The recipe book is a digital publication only; PDFs in English, French and Spanish are attached and it can be accessed online at http://www.imfn.net/publications. There is a wealth of NTFPs that originate in Model Forests and this recipe book is a celebration of the sustainable management of our natural resources.
Whether through harvesting natural sources, small scale farming or increasing capacity to process or transform NTFPs, Model Forests provide a forum where the challenges around sustainable food security can be addressed in a collaborative manner, often producing results no single person or organization could achieve on their own.
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