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Forests and Forestry

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Forests and Forestry
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Agriculture & Rural Development 

Global Food Crisis 

At a glance:

·         Forests cover 25-30 percent of the earth’s land surface and contain about 80 percent of the world’s remaining terrestrial biodiversity. Forests help to maintain the fertility of the soil, protect watersheds, and reduce the risk of natural disasters, including floods and landslides.

·         Forests absorb about 15 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions. At the same time, deforestation and forest degradation contribute significantly to those same emissions (17.4 percent in 2004, according to the IPCC). About 13 million hectares of forests are lost worldwide each year.

·         An estimated 2 billion hectares of lost or degraded forest landscapes could be restored and rehabilitated. If those areas were to be restored to functional and productive ecosystems, they could help deliver a “triple win” by improving rural livelihoods and food security, increasing climate resilience, and helping mitigate greenhouse gases (GHG) - while taking pressure off pristine forests.

·         Forests are an important safety net for rural populations in times of economic or agricultural stress. About 350 million people who live within or close to dense forests depend on them for their subsistence and income. Of those, about 60 million people (especially indigenous communities) are wholly dependent on forests. They are key custodians of the world’s remaining intact natural forests.

·         Forests represent a source of energy in many countries. In 2005, 65 percent of the total primary energy supply in Africa came from solid biomass such as firewood and charcoal. Wood-based fuel will continue to represent a principle source of energy in low-income countries and is increasingly viewed as a “green” alternative to fossil fuels in developed countries. If supplied sustainably and used efficiently to generate heat and power, this renewable energy source could make a major contribution to reducing greenhouse gases.


Our Impact 

The World Bank Group is the largest source of multilateral financing for forests.  IBRD and IDA assistance to the forest sector totaled close to US$490 million in Fiscal Year 2012 (FY12). The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the Bank’s private sector arm, invested US$220 million in the forest products sector in the last two years. Jointly with other multilateral development banks, the World Bank also serves as an implementing agency for the Global Environment Facility ($27 million for forests in FY12) and the Forest Investment Program (about $600 million pledged).


Examples of past World Bank investment results include:

·         Doubling the amount of Brazilian Amazon forest under strict protection: The Amazon Region Protected Areas Program, supported by GEF grants, the World Bank and other partners including the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Brazilian Government, has been successful in tackling some of the daunting concerns in ecosystem protection today: enforcing environmental laws in remote areas; respecting the needs and aspirations of rural people for improved livelihoods; and valuing and funding conservation activities against a wider backdrop of ongoing resource exploitation.

·         Promoting the restoration of degraded landscapes and supporting land reform in Albania: A project that integrated forest, pasture and agriculture management in Albania (2005-2011) showed that with strong involvement of local communities, whole landscapes can recover with dramatic results. Improved forest governance, local management, small-scale investments and managed grazing measures have halted unsustainable land use, thereby reducing carbon emissions and protecting key watersheds. Incomes from forest and agriculture activities increased by 50 percent in targeted micro-catchment areas.

·         Contributing to large-scale reforestation in China: Since 1985, World Bank projects have helped establish about four million hectares of timber plantations, thereby creating jobs, reducing rural poverty, locking in carbon and relieving pressure on natural forests. The Bank also supported over the course of a decade one of the world’s largest erosion control programs which has returned the devastated Loess Plateau to sustainable agricultural production, improving the livelihoods of 2.5 million people and securing food supplies in an area where food was scarce in the past. Replanting, managed grazing and terracing increased yields and lowered their variability.


Working with partners

Although the World Bank Group is the largest source of multilateral finance for forests, its lending and grants are a drop in the bucket of funds necessary to achieve global forest goals – from conservation of dense-canopy tropical forests (where deforestation and climate change could fuel a dangerous process of dieback), to sustainable forest management and landscape restoration schemes. Because the drivers of deforestation often lie outside the forest sector, we seek to work across sectors with partners, for example, in agriculture, energy, water and mining, to define integrated, “climate-smart” solutions at the scale of entire landscapes. We also try to leverage and blend different sources of financing to tip the balance in favor of sustainable practices. For example, the Bank Group is exploring a wide range of opportunities to help developing countries reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation, and to conserve, sustainably manage and enhance forest carbon stocks. This approach, known as Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Plus (REDD+), will likely rest on a complex mix of multilateral and bilateral assistance, civil society efforts, private sector initiatives and carbon markets.


The Bank’s approach has been to prepare and pilot different REDD+ initiatives through partnerships. The Bank serves as the Trustee and the Secretariat of the Forest Carbon Partnership Facility (FCPF), a global partnership that is helping countries draft REDD+ readiness plans and will provide carbon payments to countries that meet certain targets. The Bank is also  the implementing organization, together with other multilateral development banks, of the Forest Investment Program (FIP), and is financing pilot investments for reforestation and soil carbon through the BioCarbon Fund, a public-private initiative that mobilizes resources for pioneering projects that deliver emission reductions, while promoting biodiversity conservation and poverty alleviation (see for example, the re-greening of the Great Rift Valley in Ethiopia). Those interventions, blended with more conventional World Bank lending activities, are converging to create transformative change in the forest and broader rural sector in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo or Mexico.


The private sector and individuals play a key role in shaping tomorrow’s landscape. In order to succeed, our initiatives must benefit first and foremost the indigenous peoples, forest-dependent communities and smallholder farmers who depend on natural resources for their survival and livelihood. The Bank encourages responsible corporate investments across the forest products supply chain through the IFC, and aims to create a more level playing field for legitimate forest-sector enterprises by providing technical assistance in the area of forest law enforcement and governance. Work in this area also includes application of Bank safeguard policies and IFC performance standards in projects that affect forests. 


The Bank’s reach is further amplified through the knowledge it shares with partners. For example, the Program on Forests (PROFOR), a multi-donor partnership housed at the Bank, convened private investors and policy makers in Nairobi in May 2011 to mobilize additional investment in trees and landscape restoration in Africa. Recent analytical work has included Forest Governance 2.0, a primer on the use of ICTs in forest governance, and guidance on making sure that REDD+ schemes benefit communities that depend on forests the most.

 Amy Stilwell 202/458-4906,


Updated August 2012  

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