The following are 12 key recommendations resulting from the technical and plenary sessions. These are formulated to the attention of governments and all actors, public and private, the Rio platforms and conventions (CBD, UNFCCC, UNCCD), trade related bodies and international organizations, to consider them as overarching global recommendations for strategic orientations under which specific action plans would need to be elaborated with stakeholders in diverse national and regional contexts. References in the below text concern research undertaken by, or with contribution from, the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry and are available from its open database.
1. Protect forests and acknowledge their contributions to biodiversity conservation, climate change action and sustainable food systems
Forests are a major reservoir of biodiversity worldwide. They are an important source of food for many communities all over the world. Not only do they provide wild fruits, leaves, nuts and mushrooms – they also provide homes for game animals, insects and fish that are key sources of nutrients for vulnerable populations. They are a main source of energy for cooking as well as for the provision of renewable packaging materials. Their indirect role in food production is equally important; forests provide important ecosystem services for agriculture – pest control, pollination services, water regulation, flood prevention and soil enrichment. These important benefits of forests – including bamboo forests – need to be better understood, appreciated and recognized in land planning, management and policies so that forests are no longer seen as barriers to food production, but as key components of sustainable food systems. More research, development and policy work on the contribution of Non-Timber Forest Products (NTFPs) towards sustainable development, and how to protect the forest resource that sustains NTFPs is required to leverage the true value of forest products to rural communities.
2. Support forest and landscape restoration
It is estimated that, at the global level, up to 25% of all land (forests, cropland, rangelands and grassland) is highly degraded and 36% is slightly or moderately degraded. Degraded land provide fewer ecosystem services, contribute to and exacerbate the effects of climate change and biodiversity loss, and are less productive, causing hunger, poverty and conflicts, which in turn further drives deforestation and land degradation in an effort to compensate for lost productivity. Restoring and sustainably managing land is needed to improve the environmental, economic and social sustainability of food systems. Secondary and degraded forests show huge potential for restoration to improve both biodiversity and productivity goals[23,24]. Fast-growing species like bamboo can provide bioenergy and biomaterials for renewable food packaging. Fungi can play an important role for soil reclamation and remediation. Forest and landscape restoration requires collaborative long-term action between multiple actors, including the government and private sector, driven by needs and priorities of local actors that depend on and manage the land. This requires specific care in governance, participatory management and attention to the right set of tree species for restoration, favouring indigenous species in conjunction with proper adapted species, seed and planting material quality, and diversity[28,29]. Care must also be taken with the use of non-native species to prevent tree-invasions. Appropriate decision support tools and more accurate assessments of costs and benefits of specific restoration interventions should facilitate implementation. Landscape approaches involving local communities shall be adopted in ecological restoration in order to meet not only environmental needs but also social and economic needs.
3. Promote agroecological transformation
Agroecological approaches can play an important role in the transition to sustainable food systems. They are based on the principles of: input reduction; renewable inputs; better use of ecological processes and the biodiversity underpinning them; preservation of plant, animal and soil health; diversification; synergy; co-creation of knowledge; social values; better connectivity between farmers and consumers; equitable governance and participation. Agroecological transitions are conducive to preserving biodiversity, to leveraging the role of biodiversity for farmers and helping to reconnect producers and consumers. Many of these transitions can leverage the role of trees and improve biodiversity. These transitions at scale require, in many contexts, to reform policies and install a proper enabling environment, technical support, market incentives and regulations.
4. Recognize and promote the benefits of diversity from field and landscape to systems and diets
Diversity in production systems, from plot to landscape scales, contributes to the conservation of biodiversity, allows for better, more adaptive use of natural resources and provides livelihood opportunities for women and vulnerable social groups. It is an essential component of the resilience of landscapes, farming systems and households to shocks, whatever their origin: climatic, biological (pests and diseases), anthropogenic (land use change) or economic (price volatility). Landscape and agricultural diversity is key to ensuring balanced and healthy diets. The considerable pressure for simplification, driven by economies of scale and by the industrialization and standardization processes from production to transformation and distribution, needs to be counteracted by efficient measures that preserve and foster diversity across all food systems, from production to consumption.
5. Leverage the full potential of trees on farms for agrobiodiversity, ecosystem services, resilience and productivity and to meet national and global biodiversity targets
Trees in agro-ecosystems play a critical role in contributing to biodiversity conservation in agricultural landscapes through in-situ conservation, by providing habitats to wild species, connecting fragmented habitats and providing steppingstones between protected area networks. Trees and forest patches are also useful and profitable to farmers as they provide a range of goods and services for soil health and fertility along with fuelwood, management of pest and diseases, erosion control and water runoff. There is huge potential that the new biodiversity framework can leverage trees on farms to contribute to biodiversity objectives as well as resilience and the long-term environmentally sound productivity of agricultural landscapes. This will require appropriate information about agroforestry species and their uses and values, building upon local knowledge, as well as proper mainstreaming in agricultural policies, economic incentives, technical back-stopping and appropriate tree tenure regulations. It will also require investing in production, delivery and use of quality tree seeds/seedlings, as well as appropriate market development to add maximal value to the range of tree products.
6. Mainstream orphan crops into cultivation
Many tree foods found in forests are ‘orphan crops’, also called ‘neglected and underutilized species’ that have been overlooked by agricultural research and industry, but have great potential to diversify farming systems to support both human and environmental health. The application of new tree domestication, selection and breeding methods provides opportunities for modest investments to upgrade the 'status' of these 'orphan' species to mainstream them in cultivation and food systems, at the condition of being supported by enabling policies from production and markets to consumption. Broad gene pools, with new selection methods, provide rapid productivity gains, while appropriate consumer-based interventions, support local use and integration into domestic and global markets. From a scientific perspective, ethno-biological studies need to be supported to avoid the loss of knowledge on the use of orphan crops. There is need to foster a 'systems approach' to plant breeding that utilizes both novel and traditional methods to meet the call for broader participation, increased emphasis on the environment, advances in biotechnology and the evolution of markets.
7. Support innovations in knowledge, technology and institutions for a resilient mountains’ future
Mountain ecosystems are hotspots of biodiversity and crucial areas for natural resources management, such as water quantity and quality, soil, nutrients, genetic resources and adaptation to climate change. They are also particularly vulnerable to global change, climate change, anthropogenic pressures, land-use change and inappropriate management. How mountains are managed often conditions the environmental and productive health of landscapes downstream, including resilience to climate change. Due to their specificity, mountain communities have developed identities, cultures and livelihoods that are strongly connected to the land and ecosystems, often involving knowledge and practices formed over thousands of years of holistic land, farm and forest experience. There is a potential to combine local knowledge and scientific research to support innovations in knowledge, technologies, approaches, tools that can in turn strengthen practices, policies and institutions for brighter and more resilient mountain futures.
8. Better mainstream biodiversity in climate change-related discussions, instruments and implementation
Climate change is a major threat to biodiversity conservation (including to biodiversity hotspots) and ecosystem services. Biodiversity conservation, sustainable management and leveraging ecosystem services (e.g. through preserving ecosystem functionality and ecosystem services provision and delivery) are essential approaches often overlooked in climate change mitigation and adaptation planning. There is a need for appropriate tools and mechanisms to monitor and assess changes in ecosystems, particularly in forests, mountains, small islands, coastal areas, Arctic zones, arid and semi-arid areas, and other highly vulnerable areas. To do so, engaging indigenous peoples and local communities, citizen science can facilitate broad observation, awareness raising and societal ownership. There is also a need for appropriately integrating biodiversity concerns and prioritizing biodiversity hotspots in climate-change-related measures. In forests, biodiversity is grounding climate-change adaptation and is key to maintaining forest health that enables long-term mitigation. In agriculture, agroforestry can help to increase the resilience of farmlands and landscapes to climatic stresses[45,46]. Forest, trees and agroforestry systems' key role in climate change adaptation and mitigation can be strengthened by better integrating biodiversity conservation and sustainable management into climate action[47,48].
9. Promote fruit, nut, vegetable and mushroom consumption and production, and leverage the potential of insects as a resource for sustainable food systems
Fruits, nuts and vegetables are among the most nutrient-dense foods, but they are under-consumed in most countries[49−51]. Mushrooms are low in calories and fat and contain modest amounts of fibre and various nutrients. Edible insects contain high-quality protein, vitamins and amino acids, and are produced with low environmental footprint. Their high food conversion rate makes them particularly interesting as a source of high-protein food and feed for sustainable food systems. The gathering and production of all these foods can increase and diversify income, particularly for smallholders. This requires a reorientation of agricultural and food policies, and the growth and diversification of the agricultural markets, to fully integrate the specificities and benefits provided by the production of fruits, nuts, vegetables and mushrooms, and to leverage the potential of insects as a resource for food systems.
10. Understand, recognize, support and draw lessons from indigenous culture, traditional production systems and indigenous food systems
Indigenous food systems, including the knowledge and values embedded in them, model the sustainable use of natural resources. Their preservation is essential to protect and sustainably manage forests, biodiversity and other natural resources. They are wellsprings of inspiration for effecting a global transformation of food systems towards more sustainability in terms of values (sustainable management of resources, reduced waste, social values, sharing, health linkages), responsibility (towards land and biodiversity, society, future generations) and practices. The contributions of traditional diets, rich in diverse nutritious foods, to health and sustainable food systems need to be better taken into account by all food systems actors and policy-makers, in that regard they deserve greater research investment, including ethnobiological studies, and greater promotion by public and private players. This is yet another reason why inclusive governance needs to be promoted, including care for women, Indigenous peoples and other under-represented groups in multi-stakeholder forums.
11. Harness the potential of forests, trees and agroforestry to transition to a circular bio-economy
Forests, trees, agroforestry and associated biodiversity have considerable potential for the development of bioenergy and biomaterials, including the utilization of co-products, by-products and waste. Fungi and insects can recycle tree, crop and livestock waste and transform it into feed, plant nutrients and biomaterials. Food systems are major producers of waste: food loss, non-edible waste, and food packaging (that is increasingly non-renewable and one of the main sources of plastic waste). Trees, bamboo and rattan can provide alternative sources of fibre, furniture and packaging material. Circular bioeconomy is more reliant on the cycling and recycling of bio-based natural products and residues, optimizes material fluxes, storage and processing, and reduces post-harvest losses and waste. It calls for enlarging the notion of value chains to value webs, where multi-cropping systems give rise to several products. A holistic approach to all material fluxes optimizes input/output flows in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and diversifies farm and forest revenues, thus reducing risks. It needs to be based on proper assessments for the sustainability of the resource. These developments require supportive regulations, public procurement, incentives and consumer engagement.
12. Promote instruments that facilitate joint consideration of landscapes and value chains for sustainable management of natural resources
The landscape level is where diverse land-uses and other economic activities and value chains interact. To sustainably manage natural resources and optimize the production of ecosystem goods and services, proper landscape-scale planning and management is needed, integrated together with sustainable national, regional and global value chains (including those related to trade and markets). This requires adequate knowledge and information, evidence-based, inclusive and transparent decision processes as well as management and governance mechanisms and instruments to maximize synergies and balance trade-offs between different objectives, with due consideration to inclusiveness and to social equity[61−63]. There is thus a need for appropriate mechanisms to foster sustainability across the entirety of the value chains operating in a given landscape, with special emphasis to forest-risk commodities and the related investment decisions and international trade instruments. These sustainable value-chain mechanisms need to integrate local communities concerns and landscape-specific biodiversity concerns and objectives.