Earth's Forests Are Vanishing at a Slower Pace, FAO Says

  • Legislation, management, better policies helping forests
  • Forested area size of South Africa still lost since 1990

The world’s forests are disappearing at a slower pace as protection and management by governments improve, a United Nations agency said.

“We’re making progress,” Jose Graziano da Silva, director general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization said Monday in the South African coastal city of Durban. “The net rate of global deforestation has slowed by more than 50 percent over the past 25 years.”

Forest loss has slowed from almost 0.18 percent in the early 1990s to 0.08 percent during the period from 2010 to 2015, helped by stronger legislation, monitoring of resources and a greater involvement by local communities in developing policies, Graziano da Silva said as the 14th World Forestry Conference started in the city. Even so, total land area under forests has declined to 30.6 percent from 31.6 percent in 1990, the loss of an area almost equivalent in size to South Africa, he said.

“The direction of change is positive, but we need to do better,” he said. Most of the lost forests are in South America and Africa, he said.

The conference, held every six years, is taking place in Africa for the first time. African Union Commission Chairwoman Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma saidgovernments on the continent should ensure their economic development plans integrate the needs of farming and forestry. Citing reforestation efforts in the Sahel, the semi-arid region that stretches across West Africa, Dlamini-Zuma said African states are working to repair the land and called on governments to embrace modern agri-forestry practices.

“We need a new industrial revolution that doesn’t repeat the mistakes of the past,” Dlamini-Zuma said. “We’re moving beyond the old practices of cutting down trees and planting the land with crops in an unsustainable fashion.”