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Q&A: Better data needed on forest benefits

Case-studies, surveys and reports needed to support the importance of forest to livelihoods.
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Women in Jepara's teak forest area harvest ground nuts, Central Java, Indonesia, June, 2009.
Women in Jepara’s teak forest area harvest ground nuts, Central Java, Indonesia, June, 2009.

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BOGOR, Indonesia — Apart from employment figures, governments have very little sound data on the exact number of people benefiting from forests, a new report says.

The recently released report, “The State of the World’s Forests,” reveals that the formal forest sector employs some 13.2 million people and that at least another 41 million are employed in the informal sector.

However, the number of people using forest resources for food, energy and shelter is suspected to be in the billions, while an unknown number of people may benefit indirectly from the environmental services provided by forests, according to the annual report, which is produced by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Better measurement is crucial for understanding the overall value of forest services and how best to manage them, according to Adrian Whiteman, an economist with FAO.

“We often say that forests are very important for particular groups — the rural poor, indigenous people and, in some respects, women — and we back up these statements with references to various case-studies, surveys and reports,” Whiteman said. “These studies are often fascinating, but they are of little use for setting priorities.”

Whiteman recently discussed some of the findings of the report with Forests News. Read the full interview here.

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