The White Paper “Non-wood forest products for people, nature and the green economy. Recommendations for policy priorities in Europe” was officially launched at a side event of the joint Session of the UNECE Committee on Forests and the Forest Industry and the 41st FAO European Forestry Commission (EFC).
The side event, co-organised by FAO and the European Forest Institute on 23 November, took place during European Forest Week and was attended by over 100 global policymakers and forest experts. The event focussed on the key contributions of non-wood forest products (NWFP) to socio-economic development in Europe in support of a transition towards a green economy, and on the key actions needed to further enhance their contribution to the European Green Deal and other core policy objectives.
Mette Wilkie, Director of FAO’s Forestry Division, opened the session by warmly encouraging the potential contribution of NWFP to address global challenges and support communities worldwide. Representing EFI, Deputy Director Robert Mavsar charted progress from the days when NWFP were considered to offer merely a minor contribution in this respect, and how European funded projects such as StarTree and INCREDIBLE have helped raise the profile on the wealth offered by these wild forest products. Finally, Guillermo Fernández Centeno, General Director of Forest & Forestry at Spain’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Environment gave insights into a rich history of bioeconomy in rural areas and the need to recover this today, while underlining data collection as a crucial issue to support growth.
The White Paper “Non-wood forest products for people, nature and the green economy. Recommendations for policy priorities in Europe”, co-published earlier this year by EFI and FAO, was introduced by lead author Inazio Martinez de Arano, Head of EFI’s Mediterranean Facility and Sven Walter, FAO’s Forestry Forest Products Team leader.
There followed four interventions from panellists, each focussing on a different aspect of the Paper.
Davide Pettenella, Professor at the Land, Environment, Agriculture and Forestry department (TESAF) at University of Padova (Italy) centred on innovation through policies, describing key policy action in Italy to promote NWFP.
Conceição Santos Silva, Coordinator of Research, Demonstration and Innovation at UNAC, the Mediterranean Forest Union (Portugal) focussed on the cork value chain as a key contribution to healthy landscapes and resilient livelihoods.
Anastasiya Timoshyna, Senior Programme Coordinator for Sustainable Trade at TRAFFIC presented voluntary standards and certification as a tool to promote sustainable and beneficial trade in wild NWFPs.
Ismail Belen, Senior Agriculture and Forests Expert, General Directorate of Nature Conservation and National Parks of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests in Turkey presented the country’s national programmes for NWFPs.
There were clearly many questions and issues to discuss, raised by the active meeting participants throughout the course of the event. An opportunity to continue the conversation will follow in the near future with a joint EFI-FAO session at the 7th Mediterranean Forest Week in March 2022. The session, still under development, will focus on the steps needed to unlock the contribution of NWFP to sustainable development in the Mediterranean region.
The online meeting was brought to a close with a view to the future by Chadi Mohanna, Director of the Rural Development and Natural Resources Directorate at the Ministry of Agriculture in Lebanon and the current Chair of the FAO Committee on Mediterranean Forestry Questions, Silva Mediterranea. Dr Mohanna gave an encouraging outlook with several clear take home messages. Indeed, it is for us all to reflect on what each of us and our organisations can do to further promote the sustainable consumption and production of NWFP, as the possibilities presented in this short snapshot session promise that the products of our forests could really provide a wealth of opportunities, if we can get the policies right.