Plantations or Forests? A Call to Action

Have you ever thought about it?

It’s amazing how the meaning of a word can influence its use in our day to day lives. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has been called out on its definition of the word ‘Forests.’

Two Malaysian NGOs have joined about 200 organisations worldwide in lobbying the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations to amend its “misleading” definition of forests which they say has allowed ecologically destructive plantations to burgeon.

Their arguments are:
• The industry has gotten away with classifying monoculture plantations of fast-growing species as “forests” because a forest is defined only by the number, height and canopy cover of trees over an area;
• The FAO forest definition has been used as a blueprint for over 200 national and international forest definitions since 1948;
• Under the guise of this FAO forest definition, the industry has been able to expand fast, especially in the global South, where monoculture tree plantations now cover some several tens of millions of hectares of land;
• It said up to 60% of the cleared land was rapidly converted to plantations. It also cited the oil palm industry as the major driver of deforestation;
• The destruction caused when diverse forests, grasslands and peat lands overflowing with life are converted into ‘green deserts’ made up of monoclonal trees is hidden.

According to Guadalupe Rodríguez of Salva la Salva (Rainforest Rescue), a South American environmental movement, the revision of the FAO definition had become more demanding following the adoption of the UN Paris Agreement on climate change in late 2015.

“It would be a tragedy if the misleading FAO definition makes expansion of these damaging tree monocultures eligible for climate funds earmarked for ‘reforestation’ and ‘forest restoration’,” he said.

The two Malaysian NGOs as well as the 200 groups who signed the letter sent today to the FAO in conjunction with the UN’s International Day of Forests today, joined more than 130,000 groups and individuals who had in 2015 called on the FAO to make the amendment.

The letter is a Call to Action to the FAO to redefine and cease identifying plantations as forests.


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