Globally, one in 10 people lives on less than $1.90 per day, and if current trends continue, the World Food Programme predicts the number of hungry people will reach 840 million, or one-ninth of the world’s population, by 2030.

Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere is the top goal of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development supported by all 193 member states.

The international community is stepping up efforts to achieve the goal, especially in response to the severe setback caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and to reduce human pressure on nature.

One way to relieve the pressure and alleviate poverty is to recognize and further optimize the critical role of forests and trees as allies in the fight against poverty. In the long run, losing forests means losing this fight, based on findings of a new global assessment report.

“Forests and trees are critical to the well-being of many of the world’s poor people who have been able to harness the goods and services they provide to manage risk, especially in the face of crises,” said University of Illinois associate professor Daniel Miller, who chaired a two-year investigation by a global panel of experts that produced the report. “To secure and improve this important function, we need to adequately protect, manage and restore forests and to make forests and trees more central in policy decision-making.”

The study consolidates available scientific evidence on the wide range of contributions forests and trees make to curbing poverty and on the effectiveness of diverse forest management policies, programs, technologies and strategies.

“More extreme weather events associated with climate change, widening inequality and the spread of infectious diseases, among others, are making an already insecure situation worse for the poor. It is therefore essential to review the role of forests in development in general, and in achieving poverty eradication, in particular,” said Hiroto Mitsugi, assistant director-general and chair of the Collaborative Partnership on Forests.

The report concludes forests and trees can substantially improve human well-being and curb global poverty; although, these benefits are unevenly distributed.

In many forest and wildlife-rich countries in Africa, for example, timber and tourism are major contributors to national economic accounts, but the benefits may not accrue at the local level and, worse, local communities may bear the cost of these activities through environmental degradation and restricted access to protected areas.

Holiday spices

University of Missouri Extension horticulturist David Trinklein says a key ingredient in traditional holiday foods and beverages also had a profound influence on civilization.

Demand in Europe before and during the Renaissance led to a lucrative spice trade. When spice routes faltered due to political turmoil, European explorers sailed west in search of a shorter route to the spice-laden Indies, and the New World was discovered.

Probably the oldest and most sought-after spice in history is cinnamon.

Ancient Egyptians used it to embalm the dead, and it remains a common component of incense used in sacred ceremonies. Cinnamon was first widely used in food preparation in medieval Europe.

Cinnamon comes from the bark of several species of tropical evergreens native to Asia. After the outer bark is scraped off the harvested branches, the inner bark is removed in sections that tend to curl into sticks as they dry. Bark that does not curl properly is made into ground cinnamon.

Nutmeg comes from the seed of a tropical evergreen tree native to Indonesia’s Molucca Archipelago, also known as the Spice Islands.

While nutmeg comes from the egg-shaped seed, mace is derived from the seed’s dried, lacy covering. Most consider nutmeg the sweeter of the two, but mace is regarded to have a more delicate flavor.

The Moluccas also are the original source of clove, the dried flower bud of a tree in the myrtle family. “’Clove’ comes from the Latin ‘clavis,’ which means nail, and is descriptive of its shape,” Trinklein said.

Clove and nutmeg were among 16th and 17th century Europe’s most precious commodities, worth more than their weight in gold.

Recommended for you