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Can Forests Help Feed the World?



Experts predict nine billion people will live on our planet by 2050. They say by that time demand for food will be two times what it is now. Officials are worried about that prediction because many people already suffer from a lack of food. More than 800 million people go to bed hungry.

A solution to the problem may be as close as our forests. A new report says forests could help reduce hunger and improve nutrition if they are properly managed.

Sayay Veoun works at the Cambodian Federation for Bee Conservation. He says some of the best honey in the world comes from forests in southern Cambodia.

He says they work with five local honey buyers who work with 42 honey collectors.

People like Hak Laang buy the honey at stores in the capital, Phnom Penh.

She says it smells like fresh flowers. She says the smell means it is natural honey from the jungle.

Healthy forests provide half of the fresh fruit we eat worldwide. They also produce valuable crops like coffee, avocados, cashews and other healthful seeds and nuts.

Bhaskar Vira is the director of the University of Cambridge Conservation Research Institute and an expert with the International Union of Forest Research Organizations, or IUFRO. It recently released a report at the United Nations about forest and jungle foods.

Mr. Vira says crops that grow on trees can help feed people living in and around forests.

“It’s like an insurance policy. Having access to those tree-based foods is hugely important when you can’t buy food from other sources or when you can’t produce food because your fields have failed.”

The growing of crops requires fields. Many fields are created by clearing, or removing, trees. But Mr. Vira says properly managed fields and forests can exist together. He says if you increase food production in the field, you can keep the forest and trees. He says they are important for the products and services they provide.

The report says that forest health and economic value improves when people who live in or near forests are given greater control of them. For example, a project in Ghana aims for proper management of forests and fields together. The people involved hope to grow the Allanblackia plant. The oil from its seed can be used in soap, beauty products and food.

Okai Michael Henchard leads the project. He says he will help people who live nearby. He says they earn money and get trees on their land. The trees provide shade and improve air quality. Mr. Henchard says the project also helps fight climate change.

I’m Marsha James.

VOA science correspondent Rosanne Skirble reported this story from Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

properly adv. in a way that is acceptable or suitable

manage v. to take care of and make decisions about

insurance n. an agreement in which a person makes regular payments to a company and the company promises to pay money if the person is injured or dies, or to pay money equal to the value of something (such as a house or car) if it is damaged, lost, or stolen

jungle n. a tropical forest where plants and trees grow very thickly

soap n. a substance that is used for washing something

How is your country managing its forests? We’d like to know. Write to us in the comments section.

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