Forests and Food

Understanding the contribution of forests and trees to food security and nutrition

CIFOR research has contributed to the recognition of the importance of forests and trees for food security.

Terry Sunderland, CIFOR’s former Team Leader of “Sustainable landscapes and food”, explains the importance of examining how relations between forests and people play out at the landscape scale. By doing so, we can better understand the contribution of forests and trees to food security and nutrition, as well as how forests and trees provide ecosystem services that support agricultural production.

Looking ahead, Terry emphasizes the need to overcome disciplinary silos and engage in strategic partnership to further develop landscape-scale research and initiatives.

Featured scientist

Terry Sunderland

Terry Sunderland was with CIFOR for 12 years as Senior/Principal Scientist, and later, as Team Leader for “Sustainable Landscapes and Food”. He joined CIFOR in January 2006, finishing his tenure in December 2017.

Terry is currently Professor at the Faculty of Forestry, University of British Columbia in Canada, focusing on the biological and human dimensions of the sustainable management and use of tropical forests. As Senior/Principal Scientist at CIFOR, he coordinated CIFOR’s work on forests and food security, biodiversity conservation and integrated landscape management.

Prior to joining CIFOR in early 2006, Terry was based in West Africa for over 15 years and worked on numerous conservation and livelihood-focused initiatives. Having both a field practitioner and academic background gives him a wide perspective on conservation, livelihoods and issues related to sustainable landscape management.

Terry has a Master’s degree in Forestry from the University of Oxford and a PhD from the University of London. He has published more than 240 research papers, book chapters and edited books, and has supervised many graduate studies related to tropical forestry, particularly focusing on developing country scientists. Terry is an active blogger and Twitter user, and he engages regularly with the media on disseminating research for policy influence and outreach.

Follow Terry on Twitter at: @TCHSunderland

Discover more about Terry’s research at ResearchGate and Google Scholar.

His professional website can be found here.

In conversation with Terry Sunderland

  1. What was the main focus of your work when you were at CIFOR?

    My work is primarily focused on forests and livelihoods and the interactions between people and natural resources. I was specifically interested in landscape scale interactions and how these relations between forests and people played out at a broader scale. This included two relatively new areas of research: (i) the contribution of forests and trees to food security and nutrition; and (ii) how forests and trees provide ecosystem services that support agricultural production (e.g. pollination, soil stabilization, etc.)
  2. How have your research and activities paved the way for future forestry-related developments and research?

    Our research on forests and food security has become a recognized research agenda in the development and donor communities. It has allowed CIFOR to engage with fellow CGIAR centers to think about future sustainable agriculture from a “systems” perspective, rather than through the lens of forestry or agriculture alone.
  3. If you could choose one piece of work that would be the highlight of the research you did at CIFOR, what would it be? Why is it a highlight?

    The work on food security and nutrition culminated in a global analysis of the importance of forests and trees for food security. The report included widespread high-level consultation, and from that we were able to generate a cogent series of policy-based recommendations to incorporate forests into the discussion around achieving global food security. The report can be found here.
  4. What future challenges related to your research area do you foresee? How does your research address these challenges?

    A major future challenge will be actually breaking down the disciplinary silos to engage in real, integrated landscape-scale initiatives. Avoiding the business-as-usual model will be critical, especially if we wish to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.
  5. Why do you think that the work CIFOR does on forestry is key for the future of our planet and the people living on it?

    CIFOR cannot achieve this alone, only through strategic partnerships. The work is important but, this has to go beyond forests to the broader landscape perspective.
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