Sustainable forestry – helping climate change mitigation and poverty reduction

Foresters on a training course in Kyrgyzstan
Trees absorb carbon dioxide and help to counter global warming. Protecting them is therefore critical. © SDC

Forests and trees cover around one-third of the earth's surface today, but are receding in many places. Both are needed to counter global warming as they absorb carbon dioxide from the air. The SDC has several forest protection projects which help to reduce climate risks.

The SDC's focus

A quarter of the world's rural poor depend directly or indirectly on forests. Around 70 million people, including indigenous communities in particular, depend exclusively on forest resources for their livelihoods. At the same time, forests play an important role in mitigating climate change as they absorb carbon dioxide from the air. This makes forests an indispensable part of any approach to the global issues of climate change and poverty. The SDC's forest projects thus have a two-fold advantage: they contribute to reducing both poverty and climate risks.

The Global Programme Climate Change's activities in this area are guided by three priorities:

  1. Global forest policy and its integration in Swiss forest policy Supporting global thematic forest partnerships; having a proactive influence on the development of the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and related global processes in this field; coordinating with other Swiss federal offices 
  2. Operational forest programme with three regional initiatives on the role of forests and rural areas for climate change mitigation and adaptation Namely the Swiss Partnership on Social Forestry and Climate Change in Asia, African Forests, People and Climate Change in Africa, and the initiative on Andean forests and their role in climate change mitigation and adaptation in the Andes
  3. Focal point for forest issues: supporting bilateral forest programmes and providing consulting services on the topic


25% of the earth's surface, approximately 33 million km2, is covered in forest. In the last 20 years, an average of 130,000 km2 of the world's forests has been lost every year - roughly three times the size of Switzerland. A further 10 million km2 of forests is degraded because of unsustainable exploitation or agricultural expansion. The destruction of forests has a direct impact on the local and global climate as well as on biodiversity, the availability of water and soil fertility.

Fostering change in thinking and behaviour

Many countries have unsustainable land-use practices. Measures are needed to foster techniques that are diversified and adapted to the local context. One such possibility is to grant incentives for smallholder farms to adapt to agroforestry or to reforest small plots of their land. The SDC's goal is to maintain the long-term potential of agriculture and forestry.

Adapting land-use planning and regulations

If land is collectively owned, new land-use regulations to regenerate natural forest vegetation and bushland are needed. These rules should include all social strata in the rural communities. Earning income from adapting to forest management and receiving compensation for providing environmental services are important practical incentives to sustainably manage collective resources. That is why the SDC promotes a holistic understanding of sustainable forest and land use among all  stakeholders.

Current projects

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Core Contribution to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) 2022 - 2024

01.01.2022 - 31.12.2024

The International Union for Conservation of Nature is the leading global organization for knowledge on the status of nature and the measures required to safeguard it. It is a worldwide union of State and non-State members. The objective for SDC is to contribute to the implementation of the programme of the Union for reversing biodiversity loss and climate resilience, with focus on people, land, climate, water and oceans. Switzerland is State member of the Union and hosts the seat of the organization in Gland.

PFNL - Programme d’appui à la valorisation des produits forestiers non ligneux au Burkina Faso

01.01.2021 - 31.12.2024

Au Burkina Faso, le fort potentiel en produits forestiers non ligneux peut être davantage exploité au profit des populations vulnérables en améliorant la sécurité alimentaire et la création de revenus. Pour une dernière phase, la Suisse, avec le cofinancement des Pays-Bas, consolide les acquis d’une manière durable tout en soutenant l’extension dans une nouvelle région pour prendre en compte, en particulier les personnes déplacées internes (PDI), les femmes et les jeunes affectés par la crise sécuritaire.  

Contribution to the UN-REDD Pro-gramme (single phase)

15.12.2020 - 31.12.2025

Forests are a central solution to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, their sustainable management is an imperative for the planet but also for millions of vulnerable people. The UN-REDD Programme is a key player in accelerating the implementation of appropriate policies and actions in tropical low and lower-middle income countries to reduce deforestation and restore forests. The contribution will allow for a strong Swiss engagement jointly with the Federal Office of the Environment, and for the capitalization of existing work of the four SDC domains on forest ecosystems and related livelihoods.

Strengthening Livelihoods and Social Inclusion in Georgia's Forest Sector Reform

01.07.2020 - 30.09.2025

As part of a comprehensive forest sector reform, the proposed project contribution aims at diversifying livelihood opportunities of target forest dependent communities and at strengthening the local capacities in forest management in a sustainable manner. This is particularly relevant since up to 90% of Georgia’s rural households rely on forests for energy and other purposes, leading to progressive forest degradation. The COVID-19 crisis further aggravates economic hardship of the most vulnerable groups among them.

Landscape Fire Management in the Western Balkans

01.09.2019 - 01.03.2027

Due to a changing climate and unsustainable land use practices, landscape fires have been on the rise in the Western Balkans, while fire management remains generally weak and not adapted for mounting challenges. This initiative will improve capacities in landscape fire management through regional cooperation and strengthen policy and action at national level by articulating the region with multilateral efforts and Swiss know-how and expertise. Local communities, most concerned by landscape fires, will be an integral part of the initiative’s approach to facilitate the establishment of long-term strategies for resilient landscapes.

BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (BioCF-ISFL)

01.12.2018 - 31.12.2030

The BioCarbon Fund Initiative for Sustainable Forest Landscapes (BioCF-ISFL) is a multilateral fund managed by the World Bank catalysing the development of low-carbon rural economies, fostering livelihoods and reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the land sector. It engages national and sub-national governments and the private sector through impact-based payment systems. Switzerland has an interest piloting such incentive systems in order to shape development cooperation that is fit for the future.

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