Around the world, more than 7 billion people rely on forests for their most basic needs. Well over 1 billion people carve their livelihoods out of forest landscapes and depend on them for food, medicine, fuel and fiber. And all of us—whether we inhabit forest regions or not—depend on these ecosystems for clean water, fertile soil and the stability of our global climate. Healthy forests are critical to the survival of 80 percent of the world’s terrestrial species, including humans.
Because these landscapes are crucial to so many, they are under extraordinary pressure. Global consumption of natural resources increased by more than 40 percent between 1992 and 2005. Sixty million indigenous people depend on forests for their subsistence, and a total of 1.6 billion rely on forest resources for their income and survival. Communities that harvest timber and forest goods are no longer doing so to meet only their own needs, but also to supply a global market in forest products that has grown to $327 billion.
It’s a vicious cycle. When forest loss leads to economic desperation, the pressure on struggling communities intensifies, driving people to deplete their forest resources and develop their economies in unsustainable ways.
But the Rainforest Alliance demonstrates that it is also possible to convert this process into a virtuous circle through sustainable management, which protects both forests and those who depend on them for their livelihoods.
Through this unique approach, we have protected over 180 million acres and improved the livelihoods of over 4 million farmers, foresters and tourism operators. Our strategy is working, but we are far from finished.
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