Sustainable forest management to reduce climate risks and poverty

The International Day of Forests on 21 March, introduced by the UN, highlights the immense importance of forests. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) makes an important contribution to climate protection and poverty reduction through its forest projects. Below is an example from the mountain forests of South America, where knowledge exchange and policy dialogue go hand in hand.

 Image of a forest on a mountainside

The Andean forests now cover just 5–10% of their original area. © Nicolas Villaume

"We're now trained in forest management and have learned how to avoid deforestation, how to prevent fires and how to organise ourselves better. For example, we've constructed a pond on the mountain to store rainwater and introduced fines for cutting down and burning forests. Our springs now carry more water, so it's been a success!"

 A man standing at the edge of a small lake in a mountainous area.
The Andean forests are important for the regional water balance. © Nicolas Villaume

Those are the words of Crisólogo Palomino Ñahui. He is the community leader of Kiuñalla, Apurímac, a locality in the Andean highlands of southern central Peru. His region is included as part of the 'Andean Forests' programme which the SDC is implementing together with the NGOs Helvetas and CONDESAN.

Knowledge exchange with the local population, policy dialogue with the authorities

 Mountain landscape with fields
The village of Kiuñalla, with the forests that surround and protect the village and the fields. © Nicolas Villaume

The Andean Forests Programme is a regional initiative that supports the local population and the national authorities in an ongoing process to reduce the vulnerability of the population to climate change and to conserve the important Andean forests. The local population learns how to use the forest ecologically in an economically and socially viable way. Local authorities and farming communities have introduced sustainable forest management practices, such as beekeeping, mushroom and medicinal plant gathering, and the development of tourism.

"The idea of the programme is to develop new solutions for forest conservation based on traditional knowledge, in dialogue with local people and authorities at all levels. The results are then fed into policy dialogue with national governments," explains Kaspar Schmidt, Helvetas programme adviser in Peru. The programme supports the relevant ministries in the Andean countries in raising the profile of their forests in national policies and programmes and in increasing resources for forest conservation in public spending. "We want to make the experience gained from this programme available to representatives of other mountain regions," says Schmidt.

With the Andean Forests programme and other forest projects in Southeast Asia, the Balkans and Africa, the SDC's Global Programme Climate Change and Environment contributes to the sustainable use of natural resources and to poverty reduction. Sustainable development is a priority of the Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23 and the International Cooperation Strategy 2021–24, and is in keeping with the 2030 Agenda:

Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems
from Goal 15 of the 2030 Agenda

Deforestation and poverty – a vicious cycle

Increased drought and shifting rainfall patterns due to climate change, as well as deforestation of the Andean forests, are having a direct negative impact on the livelihoods of the local population. Overexploitation for firewood, raw materials, pastureland and farmland leads to water shortages, dry soils and an increased risk of landslides. Deforestation also has negative impacts on the local and global climate and, as a final consequence, leads to human impoverishment. The more humans exploit the forests, the poorer they become – it is a vicious cycle.

Not only rainforests are under threat

Around a quarter of all people affected by poverty worldwide – especially indigenous communities in the tropics – depend directly on forest resources. Every year, around 300,000 km2 of forest are cut down globally. Half of this is in rainforests in Brazil, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia. But also the Andean forests are a victim of overexploitation: the forests of the region that remain today cover only a small part of their original area.

The Andean forests are part of the tropical Andes biodiversity hotspot. With their wide range of landscape types, climatic zones and plant communities, they are considered one of the most biologically diverse regions on earth. They also play an important role in regulating the global climate and in supplying water to surrounding towns and communities.

Forest facts

  • Forests cover more than a quarter of the earth's land surface.
  • The forests are home to 80% of all terrestrial species (plants and animals).
  • Forests clean the air by absorbing about 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.
  • Forests regulate the water balance and protect against flooding.
  • Forests provide us with wood, paper and food.
  • Forests offer protection against debris flows, avalanches and rockfalls.
  • Forests are important recreational areas for people.

Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–2023


Switzerland works nationally and internationally with all relevant stakeholders to promote environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources, as well as sustainable economic and social development.

Implementation of the 2030 Agenda and global climate and environmental protection will be key.

Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–2023

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