The World’s Larder and Doctor
The link between forestry and health is long and powerful. For people living in or around forests, food that comes directly from the forest such as fruits, leaves, nuts, mushrooms and wild meat is a large part of their diet. Since rural populations are often poor and food insecure, this source is not only crucial to prevent nutrient deficiency, but also provides diversity in the diet leading to improved health.
Forests also provide vital medicines for people in remote areas with neither the access or money for pharmaceutical products. The hot and humid conditions in tropical ecosystems produce a diverse range of transmissible diseases, and local populations rely on a vast range of medicinal plants available in the forests to treat these diseases. In fact, WHO estimates that at least 80% of the world’s population depends on traditional medicine to meet their primary health care needs.
Alongside medicine and nutrition, forests are also a reliable and cheap source of fuel for rural communities. Widely used for cooking, processing and preserving food, as well as sterilising water, it plays a vital part in decreasing the occurrence of food- and water-borne diseases. With more than 10% of the global population using wood fuel to sterilize water, losing that source of fuel would be catastrophic for millions of people around the world.