Innovation is lifting tropical forestry’s contribution to global sustainable development, says ITTO

26 June 2024

ITTO’s Outreach and Communications Officer speaks at the Innovation Stage on day 2 of the 2024 IUFRO World Congress. Photo: T. Yanuariadi/ITTO

Stockholm, Sweden, 26 June 2024: Innovation in areas ranging from timber tracking to policy development is central to sustainable forestry in the tropics, and for magnifying the sector’s contribution to sustainable development.

The message ran through an ITTO presentation on the Innovation Stage, a platform at this week’s 2024 World Congress of the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO) in Stockholm, Sweden, for researchers to discuss new technologies and applied science in the forestry sector.

Ramon Carrillo, ITTO Outreach and Communications Officer, delivered the presentation entitled “Innovations to Maximize the Contributions of Tropical Forests to Sustainable Development” on day 2 of the congress on behalf of ITTO Executive Director Sheam Satkuru.

The presentation pointed out how forests contribute to national economies and the livelihoods of an estimated 1.6 billion people. Sustainably produced wood is an essential material for the transition to more sustainable and circular bioeconomies. Sustainably managed tropical forests sequester carbon, enhance biodiversity and provide water security, among many other ecosystem services.

Yet tropical forests are under pressure, for instance from conflicts over land use, the expansion of the agriculture sector, climate change and wildfire. Deforestation and land degradation continue in many places in the tropics.

Innovation across the fast-evolving forest sector offers hope. Examples include new technological advances, institutional arrangements and policies supporting improved forest management, the expansion of forest landscape restoration, and the sustainable use of a vast and growing range of forest products.

Against this background, ITTO has pioneered new approaches and innovation in sustainable tropical forestry in collaboration with member countries and many partner organizations.

In Guatemala and Panama ITTO projects developed a timber-tracking system, from the stump to the market, using barcodes and a phone app. In Madagascar, an ITTO project on wood identification established a reference collection for rosewood and other valuable timber species and a protocol for building such collections worldwide. In Brazil, a project successfully field-tested a technique for identifying mahogany wood using near-infrared spectroscopy.

Also in Brazil another project developed software to accelerate and improve forest management planning. Called BOManejo, this software package enables forest managers to improve their tree selection processes for harvesting, as well as their estimates of the wood volumes to be harvested.

An app developed with ITTO support was launched in 2022 in Indonesia to assist fire services in the prevention and the suppression of wildfires. The SMART Patrol Information System records and reports real-time action of fire-prevention patrols based on 88 parameters to better enable wildfire prevention, detection and early suppression. The app has been integrated into the Ministry of Environment and Forestry’s Forest and Land Fire Management Information System.

An ITTO project in Guatemala developed an app to calculate log volumes. The CUBIFOR app requires only a photo of the stack of logs (or other wood product) and basic measurements to estimate volume. The app has strengthened the capacity of forest companies to control their inventories, improved the efficiency of activities requiring quantification of timber volumes, and generally advanced sustainable forest management in the country.

ITTO is strengthening forest governance and advancing institutional development through a range of innovative policy solutions. For example, the Organization has developed guidelines on biodiversity conservation in tropical production forests; integrated forest fire management in tropical forests; the incorporation of gender equality and empowering women in sustainable forest management; and forest landscape restoration. ITTO is also a pioneer in the development of criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management.

Fortunately, there is no shortage of inventiveness in the forest sector, but to maximize the contributions of tropical forests to sustainable development more such innovations are needed. Around the world, millions of forest stakeholders continue to research and identify solutions that enable the conservation, sustainable management and sustainable use of tropical forests, where urgent investment is needed to encourage increased uptake.

“The role of international organizations such as ITTO is to support stakeholders in their efforts and to spread the best innovations for the benefit of communities worldwide,” Mr Carrillo concluded. “We will continue to do so, in close collaboration with our partners and members.”

Download ITTO’s presentation below

Related SDGs

ITTO policy and field work pioneer collaborative approaches and innovations that advance sustainable forestry in the tropics.

ITTO policy and field work generate innovation through partnerships, capacity building and the development of adequate policy frameworks.