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What is the state of the world’s forests?

For International Day of Forests 2021, GLF Live with Wanjira Mathai, Robert Nasi and Mette Wilkie

According to an assessment released by the UN last year, around 4.06 billion hectares of forests remain in the world today. But what does this number mean when put into its many fluctuating contexts? The rate of deforestation is on the decline, according to the assessment, yet global warming is spurring wildfires in some of the world’s most carbon-rich forest regions. While desertification is being slowed through forest restoration in parts of Africa, the Amazon is reaching its tipping point of when it will dry and deteriorate from being one of the most famously lush ecosystems into one more like a savannah.

For the International Day of Forests 2021, this GLF Live brought together three of the world’s preliminary forest experts, joining from Indonesia, Kenya and Italy. In the discussion, they addressed the state of the world’s forests and pieced together the ongoing dichotomies of degradation and restoration to inform what’s needed to protect and create a promising global forest future.


Wanjira Mathai is the vice president and regional director for Africa at World Resources Institute (WRI). She formerly served as co-chair of WRI’s Global Restoration Council and a Senior Advisor to the Global Restoration Initiative. She is the current Chair of the Wangari Maathai Foundation and the former Chair of the Green Belt Movement in Kenya, the organization her mother, Wangari Maathai (2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate). Wanjira formerly served on the Board of the World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF) and continues as a Leadership Council member of the Clean Cooking Alliance. Wanjira is one of a few Six Seconds EQ Practitioners in Kenya and was named one of the 100 Most Influential African Women in 2018 and 2020.

Robert Nasi is the director general of the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR). He graduated as a forest engineer from the French National Forestry School and achieved a PhD in the field of ecology from the University of Paris Sud – Orsay. Since 1982, he has been living and traveling extensively in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, undertaking research activities in the fields of ecology and management of tropical forests. He joined CIFOR in August 1999 and held several research and management positions in the organization (principal scientist, biodiversity program leader, program director). He is, since 1 November 2017, the director general of CIFOR, and since 1 January 2014, the deputy director general for research.

Mette Wilkie is the director of the Forestry Division within the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). She has a background in forestry and environmental management and over 30 years of experience in providing scientific evidence and policy advice to governments, partner organizations and international conventions on issues related to the environment and development nexus with a focus on the sustainable management of forests and other natural resources, biodiversity conservation and nature-based solutions to climate change. Mette has lived and worked in Africa for seven years, in Asia for six and is now based in Italy.


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