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Published

25 June 2014

Forest researchers discuss social dimensions

At World Forest Week at the end of June, there will be discussions of how different stakeholders should work for recreation, good working conditions in forests and other social issues connected with the world’s forests. Among the people representing Sweden will be researchers from Future Forests.

Forested areas have many social dimensions. Forests offer outdoor activities and recreation, as well as berries, fungi and other foods. They are also workplaces for thousands of people. Socioeconomic issues connected with forests will be discussed when the Committee on Forestry (COFO) of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) meets in late June.

Anna Sténs, a historian at Umeå University and one of the researchers in the Future Forests programme, is a member of the Swedish delegation that will be travelling to Rome in order to assist this expert organisation’s international efforts.

‘Growing attention is being paid to the social dimension of forests. This means that it may appear to be a new issue, but it is one that has been around for a long time. I myself, for example, have done research on Sweden’s right of public access to the countryside and ownership rights. This is a controversial issue today, but the discussion dates back to the beginning of the last century, when rural residents were worried about the urban population coming to pick “their” berries.’

Many issues have a long history

According to Anna Sténs, the same applies to the amenities for outdoor life and recreation offered by forests, which have been an active concern since the 1930s, when such issues as placing land areas under protection were discussed. One issue that Sténs has seen coming to the fore in recent years is working conditions in forests, this too being a social dimension of forestry that has received relatively little attention.

‘In Sweden, for example, labour migration has paved the way for migrant workers, who very often incur questionable working conditions for planting forest trees, for example.’

During World Forest Week in Rome, from 23 to 27 June, COFO 22 will be present as one of many attendee organisations. Anna Sténs’ commitments include taking part in arrangements in Forest Europe, concerning European countries’ initiatives relating to forests. She is also to present the work under way in Sweden concerning the social dimensions of forests.

Text: Andreas Nilsson, Vetenskapsjournalisterna

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