Forests cover a third of the Earth’s surface, are home to millions of species, avoid soil erosion and regulate water cycles. Moreover, they provide forage, fuel, food, organic fertiliser, medical resources, wood for diverse use, fibre and many other raw materials, like resins, for human beings. The forest itself and the products derived from it are still essential for the human populations who live there. This is particularly true for women who remain the chief gatherers in many forests, while men have concentrated more on the commercial potential of some of these resources, such as wood, rubber and resins.
The demand for and commercialisation of wood, meat, soya and palm oil by industrialised countries are the main reasons for the disappearance of the most valuable forests on the planet, in Amazonia, the Congo, southeast Asia, Indonesia and India. An increasing number of female workers are being employed for the industrial exploitation of the forest and jungle resources. The impossibility of recovering the forests at the rate at which they are being destroyed (often illegally), and the rapid erosion of the soil are creating serious problems both locally and globally.
Brazil and Indonesia lead the production of raw materials from plants for the world markets, many of which are used in the manufacture of cosmetics or household products (palm oil, among others), fodder for animals (soya), and furniture and packing cases (wood). In the forests of Indonesia, 80% of deforestation has been illegal, destined above all to large substitute plantations of palm oil and commercial timber, 75% of which are exported.
Available data for the percentage of forested area and negative or positive changes between 1990 and 2016, indicate that 30% of the total surface of the planet is covered by forest, with a negative tendency (an average annual fall of 3.2%), but with big differences for both indicators per country. For example, Spain is given 36.8% of forested areas with a 33% increase over the last 26 years. Forested areas do not include trees for agricultural production and urban parks.