International Day of Forests, otherwise known as World Forestry Day is a United Nations environmental activity that is jointly championed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Forum on Forests (UNFF). The overall objective of World Forestry Day is to increase public awareness on the significance, values and contributions of forest to local, national and international communities.
A forest is simply a piece of land that encompasses large number of trees and various varieties of plants. Forests are of great importance to the human race, as a whole. We, as human beings, depend on forests for our survival: from the fresh air we breathe to the wood we require to build the bed we sleep on, everything is derived from forests.
These value gifts of nature contribute significantly to the environment, economic and social wellbeing of our various societies. Forests are very important in the viewpoint of ecological balance, agriculture, habitats for large number of plant and animal species. Besides providing habitats for animals and livelihoods for humans, forests also offer watershed protection, prevent soil erosion and mitigate climate change.
Yet, despite our dependence on forests, we are still allowing them to disappear. It is very unfortunate that natural forests are being cut at a rapid speed to serve various purposes. The increase in the demand of various commodities derived from the trees that grow in different forests and the need to accommodate the growing population are among the major reasons for deforestation.
Deforestation means conversion of a forestland to other land use types such as residential areas, markets, industrial areas etcetera. Thus, any individual or institution, which cleared any portion of land that is up to the size of a typical football field that contains trees, is guilty of deforestation. Deforestation is a global issue and effective measures must be taken to control this issue.
Forests can play central roles in support of the sustainable development goals (SDGs). While attempts have been made to mobilize forest goods and services as a pathway out of poverty for rural communities, not enough attention has been given to deforestation as a highway to poverty. Conversion of forests to other land-uses eliminates income from wild products, and leaves landscapes less resilient to landslides, floods and other natural disasters.
The foregoing explanation underscores the reason that Anambra State government should commended on its efforts to remodel Mamu River Forest. Mamu Forest Reserve, which was established in 1928 and gazetted in 1930, is indeed, one of the standing colonial conservation legacies that was sustained by one of Nigeria’s great political ancestors, the Great Zik of Africa, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe; in his days as then Premier of Eastern Region.
In this era of diversification of Nigerian economy from non-oil sector, governments and host communities of all sustainably managed forests would possibly win recognition and funding from United Nations and other international bodies by minimizing deforestation and forest degradation; and promoting forest conservation and community forest management.
Therefore, Nigerians should never forget the five key messages of this Day: one, understanding our forests and keeping them healthy is crucial for our future; two, no one is too young to start learning about trees; three, both modern and traditional knowledge are key to keeping forests healthy; four, investing in forestry education can change our world for the better and lastly five, women and men should have equal access to forestry education.