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Partnerships are vital for sustainable forestry

21/03/2019

In 2012 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March as the International Day of Forests. The world observes this day by raising awareness on the importance of all types of forests addressing some of the biggest challenges we face today, such as climate change, eliminating hunger, alleviating poverty and increasing urban populations. Forests will be more important than ever as the world population climbs to 8.5 billion by 2030.

The UN resolution requests the secretariat of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF), in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), to facilitate the implementation of the International Day of Forests, in collaboration with Governments; the Collaborative Partnership on Forests;  and international, regional and subregional organizations and processes; as well as relevant major groups.

The theme chosen for 2019 by the Collaborative Partnership on Forests is: ‘Forests and Education’ aimed at reminding us that:

Investment in forestry education is key at all levels, to develop a cadre of professionals,  policy makers, and local communities working to halt deforestation and restore degraded landscapes. Healthy forests will help us to achieve many of the Sustainable Development Goals, for example by supporting the livelihoods of some of the world’s poorest communities and conserving biodiversity.

Many countries are striving to have more women in forest-related studies, placing a priority on equal access to forest education for all. Gender parity in forest education empowers rural women to sustainably manage forests.

While foresters should know and understand nature well, they should also learn to use cutting-edge technology to ensure that our forests are monitored and managed sustainably. Rural and indigenous communities also have tremendous experience and knowledge in protecting forest resources and ensuring their sustainable harvest. They can pass on their knowledge and practical experience from one generation to the next. 

Helping children connect with nature creates future generations conscious of the benefits of trees and forests and the need to manage them sustainably. For some children, forests are a direct source of food, wood and shelter, and part of their everyday lives. Other children can discover forests in classrooms and forest schools, by spending guided time in forests and urban parks, or by learning about trees growing in cities and gardens.

Over the last four decades of partnership with the Government of Tanzania, FAO has provided technical assistance for sustainable forest management through strengthening forest policy, national implementation strategies, and regulatory frameworks; strengthening national forest resource monitoring and assessment; and training forestry experts and promoting knowledge – sharing for sustainable forestry.

Tanzania’s forest sector is one of the major pillars of the economy. Rural and urban people rely on forest resources for all or part of their livelihoods. Forests provide construction materials, biomass energy and employment. Forests support local livelihood systems through the provision of fodder/pasture, medicines, food, honey, protection of water sources, as well as important ecosystem services.

Despite the vital role forests play, and important measures instituted by the Government, deforestation and forest degradation is still unacceptably high. According to the National Forest Resources Monitoring and Assessment of 2015 in the period 2009 - 2013 Tanzania Mainland (excluding Zanzibar) has 48.1 million hectares (ha).

The current harvesting is 62.3 million cubic meters of wood whereas the allowable cut is 42. 8 million cubic metres. This means that current cutting levels exceed the maximum Annual Allowable Cut (AAC) by an estimated 19.5 million cubic metres.  Thus each year ‘borrows’ 19.5 million cubic metres from posterity! We lose over 372, 000 hectares of forest area annually, and this figure is rising. (NAFORMA 2015).

Private sector investment in forestry has seriously improved efficiency of forest - based industries, although a lot still needs to be done. Challenges related to low utilization capacity due to obsolete technology, low investment, poor financing, inadequate supply of raw material, unutilized trained personnel and weak market development still remain. 

Taking forest education to the young people

FAO and the Government of Tanzania are finalizing the modalities for implementing a special project among children aged 9 to 12, in order to increase their forest literacy or awareness of the vital role of forests and the need to manage them sustainably,

Today, more than half the world’s people live in urban areas. By 2050, that number is expected to rise to 70 percent. Such rapid urbanization creates sustainable development challenges, particularly in less developed countries.

As a result, people are increasingly disconnected from nature and lack the awareness and understanding of forests and their benefits.  It is essential to bring forests into their lives at an early age in order to change the common misconceptions that support a strict conservation approach to forests (no take, no use). Early education can also inspire young children to learn about the importance of forests and to potentially pursue a career in forestry.

The project, which is in line with this year’s International Forest Day (Forests and Education), will develop educational materials and pilot an interactive, experiential, forest-based learning approach for the young ones in order to trigger interest in them for loving and protecting forests.

The aim is to make them more knowledgeable and aware of forests, their sustainable use, and their relationship with nature; empower local educational instructors in pilot institutions to be able to engage and produce high-quality modules that will be used to build capacity of other stakeholders through training and implementation skills. 

Strong partnerships involving Government with Private sector, Civil society, International Organizations, Research and academia, and local communities will go a long way in transforming the forestry sector to sufficiently contribute to the economy; enabling it to play its role in creating jobs, ensuring food and nutrition security, and sustaining vital ecological services.