By: Mercy Njane; Forestry Society of Kenya
Covering nearly a third of the land on Earth, forests act as habitats for biodiversity, create jobs and enable stable livelihoods, captures and stores carbon and also provides ecosystem services. According to several studies, forests play an important role in reducing emissions in the atmosphere by capturing and storing carbon. Millions of hectares of forest land have, however, been lost over the years due to conversion to pastureland, illegal and destructive logging, infrastructure development, agricultural expansion, and wildfires among others.
Kenya and the world in general, is undergoing a period of rapid changes in the social and environmental dimensions which brings both opportunities and challenges for sustainable development. The changes, especially for development purposes, will put pressure on natural capital and ecosystems such as the forests. The changes also bring with them new opportunities for investment. The world is today experiencing the impacts of climate change and efforts to mitigate and or adapt to climate change are taking centre stage in most international and domestic discussions.
Investing in sustainable forestry is one of the investments that individuals, corporate and government institutions can adopt. It benefits the society, by enhancing the livelihood, the environment, as the forests play a crucial role in carbon sequestration and the economy, through the sale of wood and non-wood products from the forests. Demand for forest products is gradually increasing and the trend may rise in the years to come. Millers, especially have a high demand for wood products.
Sustainable forest investments have grown over the years. This can be linked to the increased awareness on the role the forests play in climate change and reducing global warming which has become a menace in the world today. Following the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement to reduce emissions below 1.50C, many organizations and countries, both developed and developing are taking up the task to embrace forestry and invest in it for the all-round benefits the sector accrues. Studies show that approximately 30% of the carbon emissions could be reduced through sustainable forestry.
A study conducted in Senegal stated that more than 160,000 tons of carbon were sequestered by mangroves planted ten years ago. The mangroves were planted with the aim of restoring the coastal ecosystems. After a decade, the efforts of the volunteers paid off as the coastal ecosystem was restored increasing the number of fish, shrimps and oysters which ultimately improved the livelihoods of the villagers. The project was said to have a positive impact on the lives of most of the people in the area. The results of the project were a clear indication of the importance of investing in sustainable forestry projects.
Projects such as sustainable forestry bring profits to the investors while at the same time reducing greenhouse gases, increasing income, improving ecosystem services, and strengthening local livelihoods. Investing in forestry also helps in increasing tree cover and conservation of forests and forest resources. It also ensures that there is sustainable production and supply of wood and non-wood forest products.
Sustainable forestry, just like any other investments, has risks and challenges. The challenges may include invasion by pests, wildfires, illegal logging, poor site-species matching among others. Prior to establishing a project, investors should carry out thorough research and investigation on all factors. Engaging the community in the projects is one of the most effective methods of ensuring the success of the project. Investors should be in a position to navigate through the sector for them to gain full benefits financially from the project and at the same time benefit the planet