By Mercy Njane
Globally, the International Day of Forests (IDF) is observed on the 21st of March every year. In 2012, the UN General Assembly declared March 21st as the IDF with the aim of raising awareness of the importance and significance of all forest types. It is a day that serves as a reminder of the role forests play for biodiversity, human beings, and also in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
This year’s theme was “Forest Restoration, a path to recovery and well-being”. Climate change has greatly affected livelihoods and biodiversity and its impact is still being felt across the globe. Forests act as carbon sinks and sequester tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere. Restoring forests and ensuring sustainable management of the resources will help fight climate change and help countries meet their Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) targets.
A report by the State of the World’s Forests, 2020, emphasized the need for nations to step up and take action to protect and conserve the forest resources citing the alarming deforestation and degradation rates. Globally, the rate of deforestation was estimated at 10 million hectares annually. The report stated that since 1990, approximately 420 million hectares of forest have been lost through encroachment and change of land use.
Kenya has a goal of attaining and maintaining at least 10% tree cover by 2022. Restoration of the degraded forest land is one approach that can help reach this target. In his statement, Minister for Environment and Forestry, Hon. Keriako Tobiko urged Kenyans to take advantage of the rains and plant trees citing the benefits associated with trees. He noted that due to the Covid-19 pandemic, there will be no public ceremony commemorating the day. He also urged citizens to raise awareness on the importance of protecting and conserving the forests as well as tree growing.
Taking part in forest restoration is a step towards ensuring a better and healthy future for current and the generations to come. Restoration of the forest areas creates new environments where biodiversity thrives, and ecosystem services are achieved. Sustainable management and restoration of forests also promote economic activities that cascade down to improved livelihoods. Restoring the forest landscapes is a path to recovery of the ecosystem and humanity.