Forest and Trees

Forests and trees play significant roles in the lives of Pacific Islanders, economically, socially, culturally and environmentally. In many Pacific island countries, especially on the smaller islands and atolls, agroforestry and tree crops provide most of the food, medicines, construction materials, firewood, tools and myriad of other products and services that cannot be replaced with imported substitutions. For the larger countries, forests have contributed significantly into their economic development in terms of foreign exchange earnings, employment and infrastructure development. Thus, a major challenge for Pacific Island countries and territories (PICTs) is to ensure sustainable management of their scarce and diminishing forest and tree resources, taking into account demands for economic development and the social and environmental needs of their growing populations, LRD-SPC is addressing this under its Forest & Tree programme.

SPC to celebrate International Year of the Forests
Wednesday, 13 April 2011 10:46

Do you look for shade on a hot day? Somewhere cool to park your car or cool yourself off? Of course we all do that when there are trees all around that provide free shade. But do you know that an estimated 350 square kilometres of forest are lost every day worldwide? This is equivalent to 30,000 rugby playing fields or the land mass of Niue, Nauru, Pitcairn, Tokelau and Tuvalu combined.

If this many trees — as per United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change — continues to disappear every day from our planet, for how long will we be able to enjoy our shade trees and lush green forests?

This staggering figure has generated a lot of international concern, resulting in the UN General Assembly adopting a resolution at its December 2006 session, to declare 2011 the International Year of Forests.

The main purpose of this is to raise awareness about sustainable management, conservation and development of forests worldwide.

A variety of activities is being planned by governments, regional and international agencies, and civil society organisations worldwide to celebrate the International Year of Forests in order to foster more effective

knowledge exchange on practical strategies to promote and implement sustainable forest management.

For us in the Pacific, the International Year of Forests provides an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of our forests and trees by organising activities that celebrate the vital role they play in our well-being, and to highlight the need to conserve and sustainably manage this important resource in the face of current and future threats, such as climate change.

It was with this thought in mind that the Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services, at their meeting in Nadi, Fiji, in 2010, recommended that the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) organise a number of regional activities to commemorate the International Year of Forests.

In line with this recommendation, the SPC Land Resources Division (LRD), through its Forests & Trees and Forestry & Agriculture Diversification teams, is organising the following regional activities:

  • Publication of a book on Pacific forestry
  • Production of a DVD on issues, challenges and actions taken towards sustainable forest management in the Pacific
  • Pacific Heads of Forestry technical meeting
  • Essay and poster competitions for school children
  • Awards for positive contributions to forestry
  • Seminars, press releases, etc.

The proposed Pacific forestry book and the DVD are currently being compiled, while the forestry awards and the essay and poster competitions will be launched within the next few weeks. Activities relating to seminars, press releases and the like will be ongoing throughout the year.

It is planned to have the book and the DVD launched, together with the presentation of the forestry awards and the poster and essay competition prizes, during the Pacific Heads of Forestry technical meeting scheduled for the third week of September 2011.

All these activities allow us to create an enabling environment of knowledge sharing that fosters better practices so that Pacific Islanders can continue to rely on forestry resources for their well-being. Many products and services have been provided by biologically diverse and healthy natural forests which, for generations, have contributed immensely to the environmental, social, cultural and economic needs of Pacific Islanders.

These products and services include timber, fuel wood, food, medicines, soil and water protection, coastal protection and shade. Carbon sequestration and sink — the process of removing carbon dioxide gas from the atmosphere and depositing it in a reservoir — has been singled out as the most important ecosystem service in the current international negotiations on climate change mitigation, but it is only one of the many ecosystem services provided by forests.

All of these services have contributed to the resilience of Pacific communities in the face of natural disasters — floods, cyclones and droughts — and will play a vital role in enhancing communities’ ability to adapt to current and future impacts of climate change.  Pacific forests must, therefore, be allowed to continue to provide products and services of a quality and quantity that will ensure the continued well-being of Pacific Islanders. In order for this to happen, forest health must be good, biological diversity must remain high and the overall size of forests must be extended.

Increasing human populations and the urgent need to satisfy short-term economic development needs from a narrow-based and usually stagnant economy has meant more pressures on forests to make way for large-scale agricultural projects, mining, housing and other infrastructural developments.

In addition, timber harvesting has increased over and above the forests’ sustainable level of harvest, resulting in their degradation and a reduction in biological diversity, such that the quality and range of ecosystem services and products provided are negatively affected.

For example, in the larger Melanesian countries, forests have been harvested and used as a springboard for economic development, and have continued to make significant contributions to their economies in terms of foreign exchange earnings, industrial development, employment creation and rural infrastructure development.

But, while deforestation meets some short term human aspirations, it also has deep, sometimes devastating consequences, including social conflict, extinction of plants and animals, and climate change—challenges that are not just local, but global.

On the plus side, in some of these Melanesian countries, commercial plantations, comprising fast-growing exotic species have been established, as part of their long-term strategy to reduce harvests from their natural forests.

This is one way of responding to the urgent need to put in place measures to ensure that forest harvesting is undertaken at a sustainable level and that the impacts of harvesting activities on forests and the overall environment are effectively managed.

Challenges and problems associated with the forestry sector of the Pacific are many and varied, and it is only by collaborating through good and effective partnerships that we can have some positive impact on the ground.

In line with the above, SPC LRD will be working with NGOs,  international, regional and national agencies, and other stakeholders to ensure the maximum impact in terms of the achievement of the objectives for the International Year of Forests.

For example, LRD is working with the Food and Agriculture Organization through its partnership with the National Forest Programme Facility to promote the Kids to Forests Initiative, aiming at exposing the younger generation to the multiple benefits of forests through hands-on learning experiences that can lead to a better understanding of sustainable forest management.

Further, our partners and donors, including the German Agency for International Cooperation (GIZ), the European Union (EU), and the governments of Australia and Japan through their various projects implemented within SPC LRD, will be actively supporting the activities planned for the International Year of Forests celebration.

Forests and trees are, and will continue to be, vital in supporting the well-being of Pacific people. For that reason it is important that all countries make a concerted effort to ensure that their forests are managed and used in a sustainable manner and to organise their own national activities, complementing those that are being organised regionally.

It is hoped that with our combined efforts we will make a difference and create an everlasting impact, not only for us but also for our future generations that will continue to enjoy nature’s bounteous gift to our Pacific communities – our beautiful forests.

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(For further information please contact Vinesh Prasad on telephone (679)3370733 or email LRD Help Desk on email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .)

 

We acknowledge our major donors/partners in supporting Forestry initiatives in the Pacific