The Nigerian Conservation Foundation (NCF) joined nature enthusiasts recently to observe the 2019 International Day of Forests themed “Forests and Education”.
A statement by the Director General of NCF, Dr. Muhtari Aminu-Kano, said this was in line with the proclamation by the United Nations at its 2012 General Assembly where every 21st March was set aside to celebrate and raise awareness about the importance of the different types of forests; and the need to protect and conserve forests for the benefit of present and future generations.
First observed in 2013, the International Day of Forests has become a useful platform to showcase the contributions of forests to global development efforts as well as the preservation of the world’s global cultural heritage and diverse biological resources. The Day offers a unique opportunity to reflect on the state of forests and challenges confronting the world’s forests in order to rally actions on how to tackle the threats and advocate for sustainable management of the global forest resources.
Forests are estimated to cover 31% of the world’s land surface. According to a recent Global Forest Resources Assessment, more than 80% of the natural forests with its associated resources had been destroyed at an estimated rate of 20,000 hectares per day. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in its 2018 report, estimated that about 15 billion trees are cut down every year while the global tree count has fallen by 46% since the beginning of human civilization. Likewise an estimated 7.3 million hectares of forests are lost every year.
Nigeria’s forests are under unprecedented pressures due to large scale deforestation and degradation in order to make land available for competing needs. Each year, the country loses between 350,000 ha – 400,000 ha of forest landscapes. This rate of loss is among the highest in the world and therefore needs to be reduced, reversed and ultimately halted.
NCF recognises the valuable roles that forests play. Consequently, the Foundation launched a 30-year forest recovery initiative titled Green Recovery Nigeria which is aimed at gradual restoration of the country’s forest cover to at least 25% as proposed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). GRN is designed as a countrywide programme incorporating awareness & advocacy campaigns, research, public private partnership & stakeholders’ engagements, policy & institutional strengthening among other components.
We depend on forests for our survival. Forests are believed to be the lungs of the earth as they provide the oxygen we breathe. Beyond providing livelihoods for humans and habitats for animals, forests also offer watershed protection & ecosystem services, prevent soil erosion, enhance global food security and mitigate climate change.
NCF enjoins our members, donors, partners, associates, corporate and civil society organisations as well as nature enthusiasts to seize the opportunities provided by the commemoration of the 2019 International Day of Forests to reflect on the state of Nigeria’s forests and the implication of losing our valuable forests. Furthermore, the event should be used to consider what can be done collectively to protect the country’s remaining forests and how to restore and sustainably manage our forest resources for present and future generations.