“Forests promote a better life and a better environment; they offer recreation, positive moods and contribute to stress reduction. They help children with a healthy mental and social development,” a United Nations article reveals.
Human beings breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide, while trees on the other hand breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. In cognisance of this symbiotic relationship and the need to protect forests from illegal human activities, a resolution was passed by the United Nations General Assembly on 28 November 2013, to set aside the 21st day of March as the International Day of Forests. This day is observed globally with events including public sensitisation fora focusing on preserving trees, woodlands and forests for our benefit and future generations.
The theme for this year’s celebration is: “Forests and health”. It highlights the importance of forests in combating climate change and contributing to the prosperity and well-being of current and future generations.
Why do we celebrate World Forest day?
We celebrate world forest day on 21 March each year because there is indisputable proof that despite the mutual relationship between humans and trees, numerous human activities like deforestation contribute about thirty percent to carbon dioxide emissions. Deforestation led to the disappearance of millions of trees over the years hence the need to promote and support afforestation and greening initiatives for a better environment.
Countries and activists can reconcile the special and noticeable interdependence between human beings and forests, and end the indiscriminate burning and cutting down of trees, by using the world forest day to educate the public on issues of concern and mobilise political will and resources to address deforestation as a global concern.
The Gambia is part of global climate solutions with environmental activists making clarion calls for forest management to combat climate change through tree planting greening initiatives. Government and FAO support preservation of trees and forests. In 2022 through the Global Environment Facility (GEF), 4,000 cooking stoves were distributed to 2,000 households in rural Gambia to reduce forest degradation. This was done to strengthen and expand community forestry and the implementation of sustainable forest management practices.
FAO and implementing partners rehabilitated 5 regional forest nurseries with multipurpose houses. 250 nursery beds were constructed, and over 800 forest community members were sensitized and assisted in the natural regeneration and other agroforestry management best practices. 34,700 seedlings were distributed, and 29 gazettes were developed to notice level.
It is worth noting that forests offer food and nutrition security, a study from 43,000 households across 27 countries in Africa found that the dietary diversity of children exposed to forests was at least 25% higher than that of children who were not. Also, the total number of plant species used for medicinal purposes could be as high as 50,000. This shows how much we need trees in our lives.