WORLD ENVIRONMENTALISTS CONCERNED ABOUT THE FUTURE OF FORESTS IN THEIR COUNTRIES
SAVE THE FORESTS - SAY WORLD DELEGATES
(A delegate from Indonesia)
(A delegate from the tiny West African country of Benin)
(Delegates from Nepal)
(By Subry Govender)
The countries of the world must come up with definite programmes to save the destruction and degradation of forests around the world.
This is the view of the more than 1 000 delegates from around the world who are currently attending the week-long 14th World Forestry Congress being held in the South African coastal city of Durban.
The delegates represent governments, non-government organisations, and indigenous communities from around the world.
The Congress aims to build a new vision for the future of forests and forestry at all levels. This includes investments in forestry and in people in order to achieve sustainable development.
The extremely large number of delegates - attending the congress at the International Conference Centree (ICC) in Durban - have come from nearly all the countries in Africa and from far afield as Russia, Japan and Argentina. Delegates have also come from lesser known countries such as Nepal and Bangladesh in South Asia and Indonesia in the Far East.
The Forestry Congress, being held for the first time in Africa, has been organised under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.
The delegates I spoke to say they are attending the Congress in order to highlight the destruction and degradation of forests in their own countries. They want to share the problems that deforestation causes for large sections of their people in sustaining themselves through food production and use of trees in forests for medicinal reasons.
(Mr El Haji Sen of Senegal)
Mr El Haji Sen, a delegate from Senegal, told me that deforestation and misuse of forests were serious problems affecting the people in his country.
"It is serious," he said, "it is taking at least 40 000 hectares of forests and bushland every year".
"It is affecting people through land necessities, through the lack of safety nets for living and it is affecting people through environmental effects of deforestation and relatively desertification."
(Mr Claude Dadinja of Benin)
A delegate from the tiny West African country of Benin, Mr Claude Dadinja, said the destruction of forests had not only affected food production but also the capacity of people to use the forests for their medicinal requirements.
He said: "Deforestation is affecting the people in many ways. The people who rely on wood for their cooking and other needs cannot find wood any more and cooking has become very difficult. Also some trees are used for medicine in a traditional way. Now these trees are disappearing and we we don't find these trees any more to get relief and treat ourselves."
(Dr Meena Estramat of Iran)
One of the delegates, who is attending the Congress to gain support for the protection of the forests in her country, is Dr Meena Estramat from the north of Iran. She told me that she was very concerned that they were losing their forests.
"I believe in the forests and I have a sense of belonging to the forests but we are losing the forests," she said.
"In the North of Iran we have a special heritage site called the Eukranian forests that are the same as those in Europe. But we are losing them because we are still logging the forests, we are still using the wood from those heritage sites.
"In the West of Iran we have the oak forests. They are unique. About more than half of the water resources of Iran are coming from the Zuglas mountains where the forests are. But these forests are also dying," she said.
She said she and two other concerned people from Iran were attending the Congress.
"I am sharing our experiences with other delegates and we hope to learn from other countries. If we don't save our forests, then we are destroying the future of our children and their children," said Dr Estramat.
Mr Memdishams Uddin of Bangladesh (RIGHT) AND colleague
Mr Memdishams Uddin of Bangladesh belongs to an organisation called Winrock International. The organisation is involved in promoting the green environment sustainable livelihoods.
He said there were more than two million hectares of forests in Bangladesh and these were classified as Hill Forests and mangrove forests.
"Most of the forests are threatened by different factors, including human pressure, other land uses and now climatic change," he said.
"People look to their forests for their livelihoods and people who live around the forests depend mainly on the forests for their livelihoods. Most of the people get nearly 50 percent of their income from the forests. They are culturally linked to the forests."
He said there were many programmes in Bangladesh to check the deforestation.
"We have introduced the co-management approach that involves communities in food production and management."
He said there had been some business people who had been involved in illegal logging but this had now been reduced through the interaction of local communities and the Government.
"The communities are involved in the protection so that anyone involved in illegal logging are brought to book in the shortest time.
"The government also has strong programmes to ensure that the degradation of forests don't take place. All this is done with the support of communities."
(Mr Bishwanath Oli from Nepal (Left) and a Colleague)
A delegate from the earthquake-hit country of Nepal, Mr Bishwanath Oli, said unlike most countries their forests were well-managed through co-operation between the Government the local communities.
"We have three different forms of forest in Nepal. These are government-controlled forests, community-based forests and private forests," he said.
'Deforestation rate has gone down and we have been successful in restoring forests and also to fulfil the demands of local communities.
"We have shared our experiences in overcoming deforestation in most of the sessions we have attend here and we believe that other countries can learn from us in protecting the forests.
"We are saving the forests with support from the local communities and other stakeholders. The local communities are managing almost one quarter of the forests with their active involvement and government has provided technical support for them to manage and use the forests."
(Mr Michael Onyeka, Executive Director of Greenpeace Africa)
An environmental activist from Nigeria, Mr Michael Onyeka, said extensive and destructive logging was taking place in Nigeria and other countries in Africa and this was impacting on efforts to counter climate change.
He said he was attending the Congress because, like all other delegates, he wanted the countries in the world to work together to protect the forests for the future of humanity.
"We all need to work together because we have a common problem and that is we need the forests more than the forests need us," he said.
"And we need the forests now more than ever because of the increasing impact of climate change and global warming. We need more forests to be standing to produce oxygen, to produce the available medicinal plants for indigenous communities and so on. We hope that this kind of message will go our from this conference and all parties will start working together , across countries, across borders and across organisations."
The Forestry Congress, which ends on Friday, September 11, aims to unite governments, indigenous communities and non-government organisations on programmes to making forests a solution to climate change, integrating forests and other land uses and improving food security and livelihoods. The congress will also promote the use of wood as a renewable and sustainable source of energy, securing education and employment for the youth. ends - subry govender September 8 2015