The United Nations 2021 Global Forest Report states that an estimated 1.6 billion people, or 25 per cent of the global population, rely on forests for their subsistence needs, livelihoods, employment, and income.
It highlights that of the extreme poor in rural areas, 40 per cent live in forest and savannah areas, and approximately 20 per cent of the global population - especially women, children, landless farmers, and other vulnerable segments of society - look to forests to meet their food and income needs and that for centuries, forests have provided socio-economic safety nets for people and communities in times of crises.
The report also points out key benefits of forests including the fact that being in a forest or near trees can boost immune systems, lower blood pressure, reduce stress, improve mood and relaxation; plant based medicines account for 25 percent of medicinal drugs in developed countries and up to 80 percent of medicinal drugs in developing countries; 75 per cent of emerging infectious diseases are zoonotic and usually occur when natural landscapes like forests are cleared and finally that forests provide essential health products – from masks to cleaning supplies and ethanol for sanitizers.
Needless to say, we would do well to ensure that our forest cover is not depleted but given the attention it needs to thrive. This is why any tree planting project or campaign is always welcome and lauded.
In our edition of September 15, we reported that government and the business community have teamed up to restore depleted forest cover across the country. To actualize this, a reclaiming exercise of Enjeva Forest Reserve in Arua took place last weekend.
In the story, the National Forestry Authority range manager for West Nile, Mr Robert Owiny, said of the 738 hectares of forest cover in Enjeva, 200 had been lost so far. (Govt, private sector partner to restore depleted forests. Daily Monitor September 15)
Enjeva is only one of the many forest reserves that have been abused. That is why as tree planting continues in this and other recovery schemes, perpetrators of activities that deplete forest cover must also be dealt with and policies implemented by the powers that be.
Encroachers should not be left to have leeway as we look on and any attempt at recovering forest cover must be applauded.
The benefits of forests cannot be understated. We must individually take deliberate steps to maintain our environment and allow it to thrive. Only then can we reap the endless benefits.