Local forests could reap billions
Country urged to put economic value on forestsWednesday, March 27, 2013
JAMAICA could potentially earn as much as US$30 billion through its forests, says United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative, Dr Arun Kashyap.
The revenue would be realised under the UN's programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.
"It is now timely and an imperative that... Jamaica... gradually...begins the process of accrediting economic value to as many forestry goods and services as possible," he in an address at a Forestry Department forum at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in Kingston on March 21, the UN's International Day of Forests.
Dr Kashyap, who is also the UN Resident Coordinator to Jamaica, notes that the economic potential of forests are often not recognised by countries blessed with these resources. Noting Jamaica's fairly extensive forest coverage, he pointed out, too, that sustainable management strategies could yield practical solutions to minimising the frequency with which the country is impacted by adverse weather conditions, such as drought.
Meanwhile, director general in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change, Sharon Crooks, who represented portfolio minister Robert Pickersgill, praised the Forestry Department's work in its effort to preserve the island's forests during the agency's 75 years of existence.
She highlighted the department's Private Planting Programme initiative that promotes sustainable use of the forest, as well as its role in establishing some 13 Local Forest Management Committees.
"It is noteworthy that you are partnering with communities to demonstrate how they can actively pursue income-generating activities and increase their economic benefits without harming our critical forest reserves," the Director General said.
She pointed out that several communities have successfully implemented projects, focusing on nature and eco-tourism; agro forestry; woodcraft and furniture production; and bee-keeping and honey production, "all of which have contributed to the improvement of their livelihood".
Conservator of Forests and the Forestry Department's Chief Executive Officer Marilyn Headley underscored the importance of a designated day to recognise and acknowledge the importance of trees to countries' ecosystems.
"We still have a long way to go (in efforts to heighten awareness), [but] we really would like the public, the decision makers, the political representatives, (and) moreso the private sector to take a serious look at forests to see their importance," she said.
Headley said the results of the forum's deliberations will serve, among other things, to chart effective responses to new and evolving forestry-related challenges and opportunities.
In December 2012, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that March 21 be observed annually as the International Day of Forests. This milestone decision marked the culmination of a 42-year process to gain formal recognition of the invaluable benefits of forests.