FAO Commemorates International Forest Day


March 22, 2018 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

Participant from different local and international organizations

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) – a specialized agency of the United Nations – yesterday, 21 March, joined the world in commemorating ‘International Day of Forest.’

The theme of this year’s commemoration is ‘Forests and Sustainable Cities’.

It could be recalled that the United Nations General Assembly in November 2012 proclaimed 21st March ‘International Day of Forest’ (IDF) – a day that is commemorated every year to raise awareness on the importance of all types of forest.

On each International Day of Forest, countries are encouraged to undertake local, national and international efforts to organise activities involving forests and trees.

Speaking at the commemoration ceremony at the Conference Hall of the FAO Country Office in Freetown, Representative and Country Director of World Food Programme (WFP), Dr. Housainou Taal, reiterated that on the 28th November, 2012 the United Nations Assembly proclaimed 21st March ‘International Day of Forest.’

He said he left Sierra Leone in 2010 and that on his return, he observed that things have changed especially in the area of cutting down of forest.

He cited several reasons responsible for the cutting down of trees, including agriculture and charcoal burning, which he said are largely still ongoing and that the country’s future in the area of maintaining the forest remains unclear.

He said the WFP was also concerned about the cutting down of trees across the country, adding that they have embarked on several projects in other counties, including Sudan, where he provided advise on the sustainability of such projects.

He called on the next government to make sure forests in the country are protected as forests are not only for Sierra Leone but for the whole region and the world.

He added that it was amazing that the country was experiencing a wonderful rain fall while other countries do not.

He said that in a bid to achieve the restoration of lost forests in the country, the government both the government and communities are need and that everybody should create as many forests as possible in the country.

Also speaking, Director of Forest in the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food Security, William Bangura, said the 21st of March is the birthday of the Forestry Division at the ministry and that the day used to be the hottest day in the history of Sierra Leone, but things are changing now.

He recalled that years back, the country used to experience heavy rainfall on 21st March, which was indicative that things were indeed changing and that climate change was real. He said that all Sierra Leoneans should come together to help mitigate climate change as the country is already experiencing hazards due to climate change.

He disclosed that the GUMA Valley Water Company was created to supply water to only five hundred thousand people in Freetown, but because of increase in population the company was now experiencing water shortage and that one of the causes was encroachment on the water catchment.

Speaking on behalf of Executive Chairperson of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Assistant Deputy Director of Field Operation, Joseph Sapunka Turay, said they were happy to be part of the 2018 commemoration of ‘International Day of Forest’ in the country.

He said sustainable cities, urban sustainability or eco-city is a city designed with consideration for social, economic, environmental impact and resilient habitat for existing populations, without compromising the ability of future generations to experience the same.

Turay said that the theme for this year’s celebration was a wake-up call to all Sierra Leoneans to consider forest as an integral component to the development of any city in the country, as forest is essential to the health of the environment.

He said forest is home to about eighty percent of terrestrial biodiversity and that it also regulates water cycles, maintains soil quality and reduces risks of natural disasters such as mudslides, prevents water scarcity, micro climatic effect, storm surges, regulate temperature and controls pollution.

He said environmental economists have established that Sierra Leone could benefit from up to US$2 billion annually through commerce, tourism and eco- tourism and other livelihood options if forests were protected and restored.