Time has never been ripe like it is today to talk about our forests. The current drought as a consequence of climate change could have been less severe if our forests were conserved.
There is a very strong nexus between the health of humanity and that of forests. Unfortunately, forests continue to be destroyed through human activities.
It is an apt time to create awareness on the importance of conserving our forests and the consequences of our inaction.
This year’s International Day of Forests is being marked under the theme “Forests and Health”, which stresses the importance of forests and the forestry sector for human and environmental health.
This is in sync with Food and Agriculture Organization’s strategic plan that is anchored on four betters namely – better production, better nutrition, better environment and better life.
A better life and socio-economic prosperity of a nation is tied to a secure natural resource base for provision of ecosystem goods and services that drive the productive sectors of our economy. Forests are at the centre of it all.
The campaign by President William Ruto to plant 15 billion trees by 2032 deserves support from all and sundry as a great milestone towards cooling a hot globe.
This celebration presents an opportunity to plant trees for our own future benefit. You will be surprised that about a billion people on the globe rely on forests as their main source of food.
Where they get edible herbs, fruits, nuts, meat and insects. Forests are also sources of many medicines that are harvested from leaves, barks and roots.
These not only satiate traditional herbalists but have also been used to derive active ingredients of conventional medicines.
Ethnoveterinary medicine has emerged as a field of study and indeed many herbs have been documented as potent drugs against a number of animal illnesses.
History documents that forests, apart from being carbon sinks also protected humanity from diseases. The emergence and re-emergence of zoonotic animal diseases is blamed on human invasion into forests.
Forests are also libraries full of indigenous knowledge. How the Kaya Forests of the coastal region have been protected from human destruction without a fence but cultural practices is a gem worth being studied and extrapolated.
So let us heed this call and at a personal level, the best gift you can give to the world is to plant trees.
The writer is the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Kenya Representative.