Not quite a birthday for trees, but close

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    Today marks the International Day of Forests. Hurray!!!

    In November 2012, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests. The Day provides an annual platform to raise awareness on the importance of forests and trees and the myriad ways in which they sustain our livelihoods.

    This year’s theme is “Forests and Water: Sustaining Life and Livelihoods.”

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    Forests have an important role in providing and regulating water at the local and regional levels in a number of ways, from groundwater recharge and erosion control to promoting precipitation through evapotranspiration.

    Forested watersheds and wetlands provide about 75 percent of the planet’s freshwater resources, while over one -third of the world’s largest urban centres depend on protected forests for a significant proportion of their water.

    So in the spirit of the day, the Food and Agriculture Organization has launched a new programme aiming to enhance the critical role of forests in improving water quality and water supplies.

    The programme, focused specifically on the close relationship between forests and water, will start off by looking at ways to improve water security in eight West African countries: Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal and Sierra-Leone. The agency will work with local communities to raise their awareness of the interactions between forests and water and help them to integrate forest management in their agricultural practices to improve water supplies.

    With this year’s theme, organizations hope to shine a spotlight on how forests can contribute to improving water availability, especially in countries facing scarcities of this precious resource which is becoming increasingly important in the face of climate change.

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    The FAO’s programme kicks-off with a first focus on setting up a forest-water monitoring framework to help countries assess potential forest benefits in terms of water resources. This will involve developing a set of standardised monitoring indicators and field methods to identify which forest management interventions result in improved water quality and enhanced supplies. This data will be in turn used to develop better-informed practices and policies to unleash the full potential of forests in improving water supply.

    The monitoring framework will be piloted in West Africa’s Fouta Djallon Highlands, with field activities having kicked off this month. The project, funded by the Global Environmental Facility, is being jointly implemented by FAO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the African Union (AU).

    The International Day of Forests celebrates and raises awareness of the importance of all types of forests, and trees outside forests, for the benefit of current and future generations

     

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