DR. ARUN KASHYAP // The National Forestry Forum

Mar 21, 2013

• Ms. Marilyn Headley, Conservator of Forests and CEO of the Forestry Department;

• Distinguished members of the Head Table; Ladies and gentlemen, good evening to you all.

The United Nations General assembly has proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests. From 2013, the day will be observed each year to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of forests and trees to all life on earth.  On this first International Day of Forests I am pleased to join its celebration as a part of the National Forestry Forum in Jamaica. As an erstwhile forester, my first message to all of you is to thank you for participating in national efforts to organize activities involving forests and trees, and please also undertake to “plant a tree.”  It is gratifying that the International Day of Forests follows the International Day of Happiness on 20 March 2013.

If you had an opportunity to see the recent one minute UN and FAO video on World Forestry Day, it reiterates the need to sustain forests to sustain “all life”.  This need is equally, if not more important, for the small islands.  We are pleased to be engaged with the Forestry Department including in its preparation for the Tenth Session of the United Nations Forum on Forests that emphasizes Forests and Economic Development to be held in Istanbul, Turkey from April 8 - 19, 2013.
It was encouraging to observe that the National Stakeholder Consultation to prepare Jamaica’s position paper for the UN’s Forum on Forests emphasizes the further need to include valuation of ecosystem services.  Globally we tend to take the “intangible components” of forest-related services for granted without attributing or accounting for their economic values in the national accounts; it is now timely and an imperative that for Jamaica we gradually and rigorously begin the process of accrediting economic values to as many forestry goods and services as possible. 

For instance, adequate forest cover especially in catchments/ watersheds prevents soil erosion, conserves surface and groundwater resources. I am sure you would agree with me that sustainable forest management strategies could contribute to a possible solution in Jamaica to minimize the frequency and adverse impacts of droughts and hopefully eventually eliminate them.

Similarly, the role of forests as a sink for carbon that can simultaneously strengthen the adaptive capacities of local communities to climate change can lead to economic revenues through the UN collaborative programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+).  It represents an effort to create a financial value for the carbon stored in forests, offering incentives for developing countries to reduce emissions from forested lands and invest in low-carbon paths to sustainable development. “REDD+” goes beyond deforestation and forest degradation, and includes the role of conservation, sustainable management of forests and enhancement of forest carbon stocks.  It is predicted that financial flows for greenhouse gas emission reductions from REDD+ could reach up to US$30 billion a year.

For a country that the Tainos termed the Land of Wood and Water – and for the right reasons because nearly 30% of the island is comprised of forests -- limestone forests, shale forests, lowland dry forests, alluvial forests and wetland forests along the coastal plains – it is number 5 in biodiversity with most endemic species, I would believe the possibility of initiating projects that would incorporate reduced emissions from forests should be a no brainer.  Moreover having both bauxite (read degraded lands) and tourism (read high end eco-tourism) as major sources of revenues for the country, the brief three minutes time will not allow me to do justice to elaborating on the potential for mobilizing economic revenues and economic development that exists in Jamaica’s forestry department.  

We look forward to an opportunity to integrate forestry in the relevant development activities of various UN agencies and explore how the UN can best serve the Forestry Department and the priorities of the Government of Jamaica.  The upcoming discussions on Post 2015 development agenda – the future we want for all, and the SIDS national and regional discussions to be held in Jamaica would provide favourable opportunities to hear from diverse stakeholders to mainstream forests and forestry into viable integrated and inclusive national development strategies.  We look forward to building upon these ideas and contributing to the timely achievement of Vision 2030 Jamaica.

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