Minister’s message – 2021 International Forestry Day

Ministry of Agriculture, and Climate Change, Environment

Message from Minister Flavien P. Joubert

To Commemorate International Day of Forests

On 21st of March 2021

 As customary, every 21st March, the United Nations raise awareness on the importance of all types of forests. This year we will be celebrating the 9th International Day of Forests (IDF) and the theme is “Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being“. It underscores the importance of Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being at all levels in achieving sustainable forest management and biodiversity conservation. Healthy forests mean healthy, resilient communities and prosperous economies.

Approximately 80 % of our country’s land territory is covered with forests, which makes it one of the most forested countries in the world. Seychelles is well known for its efforts in identifying and designating Protected Areas by having the highest percentage of land under protection, almost 50%. Undeniably, the country’s forest hosts some of the most unique animals and plants of the world.

To celebrate the International Day of Forests, the Ministry of Environment in collaboration with its partners normally organizes a series of activities around the theme. However, for this year because of the ongoing COVID – 19 pandemic the Ministry will not be conducting any physical activities. Nonetheless, Seychelles will join the world in celebrating the International Day of Forests, which will be on Sunday 21st March 2021, through virtual awareness raising that, will extend throughout the remainder of the year. As and when the situation improves, the Ministry will re-launch its tree planting activities with partners.

On this day, the Ministry really wants to remind the public of the crucial role that forests play in building and strengthening resilience. When sustainably managed, forests contribute significantly to reducing soil erosion and the risk of landslides and other natural disasters which can disrupt the source and supply of freshwater. Forests protect and rehabilitate areas prone to soil degradation and erosion in upland areas. Their sustainable management and use of resources, including in fragile ecosystems, are key to combating climate change, and contribute to the prosperity and well-being of current and future generations. Forests also play a crucial role in poverty alleviation and in the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

This year’s theme emphasizes the role that forests must play in building a better, heathier and more equitable world as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. We need forests to absorb our emitted carbon dioxide, to stabilize rainfall patterns, lower temperatures, and to hold back desertification but also to sustain livelihoods. Yet, we continue to destroy them: an alarming fifty million hectares of forests have been lost between 2015 and 2020. Research suggests tree mortality in some forests has doubled in recent decades as a result of a drying climate and chronic anthropogenic disturbance and Seychelles has not been spared of some of these threats with Invasive alien creepers and a changing climate being our most pressing ones. More than ever people have to realize that we must ensure that forests do not just survive but thrive. Our everyday actions matter, the seedlings and saplings we plant today will support our well-being for generations to come.

Here in Seychelles there is now a real opportunity to restore degraded forests in a manner that also offers more livelihoods to its people, this is why the Ministry is working to establish enabling measures to promote Agro-forestry in a national Ridge to Reef programme. By establishing the necessary policy framework, farmers will be allowed to enter into some forest reserve areas or other degraded forested areas to develop profitable activities. Such ventures will be two –pronged, allowing restoration of critical ecosystem services provided by these forests whilst at the same time supporting some economic activities, which the country really needs.

Moreover starting this year, the country will be embarking on the revival of the cinnamon industry that also presents an opportunity for private sector to become more involved in forestry resource management. This will help remove cinnamon in protected forest areas and help in the rehabilitation of our forests by replanting endemic and native plant species.

The Ministry is implementing Campaigns aimed at reforesting some of the most eroded and degraded areas of Seychelles as part of its biodiversity conservation mandates. Local communities and certain non-governmental organization are actively contributing to reforestation and rehabilitation of degraded land and forest area especially on Praslin. In addition, effort and support has been secured from FAO to develop legislation, Policies and Action plans that will provide guidance on the overall sustainable use of forests and their resources. Forestry inventories and assessments, control and eradication of Invasive Alien Species (such as creepers), rehabilitation of native forests and ongoing Ecosystem Based Adaptation Projects are also being implemented to ensure that Forests are conserved and well managed to accommodate the different land uses and promote long-term sustainability.

Schools must also continue to play an important role in teaching about the importance of trees and forests.  Therefore, investing in forestry education is crucial in changing the world for the better. Through our environment education programme, the Ministry is committed to continue to work with its partners to raise awareness on forest ecosystems and the importance of managing it sustainably.

We wish everyone a Happy Forest Day, and invite all of you to take a minute to think about the benefits you have and continue to receive from the forest ecosystems and how you can help us in protecting them.

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