Forests for Health
A recent study conducted across 27 countries in Africa found that the dietary diversity of children exposed to forests was at least 25% higher than that of children who were not. The total number of plant species used for medicinal purposes could be as high as 50,000! Furthermore, several studies have shown that spending time in a forest environment has positive effects on human health, including reducing blood pressure and pulse rate, and lowering cortisol levels.
Sustainable Development Goals and the 2023 Theme
The United Nations has recognized the critical role of forests in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Forests contribute to 12 of the 17 SDGs, including poverty reduction, food security, and climate action. The theme for International Day of Forests 2023 is “Forests for People’s Health and Well-being,” highlighting the importance of forests in promoting human health and wellbeing. By protecting and conserving forests, we can contribute to achieving the SDGs and promoting sustainable development.
The Importance of Forests
Forests cover nearly 31% of the Earth’s land area and are home to over 80% of terrestrial biodiversity. Forests offer numerous benefits to humans and the environment. They regulate water cycles, prevent soil erosion, and purify the air. Forests also provide essential resources such as food, medicine, and timber, and according to the World Bank contribute approximately 1% to the global GDP, providing employment to millions of people worldwide. In some countries, like Cameroon, forests contribute 6% of total GDP!
The Threats to Forests
Despite their importance, forests are under threat from deforestation and insect damage. The world is losing 10 million hectares of forest each year due to deforestation, which is about the size of Iceland. Insects also damage around 35 million hectares of forest annually. These threats to forests put the planet’s sustainability at risk, highlighting the need for sustainable forest management and conservation.
On this International Day of Forests, it is essential to recognize the critical role forests play in our lives and the planet’s sustainability. From providing essential resources to regulating water cycles and mitigating climate change, forests are an indispensable resource. However, they face threats from deforestation and insect damage, putting their existence and our well-being at risk. By promoting sustainable forest management and conservation, we can protect forests and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. Let us celebrate and appreciate forests’ significance and work towards preserving them for future generations.