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August 7, 2019

Planting seedlings is only the first stage of growing a forest

Juho Uusihakala

The UN Climate Panel IPCC publishes tomorrow its highly anticipated report on the impacts of land use on the climate. Based on the panel’s previous reports, it should come as no surprise if the panel demands more efficient forest conservation and increment of forest area in this new report. These demands are nothing new, but instead of concentrating on the goals, we should focus on the means to achieve them. The task is anything but easy.

Last week we heard reports of Ethiopians who had planted 350 million tree seedlings in one day. This planting project was championed by the President who ordered all the country’s bureaucracies to plant trees for a day.

The initiative was admirable. However, planting seedlings is only the first stage of growing a forest. Seedlings require competent care and peace. In poor countries like Ethiopia, people need wood for their own use and hence pose the greatest threat to trees.

Stopping deforestation and establishing sustainable reforestation is challenging, unless the reasons behind cutting down trees are tackled first. In most cases, the background factors are the legitimate needs of normal, low-income people – their livelihood, firewood, food, and so on.

One effective solution to this problem is sustainable commercial forestry. The kind of forestry that benefits normal people by providing them employment and services as well as improving their living environment. The key idea is that growing forests is more beneficial to local people than destroying them.

A responsible forestry company that produces and buys certified timber creates jobs, makes services more accessible and helps protect indigenous forests by growing planted forests. Simultaneously, forestry companies create timber markets and encourage and help small farmers to plant forests. In a best-case scenario, everyone will benefit from this equation.

Responsibility is the key word here. In terms of deforestation, central Africa is currently one of the worst areas in the world. The reasons behind this include fast population growth, lack of land use planning and irresponsible forestry companies that export valuable timber mainly to Asia.

Africa needs more responsible, FSC certified forestry companies that are developing the forest industry into a more significant sector. Due to urbanisation, the demand for sustainably produced timber is rocketing, which means that forestry companies have a bright future ahead of them.

Unfortunately, illegal timber and scarcity of funding hinder the operations of sustainable forestry companies in Africa. These two issues require more international attention. Finland and the European Union could take on a more prominent role in the fight against illegal trafficking and funding sustainable investments.

Juho Uusihakala
Senior Development Impact Adviser

 

To read more:
Support to smallholder tree farming relieves the pressure on natural forests in Africa
Woodland or forest?

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