On Sunday, March 21st Belize joined the rest of the world in celebrating International Day of Forest, 2021 under the theme “Forest restoration: a path to recovery and well-being.”
This year’s activities around the world were in tandem with the United Nations Declaration as the Decade on Ecosystem Restoration 2021-2030 to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems worldwide. The theme is also linked to a local and global response to restore the functionality of the ecosystem to benefit food production and security, soil restoration, water security, human well-being and resiliency, climate regulation, and economic stability around the globe.
On Monday, due to COVID-19 restrictions, the Forest Department hosted a virtual event on Facebook where they distributed crucial information on the importance of forest restoration and distributed prized to winners. Chief Forest Officer Wilber Sabido dubbed the event a success and said that they also conducted a tree-planting ceremony with Town Councils across the country and embarked on a clean-up campaign along the Southern Highway.
”The theme for this year’s is directly relevant to our national efforts in Belize. Belize’s economy is linked to our natural base, and while we boast 61.75% of forest cover nationally, that cover is continually under threat of degradation and deforestation. More importantly, over 36% of those forests are protected and for sustainable use. We also recognize that there is a need to have a balanced approach to sustain our human well being, to have our forest ecosystems continue providing services to ensure water security, soil restoration, food security, climate change regulation, flood control, and our own resiliency as a population that depends on our natural ecosystems,” Sabido explained.
Sabido referred back to the New River scenario in 2019 which led to a widespread fish kill. Sabido said that that event was caused by unmanaged land use and has highlighted the need to focus on restoration actions such as tree planting, conserving riparian forest areas, and introducing other integrated land management approaches.
Sabido also told the Reporter that the department has focused its efforts on promoting forest restoration through improved land-managed practices to improve soil productivity, and has hosted tree planting events, especially in degraded riparian forests. They have also worked on conserving natural spaces as well as green urban spaces by working with Town and City Councils.
The department has also renewed its commitment with the Orange Walk, San Ignacio/Santa Elena, Punta Gorda Town Councils, and the Belmopan City Council to donate 1000 seedlings annually to green urban spaces and has plans to sign similar commitments with the remaining Town Councils across the country.
Nationally, the department is also collaborating with the IUCN to finalize the ‘National Landscape Restoration Strategy’ which will identify how to restore at least 130,000 Ha of degraded ecosystems throughout terrestrial areas of Belize.
In 2012 the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21st March the International Day of Forests to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests.