International Day of Forests is annually celebrated on 21 March. The theme for this year's celebration is "forests and health."
The numerous health values of forests, physically, mentally and emotionally, have been recognized and documented through credible research, for example, by the UN's World Health Organization (WHO).
They include the therapeutic benefits from providing spaces for exercise and recreation| and serving as carbon sinks that absorb the greenhouse gases contributing to climate change.
In addition, forests are important food sources. They help to prevent ill health and disease by improving air quality through the removal of pollutants and by cooling the environment.
By signing up to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the UN's Strategic Plan for Forests, Nigeria is committed to achieving sustainable management of all types of forests by 2030.
Unfortunately, Nigeria has been losing its forests at a rate of 5% annually, which ranks as one of the highest in the world in percentage terms. This is due to a high population growth rate, which is fuelling demand for land to support settlements and farming.
To make progress towards the SDGs, forest loss has to be reversed. Governments at all levels must conserve and protect forests through updated forestry policies and laws.* Forest crimes also have to be prioritized through the willingness to enforce criminal penalties.
At the individual and community level, the planting and protection of trees should be encouraged especially in urban areas.
* READ more. Fajemirokun, B. (2021). Making the Case for Reforms of Forestry Policy and Law: Lessons and Experiences from Nigeria. Environmental Policy and Law Journal, 51(5), 317 – 325.