International Forest Day 2021: UfM works to build regional capacity for large-scale forest restoration
- It is estimated that 40% of the Mediterranean’s forests are currently being degraded to some extent, due to increasing forest fires, overgrazing and destruction for agriculture and urban development
- 21st March marks International Forest Day, with this year’s focus on forest restoration as a path to recovery and well-being
- The Union for the Mediterranean is supporting a project for scaling up forest and landscape restoration in the area, particularly in Lebanon and Morocco
19st of March 2021. With International Forest Day approaching, we need to remind ourselves of the importance of forest ecosystems as a sanctuary for biodiversity, a way of improving air quality, and a provider of food, fresh water and jobs. The Mediterranean region is strongly hit by climate change and action must be taken now while there are still resources to protect. Based on the data of the Global Dryland Assessment of FAO, it has been estimated that about 80 million hectares of land out of 200 million hectares in the Mediterranean region are currently being degraded to some extent.
The Union for the Mediterranean has recently labelled a project for scaling up forest and landscape restoration, funded by the International Climate Initiative of the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU) of Germany and jointly implemented by the Forest and Landscape Restoration Mechanism of FAO (FAO-FLRM). The project is building regional and national capacity as a foundation to implement large-scale forest and landscape restoration (FLR) programmes in Mediterranean countries as well as other regions in the world.
Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, Mediterranean countries are actively implementing this project, including the revision of Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) to acknowledge the importance of forest and landscape restoration in combatting climate change.
The project is seeing particular success in Lebanon and Morocco. Lebanon has now prioritised rangeland management in forest and landscape restoration efforts, including in the revision of national Forest Law. Morocco is seeking to diversify income sources of herder associations to alleviate the grazing pressure on forest ecosystems and therefore facilitate their natural regeneration, and is prioritising participatory approaches to managing forest resources.
Across the Mediterranean, forests are being destroyed by increasing forest fires, overgrazing and cut-down for agriculture and urban development. Degradation is resulting from higher temperatures and reduced rainfall caused by climate change and human activities.
Forests play a crucial role in our health, economy and prosperity, and will continue to be crucial in the health of future generations. This has been recognized in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which focuses specifically on forests in Sustainable Development Goal 15: “Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss”.
We know that social and institutional factors are as important as biological ones in the construction and implementation of projects tackling forest management and land degradation and restoration. In the Union for the Mediterranean we are determined to improve people’s livelihoods. That is why we are committed to working with local and regional communities to enhance our forests’ health – because forests are life.