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United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Jamaica, Dr. Arun Kashyap, is suggesting an analysis of the potential ecomonic benfits to be derived from the country’s forests.

Dr. Kashyap, who is also the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator to Jamaica, notes that the economic potential of forests are often not recognized by countries blessed with these resources.

In noting Jamaica’s fairly extensive forest coverage, he contends that sustainable management strategies could yield practical solutions to minimize the frequency with which the country is impacted by adverse weather conditions, such as drought.

Dr. Kashyap says Jamaica could also potentially benefit from significant revenue inflows totalling as much as US$30 billion through its forests, under the UN’s programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD).

“It is now timely and an imperative that Jamaica gradually begins the process of accrediting economic values to as many forestry goods and services as possible,” he contended, while addressing a Forestry Department forum at the Terra Nova Hotel, Kingston, on March 21, to mark the UN’s International Day of Forests.

Meanwhile, Director General in the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Sharon Crooks, who represented Portfolio Minister, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, praised the Forestry Department’s work, in its effort to preserve the island’s forests during the agency’s 75 years of existence.

She highlighted the Department’s Private Planting Programme initiative that promotes sustainable use of the forest, as well as its instrumentality in establishing some 13 Local Forest Management Committees (LFMCs).

“It is noteworthy that you are partnering with communities to demonstrate how they can actively pursue income-generating activities and increase their economic benefits without harming our critical forest reserves,” the Director General said.

She pointed out that several communities have successfully implemented projects, focusing on nature and eco-tourism; agro forestry; woodcraft and furniture production; and bee keeping and honey production, “all of which have contributed to the improvement of their livelihood.”

Conservator of Forests and the Forestry Department’s Chief Executive Officer, Marilyn Headly, underscored the imperativeness of a designated day to recognise and acknowledge the importance of trees to countries’ ecosystems.

In this regard, she said the forum was indicative of the Department’s cognizance of the need to heighten national awareness through public education initiatives.

“We still have a long way to go (in effiorts to heighten awareness). We really would like the public, the decision makers, the political representatives, (and) more so the private sector, to take a serious look at forests, to see their importance,” she said.

Ms. Headley said the results of forum’s deliberations will serve, among other things, chart effective responses to new and evolving forestry related challenges and opportunities.

In December 2012, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed that March 21 be observed annually as the International Day of Forests. This milestone decision marked the culmination of a 42-year process to gain formal recognition of the invaluable benefits of forests.

By Rodger Hutchinson, JIS Reporter