The world’s forests are under pressure. From California’s redwoods to the Amazon rainforest of Brazil to Jamaica’s dry limestone forest and swamp forest, the impact of human depredation and climate change is huge, and growing.
To help raise awareness about the plight of forests while reinforcing their value, for the International Day of Forests next Tuesday, the Forestry Department is hosting Jamaica’s annual Forest Trek.
This time, they are making the journey to the Gourie Forest Management Area in Manchester and Chief Technical Director of the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica (EFJ), Allison Rangolan McFarlane, is making the trek.
In addition to the incredible educational and forest advocacy value, Rangolan McFarlane says there is also something to be said of the tremendous personal benefits.
“Forest Trek is an incredible opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, explore or rediscover Jamaica, exercise, and enjoy amazing scenery with friends… I start the following week feeling refreshed and re-energised! It doesn’t get much better than that for me,” she said in a release to The Gleaner.
For its part, the EFJ has, over the years, done is fair share of helping to restore forest cover in Jamaica through the provision of grants to local stakeholders.
It has funded over J$332.5 million in 42 projects involving reforestation and agro-forestry activities islandwide.
“Working closely with communities, these projects have helped protect Jamaica’s watersheds and forest reserves, while training rural residents and farmers in conservation techniques,” noted the release.
“The EFJ-funded activities in the Blue Mountains, the Rio Grande Valley and other parts of the island were aimed at increasing forest cover and promoting agro-forestry among farmers,” it added.
In some cases, forested areas had been damaged by hurricanes and in others through the destruction of forest for agriculture. This had resulted in soil erosion and frequent landslides on sloping land and a reduction in water availability.
“With EFJ funding farmers and residents were trained in soil and water conservation, best agricultural practises in hilly areas, watershed management and forest awareness in general,” the release said.
“Capacity building for rural residents is of particular importance in enhancing the sustainability of projects, so that they can cope with natural disasters and the rigours of climate change – and ‘stand on their own feet’,” it added.
Meanwhile, some 600 people should be joining Rangolan McFarlane on the Forest Trek.
“We are expecting it to be a good day,” said Francine Black Richards, senior manager responsible for public relations and corporate communications at the Forestry Department.
“The purpose of the trek is to get persons to get a better appreciation for the forest environment and its resources. We are anticipating that they will learn a lot, and enjoy being outdoors and one with nature,” she added.