For the present, and the future

For the present, and the future

Today, March 21, is the International Day of Forest (IDF). Since 2012, this day has been celebrated worldwide to raise awareness about the importance of forests. This year the theme of IDF is “Forests and sustainable production and consumption.” This goal aligns with the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12 -- maintain sustainable consumption and production patterns. The SDG 12 emphasizes sustainable management and efficient use of natural resources and living in harmony with nature.  

Responsible production and consumption can also significantly alleviate poverty and the transition towards low-carbon and green economies. The theme aims to underscore how sustainable production of forests can promote sustainable consumption and address the climate emergency.

This year’s IDF seeks to raise awareness of sustainable forest products, which implies a sustained supply of forest goods and services for the benefit of present and future generations. Sustainable forest production is a prerequisite for reviving the degraded ecosystems and for the services of timber, food, water, fuelwood, fodder, medicines, fiber, habitat for wildlife, biodiversity, climate regulation, ecotourism, and green jobs.  

However, researchers have shown that unwise consumption of natural resources coupled with climate change and increased population pressure is depleting the natural resource base at an unprecedented rate. This consumption rate influences global environmental factors such as climate change, damaging ecosystems, encouraging deforestation and forest degradation, and posing threats to livelihoods. 

Many interventions have been shown to improve sustainable consumption, including community-based forest restoration with native mixed species, assisted natural regeneration, agroforestry, ecosystems-based adaptation, co-management of natural resources, mixed forests, conserving mother trees and tissue culture, and developing skilled professionals.

Are we consuming rationally?

There are 2.57 million hectares of forest lands in Bangladesh, of which the Bangladesh Forest Department (BFD) manages 1.88 million hectares (73%), and the remaining 0.69 million hectares (27%) are administered by the district administration of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs). Trees and forests in Bangladesh provide a wealth of resources in the form of nutrition, energy, medicine, and materials that local communities heavily depend on.  

Currently, there is a moratorium on tree harvesting from forests managed by the government in Bangladesh. So, most of the timber demand in Bangladesh is fulfilled from the homestead, participatory forestry, and imported timber. In addition to the wood product, non-wood forest products (NWFPs) significantly contribute to the livelihood of forest-dependent people living in and around the forest.  

According to the Bangladesh Forest Inventory 2019, 65% of households near forest areas collect NWFPs. The value of primary forest products collected by households is on average Tk19,518 per year, mainly contributed in fruit (47%) and energy (40%). A significant source of livelihood generation from forest-dependent and forest-adjacent communities comes from NWFPs, including fuelwood, fruits, medicine, fodder, honey, thatching materials, fish, crab, vegetables, edible leaves, and shoots. 

Moreover, the forest provides economic security during hardship, when crops fail, or when families face financial challenges. More importantly, forest resources are the primary source of essential vitamins, minerals, protein, and calories, especially for indigenous people in hill areas and ultra-poor rural households with limited agricultural land or homestead areas. 

It is evident that the wood products and the NWFPs consumption trend are changing nowadays among people in Bangladesh due to the increased purchasing capacity, product diversity, and added value of forest products. The per capita carbon footprint is dramatically rising related to this extra-consumption behaviour. Forest production and consumption gap can be minimized by its efficient uses and rational consumption. Efficient use of forest products could be ensured through proper treatment and seasoning of wood products, reducing wood wastage in wood-based industries, ethical consumption, and eco-labeling. 

What can we do?

Sustainable forest management and consumption in Bangladesh are guided by national acts, rules, policies, strategies, international treaties, and conventions. For sustainable forest production and consumption, under the Perspective Plan (2021-2041) and 8th Five Year Plan (2021-2025), the government of Bangladesh has emphasized improved forest governance, supporting alternative livelihoods to reduce pressure on the forest, recovering encroached forest land, implementing collaborative forest management, conserving wildlife and endangered species, and strengthening community-led forest patrolling groups. 

More importantly, suggested policies and measures include the sustainable supply of alternate energy for fuelwood, afforestation of degraded forests and marginal land for sustained fuelwood supply, implementation of land use policy for improved monitoring of carbon stock in forests by resolving land tenure problems, improving the enabling environment for increasing carbon stocks, improving the institutional capacity of stakeholders for addressing deforestation and forest degradation, and developing a communications protocol for mass awareness generation.  

Additionally, government collaboration with the forestry academic and research institutions will significantly contribute to developing new forestry technologies and management practices as a whole. In addition, many private-sector companies have taken actions to exclude illegal and unsustainable wood products from their supply chains for achieving zero deforestation or zero net deforestation in their supply chains.

Sustainable production and consumption cannot be achieved in a few years. Through policymakers’ and governments’ collaboration with the people, we can at least hope to reach a point by 2030 to make forests last longer and better for present and future generations. 

In partnership with the US Agency for International Development (USAID), US Forest Service is working with the government of Bangladesh to enhance the capacity of institutions and communities to manage natural resources and improve the community's livelihoods through the “Community Partnership to Strengthen Sustainable Development” (Compass) program.  

Compass highlights the importance of sustainable forest production and consumption to celebrate the IDF for creating awareness among people, students, youth, and faculty members. Compass celebrates the day in collaboration with NGOs, development agencies, and forestry academic institutions. The day activities include planting trees, rally, poster and essay competition, talks, and seminars. 

Md Shams Uddin is Academic and Research Coordination Specialist, Compass, USFS International Programs. Shahadat Hossain Shakil is Environment and Climate Change Specialist, Economic Growth Office, USAID/Bangladesh. Sahadeb Chandra Majumder is GIS Analyst, Compass, USFS International Programs. This report is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The contents of this report are the sole responsibility of Compass and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, USFS, or the US government.


Source : Dhaka Tribune