International Day of Forests highlights link between forests and health

Saturday, March 25, 2023

The vital relationship between trees and forests with health-related matters was highlighted during the observation of the International Day of Forests on Friday.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21March, the International Day of Forests in 2012 to celebrate and raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests.

In this regard member countries are encouraged to undertake local, national and international efforts to organise activities involving forests and trees, including tree planting campaigns.

Addressing the delegates at the International Day of Forests seminar, held at the Harold Porter National Botanical Gardens, in Betty’s Bay, Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) Deputy Minister Makhotso Sotyu called upon South Africans to appreciate the contribution of forests in our daily lives and to ensure that we protect them from a multitude of threats.

“According to the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), several studies confirm that by walking in a forest environment, and in the case of South Africa this would mostly refer to natural forests, there is an effect on lowering of the blood pressure and pulse rate and reduction of hormones related to stress.

“These indicate that forests provide that tranquil environment that one can use to relax and ease the mind when necessary. These issues point out to the fact that as we celebrate the International Day of Forests under the theme “Forest and Heath” we need to do more in bringing our health facilities, such as community clinics on board regarding the National Greening Programme,” Sotyu said.

She also noted that there have been suggestions that trees planted in health care facilities play a positive role by indirectly aiding the recovery of patients.

“Localised research is required in the areas so that we can refer to our prevailing conditions in this regard. As we celebrate the International Day of Forests, we also raise awareness on the importance of trees and the need for every South African to get involved in tree planting activities through the Ten Million Trees Programme,” said Sotyu.

The Ten Million Trees Programme was launched in 2021, with the goal of planting ten million trees over a period of five years.

Forest 21 Project

Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister announced that as part of the Forest 21 project, the department will support 14 forestry students with stipends for their experiential learning from April 2023.

Forest 21 is a joint project for strengthening capacity in South African higher education in forestry.

The project is implemented in collaboration with five Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) in South Africa, which have forestry curricula or will start teaching forestry. –