Forest products underutilised in Namibia

18 October 2021 | Agriculture

ELLANIE SMIT

WINDHOEK

The forest products industry in Namibia is under-utilised, with tree resources being harvested as raw materials for foreign markets.

Environment minister Pohamba Shifeta said the ministry has therefore decided to strictly implement the provisions of the Forest Act no 12 of 2001, which restricts the exportation of unprocessed timber in accordance with regulations of the Act.

“We want to encourage value addition of timber to ensure that it contributes to the socio and economic development of our people.”

Speaking during National Arbor Day on Friday, Shifeta said it is estimated that about 1.6 billion people in the world relies on forest resources for their livelihood.

Value addition

According to him the forest products industry alone is a major source of economic growth and employment, with global forest products traded internationally accounting for US$175 billion in 2020.

He said it is also estimated that the forestry sector contributes about U$667 billion annually to global Gross Domestic Products (GDP) and provides employment to over 50 million people worldwide.

He said that large-scale forest restoration is needed to meet the Sustainable Development Goals and to prevent, halt and reverse the loss of biodiversity.

“While 61 countries have, together pledged to restore 170 million hectares of degraded forest lands under the Bonn Challenge, progress to date has been very slow.”

Forest restoration

According to Shifeta, forest restoration, when implemented appropriately, helps restore habitats and ecosystems, create jobs and income and is an effective nature-based solution to climate change.

He said that forests are increasingly recognised for their role as a nature-based solution to many sustainable development challenges. “As such we must build on this momentum to catalyse bold actions to prevent and reverse the loss of forests and their biodiversity, for the benefit of current and future generations.”

Shifeta further stressed that forests play an important role in the livelihoods of local communities, especially in developing countries where poor households directly depend on the use of these natural resources.

“Culturally, forests have a spiritual role in some other areas as sanctuaries for traditional worshipers.”

He said that they also increase the attractiveness of rural landscapes; contribute to the reduction of soil/wind erosion and in regulating air pollution in the urban areas.

Plant more trees

“Forests conserve biodiversity by providing habitats for many flora and fauna. The forests and woodlands of Namibia contribute to desertification control by preventing soil losses that are resulting from wind and water erosion.”

He said given the significance of trees and forests, Namibians are encouraged to plant more trees, because well-managed forests for production can provide various forest goods and services and help reduce the pressure on natural forests.

“This must also be seen in the context of the increase in global wood consumption and the continued widespread reliance on wood energy.”

Shifeta further cautioned caution Namibians against activities that threaten forests, which includes the expansion of land for agriculture, the cutting of wood for fuel and domestic use, clearing for infrastructure development, uncontrolled forest fires, selective logging through timber concessions, and unlicensed curio carving.

Namibia has dedicated the second Friday of October as Arbor Day. The day aims to create awareness of the importance of conserving trees and discouraging human activities that threaten the sustainability of trees and forests such as deforestation.

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