The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 21 March the International Day of Forests in 2012. On each International Day of Forests, countries are encouraged to undertake local, national and international efforts to organise activities involving forests and trees, such as tree planting campaigns. This global celebration of forests provides a platform to raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests and of trees outside forests.
The Collaborative Partnership on Forests (CPF) proposed that a central theme for the annual celebration of the International Day would provide an opportunity to highlight specific forest contributions to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and decided on the 2020 topic. The theme for 2020 is "Forests and Biodiversity: Too precious to lose".
Forests are the most biologically diverse ecosystems on land, home to more than 80% of the terrestrial species of animals, plants and insects. They also provide shelter, jobs and security for forest-dependent communities. Communities around the world rely on healthy forests for the social, economic and environmental benefits they bring.
South Africa has extensive and valuable forest resources. They are valued for their biological diversity, for medicinal and local uses, and for their aesthetic and spiritual values.
- Natural forests cover a third of all land on earth. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, making it vital for continued existence.
- Locally, only 0.4% of our landmass is covered by natural forest. That is 500 000ha, supported by 39 million hectares covered by savannah systems.
- There are three main types of trees that grow on South African plantations. They are Pine (44%), Eucalyptus (44%) and Wattle (12%).
- The South African forestry industry employs 158 000 people and is responsible for 11% of the country’s agricultural GDP and 5% of manufacturing GDP.
- There are around 26 000 timber growers in South Africa. These include the big multinational corporations, government and thousands of small-scale companies.
Forests and woodlands are crucial to the protection and conservation of the soil and play a vital part in water cycling. They also help moderate water flows and reduce sedimentation in streams and reservoirs. The nation’s forests and woodlands contribute significantly to South Africa’s remarkable range of fauna and flora, much of it unique. Many national parks and eco-tourism ventures use forests and woodlands. The Kruger National Park, for example, is a woodland area.
The bulk of South Africa’s forestry plantations are in Mpumalanga followed closely by KwaZulu-Natal. Other plantations are spread across the Eastern Cape, Limpopo and the Western Cape.