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Celebrating World Forest Day, the First Minister’s birthday and thinking together for those who come behind us

Celebrating World Forest Day, the First Minister’s birthday and thinking together for those who come behind us

By Peter Davies, Sustainable Futures Commissioner for Wales

Those of you who have had any contact with the Size of Wales will know it has a reputation for involving people in fun and unexpected ways! The fact that the First Minister had been invited to lunch with supporters to mark World Forest Day on what happened to be his birthday provided ample opportunity for surprise and celebration. I am sure the FM appreciated the birthday wishes and the opportunity to blow out candles on a Welsh cake the shape but not quite the size of Wales!

More seriously though I know he appreciated the opportunity to contribute to the celebration of the contribution of the Size of Wales, which has succeeded in mobilising the nation to raise over £800,000 towards the £2 million required to protect an area of rainforest the size of Wales. These funds are benefiting 19 tropical forest conservation projects in 15 countries in Africa and South America, which total just over 2 million hectares and include establishing land rights for indigenous people, supporting sustainable community forest management and reforestation.

We were joined at the World Forest Day lunch by Tom Griffiths of the Forest Peoples Project, one of the Size of Wales delivery partners, who presented on behalf of the Wapichan people in Guyana.

This project supports the indigenous Wapichan people to map their traditional lands, secure legal title to their customary forests and develop plans for forest conservation and sustainable livelihoods – against the threat of invasion by loggers, infrastructure projects and mining interests.

The project support has helped the Wapichan people to prepare plans for the care of their territory, called “thinking together for those who come behind us” – the name itself a lesson in communicating sustainable development.

The plan has involved the completion of a community digital map of traditional use and occupation of Wapichan wiizi (territory) by Wapichan mappers and a GIS specialist, based on thousands of waypoints geo-referenced with satellite imagery with over 80 consultations and workshops. The land use plan includes proposals to establish a Wapichan Conserved Forest and contains dozens of inter-community agreements on actions to secure land rights, promote sustainable use of resources, enable self-determined community development, providing a potential model for other indigenous peoples in Guyana, and throughout the world.

If there was ever a model for our concept of a Natural Environment Framework, Ecosystem services and the role of the future single environment body, then this was it!

A moving video from the Wapichan people to thank the people of Wales for their support brought home the real contribution that Wales was making to this project, but of course it is the people of Wales who are getting the real benefit – not only in learning about managing ecosystems and community engagement – but in terms of the contribution of the tropical forests to tackling climate change and preserving our global biodiversity.

Tropical forests currently absorb nearly a fifth of the world’s man-made CO2 emissions every year, while 15-20% of man-made carbon emissions are from deforestation and degradation. Tropical rainforests are especially important habitats, and not just for those living there – they play a vital role for everyone on the planet. A single hectare of rainforest may contain 200 species of tree, some over 60m tall, and over 40,000 species of insect. They play a crucial role in storing water, regulating rainfall, and preventing floods, droughts and erosion. In addition they produce much of the world’s oxygen which all animals breathe.

This is why the Size of Wales is such an important element in our national plan to tackle climate change and as a project I think it contains some important lessons for our wider approach to climate change in Wales – above all it is:
• fun, and engages people across Wales in unexpected ways – ask the First Minister – or the students of the Royal College of Music who now connect their wood instruments to a sustainable forest project in Tanzania;
• multiplying the impact of large partner networks that can be mobilised through bodies such as RSPB, WWF, Christian Aid and the Welsh Rugby Union;
• working with the private sector to add value to their products and services – such as the clothes retailer Toast who donated 10% of their final day sales to the project (over £4000);
• using social media to huge effect especially through facebook and twitter;
• working with our identity and pride as a nation to show that a small country can make a difference to the biggest global challenge.

If you want to work together for those who come behind us and join in our national challenge to protect an area of tropical rain forest the Size of Wales then visit www.sizeofwales.org.uk

The Size of Wales is a charity with core costs funded by The Waterloo Foundation, which means that all funds raised go to forest project partners.

Thanks to Cynnal Cymru for this blog.


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