JAKARTADAILY.ID – March 21st marks the International Day of Forests, a time to look back at the essential role of forests in our lives. This year the theme is called: “Healthy Forest for Healthy People”.
Forests provide a wide range of benefits to human health, both physical and mental. Forests protect watersheds and hold the soil together reducing erosion, which helps maintain the quality and quantity of water resources. They act as natural filters by absorbing and purifying water.
Spending time in forests can reduce stress and anxiety levels. They are also good places for physical exercise. The natural environment can make exercise more enjoyable and sustainable.
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Forests are home to a vast array of plant and animal species, including many that have medicinal properties. Rural communities have long used these plants for their health benefits. Many modern medicines have been derived from forest species.
“It is estimated that around 820 million people live in tropical forests and savannahs in developing countries, including Indonesia. A high proportion of these people depend on forest goods and services to provide food, wood fuel, building materials, medicines, employment, and cash income”, said Rajendra Aryal, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representative in Indonesia and Timor Leste.
In addition, millions of forest owners in developed countries benefit from a huge number of often small patches of forests they manage. When smallholder farmers practicing agroforestry are included in the number of people who can be considered forest dependent, the total figure reaches around 2.5 billion.
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The role of forests in the health of these populations is significant. Forests provide food, livelihood, and income-earning opportunities that contribute to food security and nutrition.
Addressing the threats to Indonesian Forests
Indonesia has one of the largest tropical forest areas in the world, covering around 95 million hectares or 236 million acres. This forest area is spread across the country's many islands and covers half of the country. Indonesia’s forests are home to many plant and animal species, including the critically endangered Sumatran tiger, orangutan, and Javan rhinoceros.
However, Indonesia's forests have been facing significant threats in recent decades. The threats came due to deforestation, illegal logging, and forest fires, driven by agricultural expansion, logging, and mining activities.
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According to data from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry (MoEF) of Indonesia, the country's forest area decreased by around 6.02 million hectares between 2000 and 2020. The rate of deforestation has been decreasing significantly in recent years and from 2021 to 2022 the net deforestation was 113,000 ha, which is the lowest for over 30 years.
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