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Highlighting the importance of forest in the region, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), and country representatives from Caribbean and Latin American countries have identified opportunities to create and sustain green jobs as the region seeks to build back better from the debilitating economic impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic.

During discussions at the 32nd Latin American and Caribbean Forestry Commission (LACFC) conference, it was noted that though the COVID-19 pandemic has adversely affected several aspects of the sector, there is a positive spin- off as there are several opportunities to explore and create new and novel “green” jobs. This is one of several recourses to build resilience and encourage speedy recovery.

The opportunities and challenges for the forest sector caused by the COVID-19 pandemic were among the issues examined during the opening day of the LACFC conference on Monday, September 6. “The forest sector has a strong potential to advance [the agenda to] effectively address poverty, generate income and employment, improve resilience to shocks in rural areas, and contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said an informational paper presented about the impact of COVID-19 pandemic on the Region.

While the impacts of COVID-19 on the forestry sector are still being determined and quantified, it is already apparent that key forestry activities have the potential to create jobs across the region. “According to the World Economic Forum, forest conservation and restoration can create millions of green jobs to boost rural economies and provide long-term sustainable growth. A report from the International Development Bank and the International Labour Organization points out that the transition to a green economy offers the promise of creating 15 million net new jobs in Latin America and the Caribbean, 60,000 of which specifically in the forest sector,” the paper added.

To stimulate the green economy’s benefits and impacts, financial incentives were highlighted as being key to encouraging job creation within the sector. “Provide financial incentives to the forest sector to allow a shift from an emergency phase to a COVID-19 recovery phase. For example, by promoting local initiatives focused on restoration, creating jobs and boosting economic activities; and by creating enabling conditions for the forest sector to access international assistance and financing for specific measures in response to COVID-19,” the paper said.

In Jamaica, the opportunity to contribute to the national and local community economies through job creation is increasing but the need for more information is necessary for good decision-making. “Communities near our own forests have been impacted by COVID-19. If we can produce figures on how their reliance on the socio-economic services of forest during this time has changed, it will be good for our team to look at this as well,” said Donna Lowe, Head of the Jamaican delegation to the conference.

While Jamaica continues to assess the impact of COVID-19 on the local forest industry, there is still the potential for our citizens, especially in rural communities to gain employment within the sector. “Annually the Agency employs in excess of 600 people to assist with our implementation of various forest management activities and this has continued despite COVID-19 as our activities have allowed for full compliance with the mandated protocols,” said Ainsley Henry, CEO & Conservator of Forests. “Even in a pandemic, planting trees is still possible.”

Mr. Henry, who is also the new president of the Commission added that for community groups, as forest related activities increase, more livelihood activities can be established and expanded. “As multilateral, bilateral and local funding opportunities to execute activities within the forest sector increase, community groups will be able to establish more sustainable livelihood activities, which will also contribute to providing employment in the community while contributing to economic activity nationally.”

The 37 member countries of the commission also examined other issues related to the pandemic including its effects on forest resources, the forest sector and forest dependent communities. The five-day virtual meeting being hosted by Jamaica will feature discussions about various forestry related issues and provide recommendations and guidance for the new FAO strategic framework and forestry, access to climate and environmental finance, restoration of forests and other ecosystems and integrated fire management.

The LACFC, which meets biennually, advises the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) on the forestry programme to be developed for the LAC Region.

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