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Stakeholders within the forest sector kicked off a slew of discussions to build and improve the local sector on day one of the inaugural National Forestry Conference on December 7, 2022 at the Jamaica Conference Centre in downtown Kingston, under the theme, “Forestry as a Business”.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator the Honourable Matthew Samuda said the Conference forms part of a European Union funded project to support productivity in the forest sector.

He commended the Forestry Department on the staging, noting that “it is absolutely crucial that Jamaicans understand the value of forests and attach the value in a way that create sustainability and this [Conference] lays the pitch for that to happen,” Senator Samuda stated.

The Minister said as a small island developing state, Jamaica has made progress in managing its forest resources, noting that the island’s forest cover has increased in recent years. He also noted that recent projects to plant trees are having positive environmental benefits.

“Three years ago, the Prime Minister launched the National Tree Planting Initiative and as at November 1, more than 2.2 million trees have been planted and distributed. It is estimated that these trees have already translated into roughly 14,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide being absorbed, 49.2 tonnes of pollutants removed from the atmosphere and some 574 million gallons of water filtered,” Minister Samuda shared.

Meanwhile, CEO & Conservator of Forests, Mr. Ainsley Henry was pleased by the start of the conference, which he noted is facilitating important and timely discussions about increasing the impact of the forest sector and determining its contribution to economic growth and job creation.

“This Conference represents a key step towards having dialogue and increased transparency in the forest sector as we seek to unlock the potential of the local forest sector. It is essential that we all understand and realise that trees and forests are valuable, not just for the environmental functions but also for the economic benefits they provide,” Mr. Henry shared.

The staging of the National Forestry Conference closes on Thursday, December 8 and seeks to examine methods to unlock the economic potential of forests locally. The event also features an exhibition, a field trip and an awards banquet. The exhibition features products and services from the local forest industry including community enterprises, manufacturers of non-timber and timber forest products as well as eco-tourism ventures.

The field trip will take participants to nearby forest industries in St. Catherine on Friday, December 9 and activities will wrap up in the evening with an awards banquet which coincides with the 85th anniversary of the establishment of the Forestry Department

Awards will be presented to forest heroes in the categories of local forest management committees, private forestry, non-government organisations, corporate, and media and public education with special awards to forest champions, lifetime achievement, youth in forestry and forestry business leader.

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