USAID Administrator Shah Commemorates Earth Day
Washington, DC – Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), released the following statement on the occasion of Earth Day.
“Today, USAID is celebrating Earth Day and the U.N.-designated International Year of Forests by building on more than 30 years of forest conservation efforts. Recognizing the key role these ecosystems play in sustainable development and global carbon storage, USAID addresses threats to forests through a multi-faceted approach: improving natural resources management; enabling legal, policy, and institutional development; expanding market access for sustainable natural resource-based products; and working to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.
Forests cover more than 30 percent of the world’s total land area, and provide significant opportunities to remove and store carbon from the atmosphere. However, widespread deforestation contributes up to 17 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions annually.
Internationally, efforts to address the drivers of deforestation are being strengthened. At the Copenhagen climate summit in December of 2009, President Obama committed to help developing countries slow down and eventually reverse emissions from deforestation. USAID is working at the forefront of this effort through support for conservation, sustainable forest management and enhancement of forest carbon stocks; combatting illegal logging and forest degrading activities; and making significant contributions to the international Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD+) effort.
To make forest management viable in developing countries, USAID partners with the communities most dependent on natural resources. USAID is engaging community groups, local governments, and private enterprises to manage protected areas and share revenue through activities like sustainable fishing and forestry, ecotourism, and harvesting of non-timber forest products.
In Guatemala, an innovative USAID project has helped promote the sustainable harvest of the undergrowth xate palm, used in flower arrangements, from the Mayan Biosphere Reserve. Last year, this project generated over $500,000 for locals, while preserving the forest ecosystem. In Ecuador, training on improved cocoa production techniques have increased yields and local incomes while reducing pressure to convert neighboring forests to agriculture. And in Kenya, a USAID program pays farmers to plant trees on their land, and also connects them to a U.S.-based carbon broker, giving them access to future revenues generated by the sale of carbon credits.
For many of us, saving the world’s forests starts at home. Taking simple steps to reduce wasteful use of paper by printing on both sides, using cloth bags at the grocery store, recycling, and buying paper and paper products with a high recycled content all help to reduce deforestation. Today, we should remember that making small decisions in our daily lives has a direct, meaningful impact on the earth’s natural resources.
For more information about USAID's programs, please visit: www.usaid.gov/.