How long have you worked for Size of Wales, and what’s your main role within the organisation?
I joined Size of Wales back in January. I am Head of Programmes and have two roles. One is to oversee the forest projects we support in South America, Africa and South East Asia. The other part of my role is to lead on Size of Wales’ new policy and advocacy work, engaging with key stakeholders such as Welsh Government, public sector bodies and businesses to eliminate imported deforestation from their supply chain.
What drove you to work within the topic of climate change, and deforestation?
I have seen first-hand the impact that climate change and deforestation is having on our environment and local communities in South America. I saw swaths of the Amazon forest being cut down for mining projects, roads and large-scale agricultural projects such as palm and cattle rearing. This destruction is having grave consequences for the planet and for the communities that live there, particularly Indigenous People who are guardians of the forests. Indigenous People and forest communities are at the forefront of the fight against climate change and in many cases risk their lives to protect our precious forests.
We all have a role to play in tackling the climate emergency and we need to take rapid action.
What do you enjoy most about coordinating global Forest Projects?
I am really passionate about supporting local initiatives that work with communities to nurture and protect forests and restore forests in areas that have been heavily deforested. This ranges from supporting the rights of Indigenous People to protect their land, to growing trees in areas that have suffered from deforestation and building sustainable livelihood opportunities that enable communities to be more resilient. By working together with local people, especially indigenous people and women who hold so much knowledge about how to live in harmony with our forests, we can bring about real change.
Is it a cliché to say trees are our future?
No, it’s not. Trees really are our future! They play a crucial role in tackling the climate crisis by absorbing man made carbon emissions. But forests are not just important for the climate. They have many other important functions. Tropical forests are also home to some of the greatest number of species in the world and they guarantee fresh water supply to millions of people. Strikingly 70% of the three thousand plants that have anti-cancer properties are to be found in tropical forests.
Protecting forests can also have other health benefits. As we cut down trees, there is a greater risk of the emergence of deadly viruses such as COVID-19. As more natural habitats disappear, humans are exposed to new viruses.
Trees are essential to life on the planet. But time is running out and deforestation rates remain worryingly high, despite commitments made by governments and companies to address this problem.
Do you have any exciting plans for the current forest projects, or are there any new ones you’re planning?
Over the past seven months, we have developed a new forest strategy. The strategy aims to strengthen some of our current projects, particularly the tree growing initiatives in East Africa and start new projects in countries that are experiencing high levels of deforestation. We want to support partners that work closely with Indigenous People, as research has shown that the most effective strategy to conserve forests, in any part of the world, is to empower indigenous groups. We are also going to be gathering more case studies from the voices of the communities most affected by deforestation, so that this can be used in our policy and education work here in Wales to bring about real change.
Any final comments?
Over the next few months, we will be updating our website with the new exciting projects we are supporting. So watch this space for more news!