World Rainforest Day was started in 2017, with the hope that we take time to collectively recognize the preciousness and the importance of our world’s rainforests and take action to protect and preserve them. This year, World Rainforest Day is being celebrated Monday, June 22, and it is truly worth celebrating everywhere because rainforests and forests all over the world are vital for our ecosystem, climate system, and human and animal livelihoods.Extensive deforestation is happening around the world. Deforestation for mining, logging, and animal agricultural purposes contribute to 20% of greenhouse gas emissions, which is a significant contributor to climate change. Even in Northern Africa and Morocco, deforestation and human impact are high, largely due to the growing population and increasing land conversion for agriculture, a large sector of the economy. On one hand, agriculture (especially animal agriculture) is a primary reason for forest degradation, soil erosion, overexploitation of land, and hence 20% greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. However, agriculture can have a positive impact on the environment, if done environmentally- and climate-consciously. Studies suggest that planting a billion hectares of trees–more than half a trillion trees–can capture approximately 205 gigatons of carbon, reduce atmospheric carbon (a greenhouse gas) by roughly 25%, and mitigate, to some extent, negative effects of climate change.
While reforestation can help reduce our carbon footprint, this is only a fraction of the climate change “solution.” There are many ways to help the earth, the environment, and inhabitants, and educating ourselves is an integral first step. We need to be more aware of the long term effects of our personal decisions–from the food we eat and the products we buy–and we need to keep large corporations and industries accountable for their role in contributing to climate change. As consumers, we hold the bargaining power to make immense and sustainable change. We can consciously choose how to spend our time and our money to best have a positive impact on the environment, and choosing to support locally, sustainably grown food and farmers is another step in the right direction.
Since its inception in 2000, the High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has wholeheartedly put sustainable development and Moroccan communities at the center of its mission, implementing local initiatives in areas of sustainable agriculture, education, health, women’s and youth empowerment, and capacity-building. Growing trees, registering carbon credits, and certifying organic have been some of the many important ways HAF has consciously put the earth, its inhabitants, and its future generations at the forefront of sustainable development. Since 2003, HAF and communities have planted more than 4 million seeds and trees with farming families and schools, and approximately 10,000 household incomes are impacted (60,000 rural people). Additionally, HAF partners with various government, civil, and private agencies in Morocco and internationally that also prioritize reforestation to create connections and to assist Moroccan communities. The HAF-Ecosia partnership is planting 2.4 million seeds in two years from 2019-2021, which will greatly contribute to Moroccan livelihoods. By allowing the Moroccan people to reap the fruits of combined efforts of many actors’ labor, sustainable agriculture goes far beyond the fields–supporting the environment and livelihoods, as well as building relationships between the people, the government, and various intercultural groups.
The people and our environment are intricately interconnected. Our actions have the power to create a sustainable future that takes into account both the positive and negative impacts we can have on our environment. All people need to be aware of how their actions can hurt or help the earth. Educating yourself, donating money or time to rainforest protectors, and spreading the word is a huge step in protecting the earth and its rainforests, because our actions–conscious or not–impact our world, and people all over the world more than we often realize.