How do you teach children the value of forests?Simple. You start by showing them how to plant a tree.

Which is exactly what staff from the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in Fiji did one sunny afternoon in mid-July, when they held a tree planting event for the children of Suva Special School in Tamavua.

Several species of endemic forest and fruit trees were planted on the school grounds during the event, with SPC staff showing the children the proper way to handle the seedlings, which had been supplied by the Forestry Department of Fiji.

The activity, while simple, generated a lot of interest among the school children, who asked many questions about the seedlings, from their Fijian names to their common uses.

'We recognise that school is the ideal place to promote awareness of the value of our forest resources to our youth since this is in the frontline where their minds are developed and they become responsible people of the next generation,' said Apiame Cegumalua, SPC's Export Processing and Marketing Officer with the European Union-funded Facilitating Agricultural Commodity Trade project.

'For us in the Pacific, the International Year of Forests provides an excellent opportunity to raise the profile of our forests by organising relevant activities to celebrate the vital roles that forests play in our well-being, and to highlight the need to conserve and sustainably manage this important resource in the face of current and future threats like climate change,' she said.

The International Year of Forests (2011) has the theme 'Forests for People', celebrating the central role of people in the sustainable management, conservation and development of the world's forests.

As in other countries and regions of the globe, forests and trees play a significant role in the lives of Pacific Islanders economically, socially, culturally and environmentally.

In many Pacific Island countries and territories, especially in the small islands and atoll countries, they provide the main source of food, construction materials, fuel wood, medicines, and other countless benefits.