2020 – UN International Year of Plant Health
2020 is the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). The United Nations created it as an attempt to raise awareness of how plant health can help reduce hunger and poverty, protect the environment, and achieve sustainability goals.
Celebrate and Protect Plants
Without plants, life on Earth would not exist—they are responsible for roughly 98% of the Earth's oxygen and about 80% of the world's food. We also use plants for a variety of things necessary for us to live a comfortable life—fuel, shelter, paper, medication, and clothing, among others.
Healthy plants also help protect the environment, preserve biodiversity, and reduce the harmful effects of climate change.
Despite this, plant health has not been a priority within the global community. Pests, diseases, climate change, and human activity, including global trade and travel, pose a constant threat to the well-being of plants around the world.
On December 20, 2018, at the behest of Finland and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to declare 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health. The primary purpose of IYPH is to raise awareness of the problem and to ensure that plant health is taken seriously both at the grassroots and policymaking levels.
Providing Food Security, Eliminating Poverty
Healthy plants are critical for feeding the world's population, keeping people above poverty levels, and maintaining economies. But every year, almost 40% of the world's plants are damaged due to pests and diseases, leading to food shortages and high food prices. This also negatively affects the agricultural sector, jeopardizing livelihoods and local and national economies.
By declaring 2020 the International Year of Plant Health, the UN recognizes that when plants are kept healthy, people, societies, and economies thrive. Healthy plants mean that people have access to low-cost nutritious foods, agricultural communities develop, and national economies progress.
Protecting the Environment
In recent years, climate change and associated changes in temperatures and precipitation have made plants around the world susceptible to new diseases, pests, and invasive species. This has had a severe fallout on biodiversity and has impacted animals, birds, and other living species that depend on plants for food, shelter, and survival.
Many biodiversity and environmental organizations around the world are using the IYPH as an opportunity to educate the public and decision-makers about the link between plant health and local and global environments. They aim to help make plant health a priority in the fight against climate change.
Investing in a Greener Future
One of the key goals of the IYPH is to encourage policymakers and stakeholders to share and collaborate on best practices in plant health and work towards investing in and developing new technologies and methods to combat pests and plant diseases. This is in addition to instituting regulations that reduce the spread of pests and diseases through international trade and travel.
Maintaining and improving the health of our plants and forests is a substantial step towards combating global warming and achieving the goals set out in the UN's 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
What Can We Do?
Ensuring that plant health remains a priority in the future requires public and governmental partnership. As private citizens, we can make sure that we take steps to keep plants around us healthy. These steps can include making sure we are aware of the dangers of transporting plants and seeds across borders, using sustainable planting and farming methods, encouraging the planting of trees, and protecting bees, which are considered to be nature's most efficient pollinators.