Shima is a student of class 10, living in the northeastern division of Sylhet. She is also a member of the Bangladesh Scouts, a group similar to the scouting association in the United States. Like their American counterparts, the scouts in Bangladesh are actively involved in outdoor activities and learn to appreciate their natural surroundings.
Shima participated in a hiking program organized by USAID’s Nishorgo Support Project. The Bangladesh Scouts and project field managers trekked to three different national parks in as many days to experience the natural beauty of the forest and learn about the importance of conservation.
While officially considered protected areas by the government, national forests in Bangladesh are commonly encroached upon by citizens of surrounding communities and are havens for illegal logging activities. These are mostly poor people who depend on removing timber to sell as fuel for wood-burning stoves or use for construction purposes.
During their journey, the Scouts came upon landless men and women chopping down bamboo trees in the forest. After some discussion, they discovered that these people had paid the local forest department staff a fee to cut within the park. It also became apparent that this was happening on a regular basis.
After completing the hike, Shima and the Scouts pledged to spread the importance of natural resources and protected areas. By creating awareness, Shima hopes she can generate support among the general public and government officials to conserve Bangladesh’s precious forests for other citizens to appreciate.