The Sunday News
Robin Muchetu, Senior Reporter
TREES are an important component of livelihoods and with the advent of smart and green cities as an approach to urban development, it demands that urban forestry is scaled up as part of land use planning.
Through the Second Republic’s approach of leaving no one and no place behind, pre-National Tree Planting Day awareness campaign is a nationwide programme that will cover all 10 provinces in the country with Matabeleland South and North holding their pre-tree planting initiatives last week.
In a speech read on her behalf at a tree planting event at Sizane High School in Bulawayo yesterday, by Ms Boetsoanelo Noko, the Director of Co-ordination in the office of the Minister of State and Provincial Affairs and Devolution in Bulawayo Province, First Lady, Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa, who is also the Patron for Environment and Tourism, said communities must plant trees as they have several uses that sustain livelihoods.
“It is therefore not a mistake that we are gathered here in an urban environment as trees now form part of the urban landscape. I feel greatly honoured and privileged to be here with you in Bulawayo today in my capacity as the Patron for Environment and Tourism. Let me once again reiterate our call to continue with the task of tree planting in our country as we enter the summer cropping season to plant as many trees as possible.
“This tree planting event serves as a precursor to the main event to be officiated by the President of our country, His Excellency Cde Dr ED Mnangagwa, on the 2nd of December 2023. In my capacity as the Patron for Environment and Tourism it is my duty to remind and encourage all citizens on the importance of Tree Planting and to exhort the nation to continue to care and manage the trees already planted,” said Dr Mnangagwa.
The First Lady said trees act as the first line of defence against the vagaries of climate change challenges as they provide several climate-proofing attributes.
She said during the drought periods induced by climate change, people in different parts of the country including towns and cities turn to natural resources for livelihoods. People from the rural areas collect wild fruits and sell them in cities like Bulawayo and generate income to augment their livelihoods. Dr Mnangagwa said the tree planting programme continues to be executed under the theme: Trees and Forests for Ecosystems Restoration and Improved Livelihood.
“The theme is in sync with what I said earlier on that trees and forests are important for our environment and improving our livelihoods. The theme further reminds us of the benefits of trees and forests. Forests are habitats for wildlife and gardens/orchards of indigenous medicines. Trees control rain run-off and as a consequence curb soil erosion and stop siltation that reduces water holding capacities of our rivers and dams. Firewood in the rural areas is collected from forests. Sometimes our urban households do experience power shortages and some newly established suburbs are yet to be connected to the power grid, causing the residents to fall back on firewood as a source fuel for domestic energy,” she added.
The First Lady applauded Sizane High School, the parent church, and the Forestry Commission for choosing an appropriate site to plant the trees. She planted the Vocheilia Xanthoploea, muunga/ singa tree.
“Your efforts to bring tree planting to our students and the learning environment are commendable. Sizane High School will forever be etched in our minds as having contributed to green cities development and fighting climate change and livelihoods enhancement through this milestone tree planting,” she said.
The Patron of Environment and Tourism said trees play a significant role in the day-to-day lives of communities.
“Let us just pause for a few seconds and imagine what life would be like in a country without any plant forms in their various categories and uses. What immediately comes to mind is that there would be no fruits, no oxygen, no timber, no tourism, no agriculture, and in essence no survival of living things including human beings. The supremacy of trees and other plants is demonstrated in the sequence of creation; God created the Garden of Eden first before creating Adam and Eve. This means, trees and forests can thrive on their own, but people cannot survive without trees and forests,” she said.
In line with the country’s vision for 2030, trees and forests are some of the natural resources found in the country and are expected to play a critical role in the achievement of the national vision. While those in the rural areas will be planting trees there for both fuel — wood and livestock fodder, those in urban areas were encouraged by the First Lady to play their part by planting trees for fruit, ornamental, hedges, and windbreaks to protect various infrastructure found in the cities.
In an endeavor to lessen the burden on the citizens, the Forestry Commission and other departments/agencies involved in environmental issues have embarked on legislation reviews aimed at strengthening them, encouraging conservation and sustainable utilisation of natural resources to enhance/improve livelihoods among the communities.
The thrust also includes training communities on how to raise seedlings in the nurseries, woodland management on strategic urban pockets of forests, wildland fire protection, tree planting, and Agroforestry schemes.
“As the Patron for Environment and Tourism, let me take this opportunity to thank the Forestry Commission and its various partners for the work it is performing in the conservation of trees and forests. I encourage you to embrace the love for trees through tree planting and disseminating information on trees to our community members and stakeholders,” added the First Lady.
She also lamented rampant tree-cutting being faced today in urban areas for various reasons. As a direct result of wanton tree cutting, undesirable effects have been observed including blown-out rooftops.
“I take this opportunity to inform you that tree cutting for firewood selling or making charcoal is against the law. It is not allowed. If there is a need to cut trees in our plots or surroundings we should inform the Forestry Commission and the city fathers for sound advice. The Forestry Commission together with Bulawayo City Council officials will guide you on proper and lawful ways of trimming and harvesting urban tree products,” she said.
The First Lady also alerted the delegates of the predictions by the Meteorological Services Department that the country is expecting two cyclones this season. She said it is therefore critical that the health status of urban trees be assessed so that the country removes, ahead of time, those that may fall on houses, school buildings, and other infrastructure.
She encouraged parents and guardians to teach and train the young to plant and care for trees and to have respect for the environment so that it becomes part of the culture.
The Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution in Bulawayo Judith Ncube who was represented by Mrs Beaula Gwaze, deputy director of Co-ordination said Bulawayo was taking a vibrant role in afforestation besides the semi-arid conditions. She said the province boasts of the National University of Science and Technology which has a fully-fledged department of Forest Resources and Management which complements the efforts being done around tree planting in Bulawayo.
The Forestry Commission said they were ready to support agroforestry, planting trees, and creating substantial afforestation and reforestation initiatives towards sustainable regulatory goods and services that the forests provide for the people. — @NyembeziMu