Cape Town - South Africans have been encouraged to plant trees as a practical and symbolic gesture of sustainable environmental management during National Arbor Week.
From September 1 to 7, the nation pays respect to its biodiversity, planting trees to reduce carbon emissions.
For building material, food, medicine and simple scenic beauty, trees and forests play a vital role in the health and well-being of communities, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Senzeni Zokwana says.
During Arbor Week, government institutions, schools, communities, businesses and organisations are encouraged to participate in community “greening” to improve the health and beauty of the local environment.
Zokwana said the world population reached 7.3 billion as of mid-2015. This means the global population has grown by approximately one billion people in the past 12 years.
According to him, it is predicted that the world population will continue to grow and more than half of the global population growth between now and 2050 is expected to occur in Africa.
“The year 2017 has been declared the year of Oliver Reginald Tambo. It is the year of unity in action by all South Africans as we move South Africa forward together. We hope it will be the same in greening that we can get government, the private sector, community-based organisations and non-government organisations working together towards the greening of our country,” Zokwana said.
Zokwana officially launched Arbor Week in the Matatiele local municipality at the Cedarville town hall on Friday.
The launch was in partnership with the Eastern Cape Department of Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Alfred Nzo District Municipality, and the corporate sponsor, Total South Africa.
Zokwana handed over 100 peach trees to the local councillor for distribution to 50 households.
As part of the implementation of the greening programme it is estimated that 3 000 trees will have been planted by the end of Arbor Week throughout the Matatiele local municipality.
Zokwana and Rural Development and Agrarian Reform MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane planted fruit trees in a family co-operative, Ingcambu Agricultural Development, at Cedarville, and donated vegetable seed packs.
Most vegetables grown by the co-operative are destined for school feeding and nutritional programmes in the area.
Zokwana said that as food prices increase because of global economic instability, many South Africans could not afford to buy healthy foods because the basic staples become scarce and expensive.
“The department has decided to retain the theme “Forests and Water” so that as we promote tree planting to mitigate against climate change and to address household food security, we are mindful of the fact that we should concentrate on indigenous species that help to conserve water.
“Through greening and Climate Smart Agriculture, food-insecure households will have access to environmentally-friendly agricultural technologies, resources and training, and capacity to reduce hunger,” he said.
Branch manager of the African Climate Reality Project Gill Hamilton said that, as the primary source of oxygen, the world cannot survive without trees.
About 30 percent of the Earth is covered by forests, but this is low compared to the seven-billion, and growing, human population.
“Disrupted water cycles, such as is happening all over Africa, are a direct result of deforestation and they will affect not only the surrounding ecosystem but ecosystems all over the continent, as well as the globe.
“When forests are levelled, the trees can no longer evaporate groundwater, which leads to a drier local climate; this in turn disrupts the entire evaporation and water cycle of an area,” said Hamilton.
Some of the oldest and largest trees include the Sophiatown oak tree and the Sagole baobab tree in Limpopo.