'Plant a tree - save our planet'
26 August 2008
The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry is calling on all South Africans to join in celebrating this year's Arbour Week, starting on 1 September, by planting trees in their communities to help mitigate the effects of climate change.
Tree planting remains one of the most cost-effective ways of addressing climate change, as trees and forests play a vital role in regulating climate, since they absorb carbon dioxide. Deforestation, by contrast, accounts for over 20% of the carbon dioxide humans generate, rivalling emissions from other sources.
Trees also play a crucial role in providing a range of products and services to rural and urban populations, including food, timber, fibre, medicines and energy as well as soil fertility, water and biodiversity conservation.
Arbour Week - themed "Plant trees: save our planet" - will set the stage for events around the country which will see government departments, non-government organisations, schools and communities planting trees.
The campaign aims to promote improved knowledge of trees, particularly indigenous trees, and highlight the vital roles they play in the natural environment. It will also emphasise the role that ordinary South Africans in greening the country, just by planting and taking care of trees.
SA's million tree campaign
The week will also see the start of this year's Plant a Million Trees Campaign, an initiative launched by President Thabo Mbeki and Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Lindiwe Hendricks in GaRankuwa, north of Pretoria last year.
A total of 681 749 trees have been planted since the campaign was launched, with the Mpumalanga province having planted the most trees - 129 314 - to date.
The department's Arbour Week manager Tebogo Mathiane said that Arbour Week had become a huge success in recent years, with more and more people showing an interest in planting trees in their neighbourhoods.
Billion tree campaign
The Billion Tree Campaign, launched by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Agro-forestry Centre in 2006 as a response to the threat of global warming has already reached double its original target.
The campaign, which can count of the patronage of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Kenyan Green Belt Movement founder Wangari Maathai and Prince Albert II of Monaco, has since planted two billion trees in 18 months. This year, the target has been raised to seven billion trees.
Regional and national governments organised the most massive plantings, with Ethiopia leading the count at 700-million, followed by Turkey (400-million), Mexico (250-million), and Kenya (100-million). In terms of geographic distribution, Africa is the leading region with over half of all tree plantings.
"Having exceeded every target that has been set for the campaign, we are now calling on individuals, communities, business and industry, civil society organisations and governments to evolve this initiative on to a new and even higher level," said UN Environment Programme director Achim Steiner.