HAMMARDALE: (By Steve Jobs)– With a view to increase tree density, South Africa government has mapped out a plan to plant a million trees by the end of this year across the country.
The Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Tina Joemat-Pettersson announced the plan at the launch of 2013 National Arbor Week Launch. Joemat-Pettersson was speaking at Mpumalanga stadium outside Durban to celebrate the beginning of the National Annual Arbor Week.
The minister announced that they had made an allocation of 2 000 trees to be planted in KwaZulu-Natal this year alone – 1 000 of which are fruit trees.
The million trees to be planted this year will bring to 13 million the number of trees planted nationwide since the project began in 2000.
The million-a-year tree plantation programme is in partnership with petroleum giant Total South Africa.
“The trees we plant are meaningful to the communities. They enhance our communities and transform our neighborhoods for the better,” said Total SA spokesperson Pansy Mekwa.
The minister started the day by planting 20 trees at the internationally renowned Botanical Gardens in Durban to commemorate and honour women leaders in the country. She singled out the presence of first lady Sizakele MaKhumalo Zuma and thanked her for the role she plays in rural areas “by empowering women in rural development.”
The 2013 Arbor Week theme is, ‘Our Forests – Our Future’, with a special focus on greening the country for environmental conservation and development.
While Arbor Week was more on tree planting, the emphasis this year will be more on the role of trees and forests in food security.
The minister highlighted what she called “champion trees”, which include some of the oldest, largest and culturally significant trees. These include the Sophia Town Oak Tree and the Sagole Baobab Tree in Limpopo.
“These trees are part of our heritage,” said Joemat-Pettersson.
According to 2010/11 South Africa Yearbook, the forestry industry is an essential contributor to national employment levels, directly employing an estimated 166 000 people.
“Nearly two-thirds of those employed are in commercial forestry, including about 30 000 small-scale growers, most of whom are women,” she said.
The commercial plantation resource of some 1.273 million hectares covers only 1.1% of the total land area of the country, but contributes 27.4% to the country’s agricultural GDP.
Joemat-Pettersson said it was forestry’s contribution to the down-stream processing industries that was significant.
“In 2011, the value of sales from primary processing plants was estimated at R21.4 billion. At the same time, exports of these products contributed 15.6% to the country’s trade balance,” she said.
Joemat-Pettersson announced that the World Forestry Congress will be hosted in KwaZulu-Natal at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) Durban in 2015.
“More than 7 000 delegates including scientists, policy-makers, community-based organisations, non-governmental organisations, civil society organisations and government officials around the globe will attend this event to discuss issues affecting forests,” she said.
The key discussion points in the 2015 conference, according to the minister, will be the role of forests in food security, climate change, agro forestry and the economic value of trees.
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