South Africa celebrates Arbor Week

3 September 2012

The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Northern Cape Agriculture MEC Norman Shushu launched South Africa’s Arbor Week on Saturday by planting fruit trees, establishing vegetable gardens and distributing seed packs and seedlings to local communities.

Shushu visited a communal organic vegetable garden in Platfontein outside Kimberley, where he planted vegetables which will assist in alleviating poverty and contributing towards food security in the area.

Two hundred households within the Xun and Khwen communities were also given vegetable seed packs and seedlings.

Backyard gardens ‘can beat poverty’

Shushu said the establishment of vegetable gardens would help rural communities produce food in their own backyard gardens and thereby fight soaring food prices.

“It is less expensive for communities to produce their own food through backyard gardens, as this can help to fight the current high food prices. Most importantly, we also want our people to understand the role that trees play in our environment and the role they play in our lives,” he said.

At Galeshewe stadium outside Kimberley, Shushu participated in the planting of 20 olive trees before addressing the main Arbor Week launch event. About 2 000 more fruit trees were planted and distributed in the Sol Plaatjie Municipality.

“The destruction of the environment is leading to the destruction of humanity, so if we are to have a sustainable future, it means we must look after our trees, our forests and our environment,” Shushu said.

“Without the protection of the environment, there is no future, that’s why all of us are encouraged to join government and our partners to ensure that we make our cities and townships green.”

Arbor City Awards

Another highlight of the launch of Arbor Week was the Arbor City Awards, introduced to promote the greening of cities and towns in the 283 local and eight metropolitan municipalities across South Africa.

The award is given to cities and towns that “go the extra mile” to green the areas under their jurisdiction

The Khara Hais local municipality, which governs the town of Upington in the Northern Cape, won the local municipal category, while the City of Johannesburg won in the metropolitan category.

Both the City of Johannesburg and Khara Hais received a R300 000 cash prize, trophy and certificate.

‘Our Forests – Our Future’

Arbor Day was first celebrated by South Africa in 1983. The day has since been extended from Arbor Day to National Arbor Week, held in the first week of September.

The theme for this year’s campaign is “Our Forests – Our Future”. It affords the government, the private sector, non-governmental and community-based organisations and the public to be involved in greening their communities.

Greening refers to an integrated approach to the planting, care and management of all vegetation in urban and rural areas, to secure multiple benefits for communities.

In the South African context, greening takes place in towns, townships and informal settlements specifically because in the past these areas were disadvantaged in terms of planning for parks as well as tree planting in streets and open spaces.

The government and its partners will use National Arbor Week to undertake a major national awareness programme that will bring attention to the value of trees, especially in the many disadvantaged communities who often live in barren and water-stressed areas.

Trees play a significant role in social and economic development, poverty alleviation and job creation.

Planting gardens and fruit trees may also improve access to nutritious food, encourage healthy diet choices and play a significant role in household food security when integrated with other programmes.

Source: SANews.gov.za