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Public called to plant more trees - 1 September 2008

Pretoria - The Department of Water Affairs and Forestry has called on all South Africans to join in celebrating this year’s Arbor Week by planting trees in their communities to mitigate the effects of climate change.

This year Arbor Week is themed “Plant trees – save our planet” and will take place from 1 September (click here for DWAF national and regional events).

Tree planting remains one of the most cost-effective ways to address climate change. Trees and forests play a vital role in regulating the climate since they absorb carbon dioxide.

Deforestation, in turn, accounts for over 20 percent of the carbon dioxide humans generate, rivaling the 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.

Arbor Week will set the stage for similar events around the country in which see various stakeholders including government departments, non-government organisations, schools and communities participating in tree planting.

The Arbor Week campaign aims to promote improved knowledge of trees particularly indigenous trees and their importance as well as highlight the vital roles of trees in the natural environment.

The necessity for the public to contribute to the greening of South Africa by planting and caring for trees will also be emphasised.

Arbor Week aims to promote and contribute to the achievement of a green, dignified and healthy environments in all parts of the country and encourage the youth to participate in tree planting activities.

The week will also see the start of this year’s Plant a Million Trees Campaign. The initiative was launched by President Thabo Mbeki together with Water Affairs and Forestry Minister Lindiwe Hendricks in GaRankuwa in Pretoria last year.

A total of 681 749 trees have been planted since the campaign was launched, with the Mpumalanga Province leading with 129 314 trees being planted up to date.

Department’s Project Manager of Arbor Week Tebogo Mathiane said that Arbor Week has become a roaring success in recent years with more people showing an interest in planting trees.

In preparation for Arbor Week, the department joined hands with eThekwini Municipality hosted a clean-up campaign on Wednesday at a newly established park in Lamontville Township in South of Durban.

In terms of geographic distribution, Africa is the leading region with over half of all tree plantings.

Regional and national governments organized the most massive plantings, with Ethiopia leading the count at 700 million, followed by Turkey (400 million), Mexico (250 million), and Kenya (100 million).

The two billionth tree was put into the ground as part of an agroforestry project carried out by the UN World Food Programme,

It has now planted 60 million trees in 35 countries to improve food security. Internationally, a grassroots campaign was launched to plant trees one billion trees around the world. This year, the target has been raised to seven billion trees.

The Billion Tree Campaign, under the patronage of Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and Kenyan Green Belt Movement founder Professor Wangari Maathai and Prince Albert II of Monaco, saw two billion trees planted said that in 18 months.

That was double it’s original target.

The campaign was launched by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in 2006 as a response to the threat of global warming.

UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said: "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 by the crucial climate change conference in Copenhagen in late 2009."

[ Gabi Khumalo for BuaNews ]