Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Deputy Minister, Makhotso Sotyu, has urged South Africans to continue to plant and protect indigenous trees in their communities.
“The protection of our trees and forests is key to a healthy environment, including the reduction of greenhouse gases through the absorption of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere,” she said.
Sotyu made the call on Monday when she concluded the National Arbor Month campaign with the launch of a memorial garden and tree planting at Mathibe Community Park in Kimberley, Northern Cape.
National Arbor Month is an annual campaign coordinated by the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, in partnership with Total South Africa.
This year’s celebration was held under the theme ‘Forests and Biodiversity’, signifying the importance of protecting and conserving the country’s biodiversity as the backbone of the economy and livelihoods.
During the month, the department coordinated activities with a focus on establishing remembrance parks, commemorative tree planting and greening of settlements.
Such gardens were launched in the Free State and Gauteng provinces.
Sotyu said forests and trees outside forests are vital for sustainable development.
“These renewable natural resources are crucial for tackling many of the issues identified in the ‘Future We Want’, such as poverty, food security, climate change, biodiversity, sustainable production and consumption, and social inclusion, particularly meeting the basic needs of vulnerable people and ensuring their well-being.
“Forests and trees play a crucial role in reducing the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Acting as carbon sinks, they absorb the equivalent of roughly two billion tonnes of carbon dioxide each year,” Sotyu said.
The Deputy Minister also reiterated that while trees remain a source of energy in many parts of the country, it is important to remember their importance, particularly indigenous species.
“In a water-stressed country such as ours, the removal of invader species contributes to water security. These alien species, in turn, create jobs through the felling of trees, the processing of the wood and the manufacture of items such as curios and furniture,” she said.
As part of efforts to address inequality in the forestry sector, Sotyu said government is implementing a Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) Programme in the Amended Forest Sector Codes, which have set targets for inclusive participation, including women.
The Deputy Minister also handed over eco school desks to Zingisa Primary School in Galeshewe.
National Arbor Month also included community outreaches to raise awareness about waste management as part of the department’s Good Green Deeds programme.
The programme aims to change attitudes and behaviour towards waste and enable people to take responsibility for keeping their communities clean. It promotes separation of waste at source and encourages everyone to re-use, recycle and recover waste at their households.