NATIONAL NEWS - A memorial garden has been opened to honour all South Africans who have succumbed to COVID-19, as well as all frontline professionals and staff who have worked tirelessly to treat patients with the virus.
Deputy Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, Makhotso Sotyu, opened the garden on Tuesday during the launch of National Arbor Month in Thaba Nchu, Free State.
National Arbor Month is an annual campaign coordinated by the national Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, in partnership with Total South Africa.
Tree planting activities for the 2020 National Arbor Month campaign will focus on remembrance, and commemorative tree planting and greening of settlements, as well as creation of remembrance gardens.
This year’s campaign takes place under the theme, ‘Forests and Biodiversity’, signifying the importance of protecting and conserving the country’s biodiversity as the backbone of South Africa’s economy and livelihoods.
“September is also Heritage Month and as we celebrate Arbor Month, the department also focuses on the country’s champion trees, which include some of the oldest, largest and culturally significant trees.
“National Arbor Month is an opportune time to call on all South Africans to plant indigenous trees as a practical and symbolic gesture of sustainable environmental management,” Sotyu said.
The Deputy Minister also handed over 28 Skip bins to Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality as part of the launch of this year’s campaign.
“Skip bins are definitely the best solution for the temporary storage of waste in communities to protect human health and well-being, as well as the environment,” Sotyu said.
The protection of forests is key to a healthy environment, including the reduction of greenhouse gases through the absorption of carbon dioxide emissions from the atmosphere.
“As highlighted by the Paris Climate Agreement in 2015, 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.
Deforestation is the second-leading cause of climate change and accounts for nearly 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions — more than the world’s entire transport sector.
“Effective forest management can strengthen resilience and adaptive capacities to climate-related natural disasters, underscoring the importance of integrating forest-based measures into national disaster risk reduction strategies.
“Forests and trees outside forests are vital for sustainable development. Forests occupy one-third of the Earth’s surface, and about another half of the total remaining land area features sparsely scattered trees,” the department said.
As part of efforts to address inequality in the forestry sector, government is implementing a Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) programme in the Amended Forest Sector Codes, which have set a target for inclusive participation, including women.
Planting indigenous trees
Sotyu said while trees remain a source of energy in many parts of the country, it is important to remember the role of 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 the trees, the processing of the wood, and the manufacture of items such as curios and furniture,” the department said.
Sotyu encouraged all South Africans to plant at least one indigenous tree this month.
“It will promote greening, increase habitats for tree-dwelling species, and contribute to cleaner air,” she said. – SAnews.gov.za