National Tree Planting Day (NTPD) has taken place on the first Saturday of December every year since 1980. This year it will take place tomorrow on 5 December, with the official ceremony taking place at Chikurubi Prison. Ten hectares have been set aside at Chikurubi to establish an orchard of both indigenous and exotic fruit trees to help provide nutrition for the inmates. Pre-planting preparations by the Forestry Commission, with the assistance of the Zimbabwe Prison Services, are already well under way for the big day.
This special event is supported by a number of different institutions, including the Ministry of Environment, the Environmental Management Agency (EMA), Environment Africa and numerous schools, colleges and community groups.
Conservation organization Environment Africa are committed to tree planting and have made 3,500 seedlings available to schools through the Eco Schools programme at Mukuvisi Woodlands. This is part of their “For Every Child a Tree” campaign initiated in 2012 to encourage children to plant a tree and nurture it until maturity. But tree planting programmes don’t only take place in Zimbabwe’s cities. The Forestry Commission has on-going projects across the country, right down to district and ward levels, and awareness programmes which take place throughout the year.
Tree planting projects take place throughout the year in many different guises. A pre-emptive NTPD took place on 20 November at St Marcellin’s Children’s Home in Hatfield. Sponsored by Deloitte, in conjunction with Mpangara Trees, 21 trees were planted by Deloitte staff along the front boundary of the Home, to beautify the premises and to provide a more attractive setting for the children’s home. They also planted grass for the sports field and painted the front entrance wall. Last year, Deloitte planted 180 fruit trees for the children. It is hoped that more and more corporates will see the benefits of supporting tree planting programmes and get on board.
According to EMA, the purpose of NTPD is threefold: to motivate people to plant and conserve trees, to enlighten people about the importance of forest and woodland resources, and to enhance household food security. In light of recent heat waves and climate change, planting trees seems more important than ever. Deforestation remains the most significant threat to our environment and our health. Current ZESA shortages, coupled with difficult financial conditions, means more trees are being cut down for use as fuel or for resale. The Forestry Commission estimates that over 330,000 hectares of trees are cut down annually. This year the commission aims to plant 15 million trees to help combat deforestation.
This year the ‘Tree of the Year’ is Vangueriain fausta, commonly known in English as velvet wild medlar or African medlar, in Shona as munjiro, munzviru or munzvirwa and in Ndebele as umviyo. The fruit (pictured) provides valuable nutrition for humans, wild animals and livestock and contains significant amounts of vitamin C, sodium, calcium and magnesium, as well as carbohydrates and protein. The fruit can be eaten when ripe straight from the tree and it can also be dried for use in times of food scarcity.
It has a number of medicinal uses too. An infusion of the roots and leaves is reputed to treat malaria, chest pains, pneumonia and ring worm. It is also believed to be a good treatment for snake bites. The wild medlar is a hardy and drought resistant plant that can withstand moderate cold. It can be propagated from fresh seed or cuttings. Seedlings can bought from the Forestry Commission, Environment Africa and a number of larger plant nurseries.
Now is the perfect time for tree planting, so get out and get planting – in your garden, on the verge, at school or at your church or community centre. It’s an investment in your future and our children’s future.