Galeshewe: The Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Northern Cape MEC for Agriculture Norman Shushu on Saturday launched Arbor Week by planting fruit trees, establishing vegetable gardens and distributing seed packs and seedlings to local communities.
The MEC visited a communal organic vegetable garden in Platfontein 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 given vegetable seed packs and seedlings.
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.
A commemorative plaque in honour of all the people who dedicated their lives to freedom, community upliftment and nation building in the province was also unveiled to mark in the occasion. The plaque was unveiled at Galeshewe stadium, outside Kimberley on behalf of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson.
At the stadium, 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.
Addressing the people, the MEC said if the current environmental degradation continued then human life would become unsustainable.
“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. 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,” he said.
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 the country. This 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.
Khara Hais council speaker, Thomas Basson said: “To us this is a very special award because we are leaders in the area of greening both at the provincial and national level. This award will encourage us to green more areas in the disadvantaged communities within our municipal area.”
Member of the Mayoral Committee responsible for community development and city parks, Councillor Chris Vondo, said: “As a city, we are committed to planting more trees and greening all areas within our city, especially in the historically disadvantaged communities.
“This award is a testimony that we qualify to be measured with the best cities in the world.”
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 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.
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. Forestry contributes towards our country’s growth and development.
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.