Pretoria: Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson has declared three indigenous trees “champion trees”.
During every Arbor Week, which is celebrated annually from 1 to 7 September, two or three trees are placed under protection. The trees are selected from commonly found trees species and rare tree species.
Barringtonia racemosa, which is commonly known as Powder-puff tree in English, poeierkwasboom in Afrikaans and iBhoqo in isiZulu; Grewia occidentalis, which is commonly known as Cross-berry in English, kruisbessie in Afrikaans, Mokukutu in Setswana, Mogwane in Sepedi and Ilalanyathi in isiZulu and Virgilia oroboides, which is commonly known as Common wild elder, blossom tree in English and keurboom in Afrikaans have been declared protected trees.
Ministerial spokesperson Palesa Mokomele said the minister’s declaration means that the trees are now protected and that no person may cut, disturb, damage or destroy any of them or possess, collect, remove, transport, export or purchase.
Mokomele said the protected trees cannot be sold, donated or in any other manner acquired or dispose of, except under a licence granted by the minister or in terms of an exemption from the provisions of a subsection published by the minister in the Gazette.
She said the contravention of the declaration is regarded as a first category offence that may result in a person, who is found guilty, being sentenced to a fine or imprisonment for a period of up to three years or both a fine and imprisonment.
Speaking during the launch of Arbor Week in Hammarsdale, KwaZulu-Natal on Tuesday, Joemat-Pettersson announced that in 2015, eThekwini District Municipality will host the will host the XIV World Forestry Congress.
South Africa was awarded the right to host this congress in 2010. The right was granted by the Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO.
“It will be the first forestry congress held on African soil since its inception in 1926 in Rome. The benefits of this congress for the country are numerous. The focus of this year’s event was the forestry sector’s contribution to food security.”
Minister Joemat-Pettersson thanked Total South Africa for assisting the department with planting 2 000 trees in Hammarsdale; 500 trees from the total number will be planted at local schools as part of their food gardens. Indigenous trees are a heritage to society.
This year, Arbor Week is celebrated under the theme ‘Our Forests – Our Future’. The focus of this year’s Arbor Week is greening of the country for environmental conservation and development.