As the nation seeks to slow the pace of climate change and preserve wildlife, communities must desist from the indiscriminate cutting down of trees and burning forests, Environmental Patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa has said.
Dr Mnangagwa made the call at Kwayedza High School in Sanyati District this week where she led an extensive afforestation programme which saw the planting of 200 fruit trees in the school orchard, 50 indigenous trees and over 2 000 eucalyptus (gum) trees in the school grounds.
A hands-on person, the mother of the nation led in the planting of the trees and handed over 5 000 seed balls to broadcast around the community.
The country is grappling with the challenges of deforestation as people continue cutting down trees without replacing them, thereby disrupting the ecosystem and promoting erosion, among many other environmental challenges.
Therefore, Amai Mnangagwa said there was need to preserve existing forests and restore lost trees by reforestation.
She said she has plans to work with tobacco farmers and miners in tree planting to replace the ones they are cutting down.
Most farmers use firewood to cure their tobacco and this leads to depletion of forests. Many households are also still cutting down trees for use as firewood.
Amai Mnangagwa held an interactive session with the community where she emphasised the need to protect trees, fight drug abuse and end gender-based violence.
She started by thanking the province for voting President Mnangagwa back into office so that he continues with his development projects.
“I am grateful to be with you at this gathering where we are launching tree-planting in Sanyati District. Tree-planting is commemorated in December. The rains came late because of climate change.
“The planting of trees must be a continuous process that starts from our homes tichidyarawo michero pamusha (where we should also plant fruit trees). We say no to burning of forests and cutting down of trees.
“Because of this climate change, we may not get rain at all or may have floods which will sweep us away because our lands are now bare. Our livestock will not be spared.
“If we cut down trees where will our wild animals go and how will we breathe. I want to thank the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Wildlife through its Forestry Commission for this tree planting programme. It is important to treasure our trees and I urge our local leadership to see to it that forests are protected,” she said.
Dr Mnangagwa asked why trees were important, eliciting varied responses from the audience.
In response, some in the crowd said trees provided oxygen for breathing, firewood, foliage for manure, shade, medicines, windbreak and helped reduce soil erosion, among other advantages.
People plant trees during a tree planting programme with Environment and Wildlife patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Sanyati.
Mrs Prisca Nyamukombe said trees produce fruits, medicine and provided shade.
The First Lady concurred saying it was difficult to separate trees from the lives of people.
“As such, we must recognise the importance of trees by working together to protect them and plant more as we are doing here today,” she said.
The First Lady said the tree of the Year was Muunga/Acacia which she said was of great importance to communities.
“Our tree of the year is muunga-acacia, which is medicinal and helps reduce fever and cure eyesight challenges. The leaves have a sweet scent which invites bees that produce honey,” she said.
“We can use the honey to start projects. Seeds and leaves of this tree are consumed by livestock and wild animals. Let us, therefore, protect our trees and view an axe as an in-law who should be kept at a distance. Miti inopfekedza nekushongedza nyika yedu (Trees beautifully adorn our landscape). Trees protect our nation. After we are done with schools, we will move into forest to replace trees that were cut down.
“After planting at schools, let us do so in the forests too. Some people are destroying forests by selling poles and firewood, and the long arm of the law will catch up with you.
“Our forefathers left us an array of trees which have their own history. When we decimate the trees, how will the future generations learn? We need competitions in provinces on how to preserve forests. Let us plant trees that suit our agro-ecological regions.
“Why do personnel from Nyaradzo Sahwira Mukuru (Funeral Services) give us trees each time we bury someone?” she asked.
A discussant responded: “Nyaradzo is saying trees are life and they allow us to breathe and provide shade. This also helps us remember the deceased.”
Dr Mnangagwa weighed in thanking the funeral service provider for its intervention.
She then touched on social issues.
“How are you living in the homes? Do you have gender-based violence cases here? What of Mutoriro (drugs). How are you benefiting (from drugs) and where are you getting the supplies?”
She urged people to desist from drug abuse and domestic violence.
Environment and Wildlife patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa hands over seed balls to Kwaedza Secondary School headmaster Mr Kavhayi during her tree planting programme in Sanyati.
“Who watches over the family. Nharirire yemusha ndiyani pakati pamai nababa?” she asked.
A woman said the man was the head of the household.
Gogo Sarah Mafendu said: “A woman defines the home and knows all that happens as she looks after the family. Therefore, ndiye nharirire (she is the one who watches over the family).”
Her view however, differed from that of another contributor who said: “The man is the head because he paid the bride price and therefore ultimately becomes the leader in the home.”
Amai Mnangagwa took time to teach families to live in peace and harmony.
In a speech read on his behalf by Forestry Commission board chair, Veronica Jakarasi, the Minister of Environment, Climate and Wildlife Mangaliso Ndlovu said as the country went through the tree-planting season every year.
His ministry was taking the opportunity to increase awareness and remind communities nationwide of the pivotal role trees and forests played in ensuring that sustainable livelihoods were maintained.
“As a ministry we are privileged that our First Lady committed to being the front-runner in the tree-planting and forest conservation campaign for the past four years and in particular this year, she has covered eight provinces, such a commendable work.
“Her efforts have not been in vain because tree-planting has taken centre-stage in many development programmes in the country and this will serve to move us forward towards the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals especially those that demand that we address our environmental challenges as a country.
“My ministry, pursuant to the mandate given to us by Government and through the responsible authority which is Forestry Commission, has embarked on a massive tree-planting initiative targeting 25 million trees annually.
“This target demands that everyone, at all levels of society, play their part and be part of the solution as we seek to address and reverse the impacts of deforestation experienced in the country over the years,” he said.
Minister Ndlovu said he was thrilled by the good working relationship his ministry’s agencies have with local communities, including schoolchildren, and the local leadership in Mashonaland West Province.
Chakari legislator Andrew Nkani added his voice on the importance of trees.
“Why are trees important? It is from these trees that we get firewood but whenever you cut firewood, make sure you plant a tree. It is in these trees that we get poles and timber for housing construction. The question is, are we re-planting the trees as we are being taught by our mother.
“The medicine we get from hospitals comes from trees. There have to be trees for us to get rainfall. Soil erosion is curbed by the planting of trees. We promise to take this programme further to all vilages. I shall work with councilors to ensure we plant trees and carry forward Amai’s vision,” he said.
Dr Mnangagwa donated foodstuffs to the gathering that included flour, rice, cooking oil and salt.