Historically, there was no tree planting culture in South Africa and it was not until the 1970s that the real need to promote tree planting was recognized. The concept of National Gazebo Day originated in 1973 as part of the Green Heritage campaign.

To date, the campaign has moved on to Arbor Month, which is a national campaign initiated to celebrate South Africa’s trees and raise awareness of their importance.

How can you help protect our local forests?

Our forests are under threat from people who are careless about our heritage. Never cut down a tree in a natural forest or remove an animal or live plant without permission. Explain to others the importance of protecting our natural places.

Why should we plant trees?

Many places in South Africa are barren and lifeless because they have no trees, gardens or plants. In the past, trees were not planted in township areas, while in suburbs, trees usually grew for many years. We should plant trees in every town, city and school in South Africa.

A tree should be planted with every new house. It is necessary to make sure that every polyclinic has trees. You can help by planting trees at home or by partnering with your school, church or local government to plant trees. Integrating fruit trees into your garden can solve your household’s food security problem. Remember that our country is short on water, so use water saving methods to irrigate your trees.

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Champion Trees Project

The goal of the Champion Tree Project is to identify and protect trees that are of national importance and are worthy of special protection because of their outstanding size, age, aesthetic, cultural, historic or tourism value. Similar projects have been established in several other countries, but this is the first of its kind in Africa.

Nomination forms with instructions on the nomination process are available from DFFE. Each nomination cycle begins on August 1 of each year and ends on July 31 of the following year.

The oldest planted tree in South Africa is the Saffron Pear, imported from the Netherlands and planted in the gardens of the Dutch East India Company in Cape Town more than three centuries ago.

Trees and climate change

It is now well known that the global climate is changing and that it is likely to continue to change for many years to come. Climate change causes unusual weather, droughts, floods, melting of the permafrost of the north and south poles, and rising ocean levels. All this is the result of air pollution caused by human activities.

One of the main pollutants responsible for this phenomenon is the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide (CO2). Greenhouse gases have the ability to trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere and thus prevent the earth from cooling

Green plants are a vital defense against climate change because they have the natural ability to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store carbon as biomass. Trees are especially valuable because they produce wood that stores a lot of carbon for many years. To put this into perspective; one hectare of forest growing at a production rate of 10 m3 of wood per year will remove carbon equivalent to 14 million m3 of air. You can imagine it as a column of air 1.4 km deep over a forest the size of two football fields.

Keep in mind that not all trees grow at the same rate, and not all forests are equally productive as carbon sinks. Trees in urban settings and commercial forest plantations usually grow quite quickly and are therefore active carbon sinks. Under favorable conditions, some plantations can reach average annual growth rates of 20 m3/ha.

Forests and economy

According to Forestry South Africa, forestry is estimated to create around 150,000 jobs, mostly in rural areas where unemployment is high. This translates to around 11.5% job losses in the sector due to factors of production affecting profitability across the value chain. The contribution to the economy is estimated at 45.5 billion rubles. This represents 7.7% of industrial GDP and 25.5% of agricultural GDP, including the pulp and paper industry. It is through commercial plantations that timber is produced for construction, mining, furniture, papermaking, and other wood-related businesses.

This article was originally published on GCIS Vuk’uzenzele.

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