National Tree-Planting Day is the Forestry Commission’s flagship event. The day was declared by President Robert Mugabe (then Prime Minister of the Republic of Zimbabwe) in 1980 and since then, the day has become an important part of Zimbabwe’s calendar.
The purpose of this day from the beginning was to motivate the nation to plant and conserve trees, to enlighten the nation on the importance of forest and woodland resources, to enhance biodiversity and to enhance household food security.
The number of tree seedlings planted in the past 3-5 years
Since independence, our tree-planting targets have been pegged at a million which we always managed to surpass so by estimation over 50 million trees have been planted since the launch of the day. People are benefitting from these trees now where they are harvesting for timber, firewood, poles and others are harvesting fruits from their orchards which is contributing to better livelihoods for communities. The exact figures that we have are for the past two seasons- 2010-2011 the target was 5million and the country managed to plant over 5,3 million trees.
2011-2012- the target was 10 million and the country achieved over 9,2 million trees which was a great success. This coming season, we are going for another 10 Million trees.
The first Saturday of December (National Tree Planting Day) is the launch of the tree–planting season. The season starts at the onset of the rains and run through until the end of the season in April. A lot of trees can be planted during that time. Forestry Commission has been setting targets for each season.
What is done to ensure survival of the planted seedlings
From the skills provide d by FC on protection and care for planted trees over the years we have registered at least 70 percent survival of planted trees. We always encourage people to plant trees during the rainy season which guarantees that even in the absence of people to constantly water the seedlings, they will get moisture. Forestry Commission is well placed in the communities where we have officers in all the districts, The officers ensure that follow-ups are made on areas planted to see to it that all plants survive and that in the unfortunate circumstance that they don’t then efforts are made to replace the ones that would not have made it. Recently our Mashonaland Eastteam carried out a tree planting activity to replace seedlings that did not make at the 2010 Presidential tree-planting site- Chishawasha Primary School. In any area that we register 10 percent and above deaths of seedlings we carry out what we call blanking.
What programs exist to complement tree planting
Tree Growing and Tree-Care program (TGTC)- This is targeted at schools where children are taught the significance of trees in our lives and are provided with the technical know-how on nursery establishment, seed production, in preparation for tree planting. We hold farmer field days/ Farmer training workshops on woodland management/Look and learn tours of successful projects where our tree farmers get to meet and share ideas on proper woodland management with technical advice from our officers, agroforestry for fodder crops to feed animals and soil improvement, beekeeping projects as a tool for forest resource management. Such days ensure that technical advice and training is available for ordinary people who are interested in tree planting. One of our most important programs is the Tobacco Wood Energy Program (TWEP) which confronts the effects of tobacco production which currently is contributing 15 percent of the country’s rate of deforestation. The program offers a sustainable solution to the problem. This program has been in existence since 2004 and it has proven to be the way to go. It encourages Tobacco farmers to set aside a piece of land where they plant fast growing, renewable tree species which they harvest for tobacco curing. This safeguards our indigenous forests.
TREE OF THE YEAR
What is the criteria for selection of the tree of the year?
Every year a specific tree is declared Tree of The Year. This tree is chosen based on the criteria that it is indigenous to Zimbabwe, it has important food and/or medicinal properties, that it has potential to significantly contribute to the socio-economic well-being of the country and that Zimbabwe can generally benefit from the widespread propagation of thespecies. Some are identified because they are rare and can possibly become extinct.
How does that help towards the tree-planting drive?
This strategy works as a rallying point on afforestation where the whole nation focuses on planting that particular species among others. It helps to ensure that our indigenous species do not become extinct. While we value exotic trees for their various economic contributions, our indigenous species remain important as they are of greater economic value and also define a country and a culture. It is indigenous forests that support biological diversity. Indigenous trees are slow growing and are very difficult to replace when they have been cut down so there is always need to intensify efforts in the replanting of our indigenous trees.However tree planting is not limited to the indigenous species of the year. We continue place importance on the planting of all varieties of trees including fruit trees.
How do you ensure that this tree is available for all the people that particular year?
By the time we announce the tree of the year, Forestry Commissionalready has the species in stock in its nurseries around the country. At the same time we let farmers know so they can start producing in their nurseries.
Trees of the year in the past five years.
Going back to previous years, tree species like the Ziziphusmucronata, Buffalo thorn, mucheche (2006), Uaparcakirkiana, wild loquat, muzhanje, umhobohobo (2007) faidherbiaalbida- apple ring acacia, mutsangu, umpumbu (2008), Azanzagarckeana-mutohwe, snot apple, uxakuxaku (2009), Berchemiadiscolor, bird plum, munyii, umnyii (2010), kigeliaafricana-sausage tree, mumvee, umvebe (2011).