Media Release: Government stakeholders plant trees at the Provincial Launch of National Arbor Month in George
8 September 2021
For immediate release
“Your presence at this event, is an indication that you care, that you embrace what nature can give to us,” were the opening words of Executive Mayor of Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM), Alderman Memory Booysen, to the stakeholders at the Provincial launch of National Arbor Month celebrations in George.
The event took place at the Garden Route Botanical Gardens on Friday, 2 September 2021.
Representatives from the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE), the Department of Water and Sanitation, GRDM, the South African National Parks (SANParks), Cape Nature, the Garden Route Botanical Garden, Breede Gouritz Catchment Management Agency and George Municipality, attended the occasion.
Alderman Booysen, during his opening remarks said that Arbor Month should be a continuous awareness programme, “a continuous initiative that sets the tone for the whole South Africa, on how we balance nature with what people want”.
Mayor Booysen also shared an idea with the audience which he came across in Morocco, where a fruit tree is planted adjacent to every indigenous tree. These trees are planted within the communities where people are in close proximity to it. He further stated: “We need to start debating the issue on how we can deal with food security while planting indigenous trees at the same time”.
“We also have to determine how it can be managed as a job creation initiative because if we do not deal with humanitarian issues, people will put pressure on the issues,” Booysen emphasised. Referring to the involvement of the youth, he said that it is evident that they show interest in the well-being of the environment, but “we need to lay the foundation for such initiatives where jobs can be created while dealing with food security simultaneously”.
During his keynote address, Acting Regional Head for Western Cape DFFE, Mr Masithandaze Falitenjwa, shared this year’s Arbor month theme, ‘Forest Restoration: a path to recovery and well-being’. With this theme he said that the campaign encourages the celebration of South African trees. It also aims to create awareness of the importance of trees. He furthermore encouraged every person to “protect our indigenous forests, to help prevent veld and wildfires”. He further emphasised that planting a tree to green our country will help mitigate climate change.
In response to the scenario shared by Mayor Booysen, he confirmed that planting fruit trees is part of the programme of the Department of DFFE. He also mentioned the significance of community involvement in their plans by saying: “If we do not include the community in our campaigns and plans, we will be fighting a losing battle. In terms of the initiatives of the DFFE, he admitted that partners and government institutions should become involved in these initiatives. He confirmed that DFFE sourced 200 trees for municipalities of the Garden Route as part of their “Tree for Life” Programme. In closing he highlighted: “Let us ‘green’ the Garden Route and turn it into a “Garden of Eden”.
Mrs Vuyiswa Thabethe, Regional Manager of SANParks in the Garden Route, left some ‘food for thought’ with all delegates when she shared that over the years of celebrating Arbour Month by planting trees, it provides for a practical and symbolic gesture of sustainable environmental management. She then asked what the impact of our Arbor Month is when we are planting these trees and conducting awareness campaigns. “Does our society understand the value of the initiative?” In response to her question, she commented that if this answer is “yes”, we can pat ourselves on the back and say: “We are doing a good job”. She emphasised that we need to see the impact of similar initiatives, because “if one takes care of the trees, they will definitely take care of us in the future”.
During his address, the Acting Director of Water and Sanitation Services Support, Mr Zolile Simawo, explained the history of Arbor Month and their Department’s relevance in the the month’s activities. He encouraged communities, government departments, non-governmental organisations, non-profit organisations and communities, to plant indigenous trees. He said that planting trees would aid in sustaining the environment, sustain biodiversity (fauna and flora), provide clean air, given the major industrial activities and the pollution it creates, beautifying South Africa and conserve water.
Ald. Leon van Wyk, Executive Mayor of George, extended a word of appreciation to all departments for their contributions. He further said: “We need to continuously look at initiatives to maintain the green within our Garden Route and to maintain the sustainability thereof”. After the formal programme, both Executive Mayors, Ald. Booysen and Alderman Van Wyk, along with the stakeholders present, planted a tree at the Garden Route Botanical Garden as a symbol of their commitment to mitigating climate change.
The event was organised by GRDM Disaster Risk Reduction & Climate Change Adaptation Practitioner, Dr Nina Viljoen, in collaboration with participating departments. The programme was directed by Corne Brink from the Garden Route Botanical Garden.