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A green, food-secure city, populated by environmentally aware residents, is the aim of Arbor Week. JCPZ began the festivities by planting trees at Joburg Zoo.

Learners will plant fruit trees at the Johannesburg Zoo
Learners will plant fruit trees at the Johannesburg Zoo

NATIONAL Arbor Day celebrations were hosted in Joburg this year, heralding a week of greening that aims to develop environmentally conscious residents and a food-secure Joburg.

Johannesburg City Parks and Zoo, in partnership with the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Total SA, took part in the events on 1 September. Tree planting activities were led by Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Senzo Zokwana, Deputy Minister Bheki Cele, and Joburg mayoral committee member Chris Vondo at the Joburg Zoo.

The next stop was the new R16-million Metro Park adjacent to Nelson Mandela Bridge in Newtown, where the two trees of the year were planted. This was followed by the distribution of fruit trees and the planting of indigenous trees in Freedom Park with 300 residents. The day was concluded with entertainment and celebration in Mofolo Park. More than 2 700 people enjoyed the festivities, including representatives from JCPZ and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, as well as members of NGOs, CBOs, greening bodies, female-led organisations and the community.

In another Arbor Month activity, on 5 September more than 1 200 learners will plant fruit trees at the zoo.

The core focus of this year's tree-planting initiatives at JCPZ will be the distribution of 6 000 fruit trees to local communities and the planting of 10 000 indigenous trees. A further three food gardens will be planted at schools as part of a community food garden programme. "These initiatives form part of Johannesburg's broader efforts to promote environmental sustainability, food security and green consciousness among residents," said JCPZ managing director Bulumko Nelana.

The 6 000 fruit trees will be distributed to needy communities in areas such as Orlando East, Orange Farm, Lenasia, Freedom Park, Kliptown, Ivory Park and Diepsloot. Recipients are asked to plant and nurture the trees. They also make a tree pledge as an acknowledgement of receipt and commitment to plant and protect trees. JCPZ conducts regular tree audits to follow up on the initiative and to determine its impact on communities and the environment.

Greening is a major opportunity to address unemployment and poverty, prompting JCPZ to enlist the support of benefiting residents as educators prior to distributing and planting trees. It has allowed JCPZ, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and the Gauteng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to create jobs in poverty-riddled areas.

The national theme for Arbour Week this year is: "Forests and People: Investing in a sustainable future." Each year, two indigenous tree species are identified, which people are encouraged to plant during September. The selected trees for this year are:

  • Vepris lanceolota, also known as the white ironwood, witysterhout, muruvula, muhondwa, umzane or umozana; and,
  • Heteropyxis Natalensis Harvey, also known as the lavender tree, laventelboom or inkunzi.

Arbor Week

Arbor Day was first marked in the United States in 1970 as a tree planting event to highlight the critical importance of trees. The idea was subsequently adopted across the globe, including South Africa, with various countries adapting the date to suit a climate appropriate for tree-planting. In 1996, the South African government extended the day from 1 September to 7 September to mark Arbor Week instead, with the following objectives:

  • To promote a better knowledge of trees, especially indigenous varieties;
  • To stress the necessity for everyone to plant trees and care for them;
  • To highlight the vital role of trees in our lives; and,
  • To contribute to the achievement of a green, dignified and healthy environment for all South Africans.