International Day of Forests marked

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TREE planting is not just an activity for rural communities as it is equally important for cities.
The country joined the rest of the world to commemorate the International Day of Forests which ran under the theme ‘Forests and Sustainable Cities’.
It drew attention to the importance of urban forestry
The day was set aside to celebrate and raise awareness on the importance of all types of forests, woodlands and trees.
Rural or urban forests, in their various forms, are crucial to the survival of humanity.
The day also celebrates and acknowledges the human effort to enhance and conserve forests.
This year’s theme encourages humanity to closely look at and promote the conservation of open, green spaces within residential areas and realise how important they are to human health.
Urban planning has been encouraged to take into consideration these areas as they contribute to healthy lifestyles, improve mental health and provide places for people to socialise.
Trees reduce pollution by shielding homes from pollutants coming from roads and industrial areas.
Natural resources, including the urban spatial areas, are at the core of any economy.
Whether they are used as sources for materials and products or as sinks for carbon dioxide, waste and emissions, they are vital to the functioning of a country‘s economy and to the quality of life of its population.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations website has the following facts about trees:
There are six million trees in the city of Johannesburg – 1,2 million trees within parks and on pavements while 4,8 million are in private gardens throughout the suburbs.
According to a recent study that sampled 1 383 trees in 10 different cities around the world, urban trees of the same age are larger on average than rural trees because urban trees grow faster.
A tree can absorb up to 150kg of CO2 a year, storing carbon and helping to ease the impacts of climate change in cities.
The Chicago Trees Initiative estimates that the city’s trees store carbon at a value of US$521 000 annually.
Turning off your phone and switching off the television for even an hour can play an important role in your health.
Children living in areas with good access to green spaces spend less time in front of television screens, computers and smart phones and can have 11-19 percent lower prevalence of obesity compared to children with limited or no access to green spaces.
In many cities in developing countries, gardening contributes a lot to food supply and green space, and some tree species require less space than often assumed.
As trees lose moisture from their leaves, the surrounding air is cooled.
Strategically placed trees in cities provide shade from the sun and can cool the air by between two and eight degrees Celsius, and reduce air conditioning needs by up to 30 percent in summer.
China is building an incredibly beautiful Forest City in the mountainous region of Guangxi.
Expected to be completed in 2020, schools, offices, hospitals and homes will be covered in one million trees and plants that will absorb 10 000 tonnes of CO2 each year.
Air pollution kills 5,5 million people globally according to recent estimates.
Trees in cities remove harmful pollutants and particles, and help combat air pollution. A recent study found that city forests removed 1,821 metric tonnes of air pollution.
Urban trees and forests provide many economic benefits.
Several studies have shown that average house prices are between five percent and 18 percent higher where property is associated with mature trees.
One large tree can provide a day’s supply of oxygen for up to four people according to a recent study.
Speaking during the local commemorations, FAO’s sub-regional forestry officer Rene’ Czudek said the theme was apt as cities now had huge populations.
“We have been very lucky here in Zimbabwe to have very strong partners in the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate and in the Forestry Commission to organise together annual events in different provinces to celebrate forests and create awareness on their importance for the environment and enhancement of people’s livelihoods,” said Czudak.
“The focus of this year celebrations is on the link between forests and cities… according to the UN, the cities already host almost four billion people.”
As the world continues to urbanise, sustainable development challenges will be increasingly concentrated in cities, particularly in lower and middle-income countries, where the urbanisation is faster.
While cities occupy less than four percent of the global terrestrial surface, they account for 80 percent of carbon emissions, 60 percent of residential water use and over 75 percent of wood consumption for industrial and domestic purposes.
Urbanisation is increasingly regarded as a critical process in the frame of global change and integrated policies to improve the lives of both urban and rural dwellers, which are urgently needed.
As a result, FAO is focusing on urban forestry arguing that ‘…trees and urban forests can make our cities greener, healthier and happier places to live.’
FAO work on urban and peri-urban forestry and trees outside forests is aiming at contributing to relevant Sustainable Development Goals, namely SDG 11 on Sustainable Cities and Communities and SDG 15 on Live on Land.
“The planting of trees in our city must not end here but result in a continuous effort to keep Harare and other cities and towns in Zimbabwe green, providing people with benefits derived from trees in cities,” said Czudek.
Friends of the environment (FOTE)’s Patience Fusire challenged people to develop the habit of continuously planting trees.
“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago but the critical time is now. This is the reason why we need to plant trees hence our donation of 60 000 trees to be planted in schools,” said Fusire.
Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF)’s Charity Mbirimi said the country must plant trees to replace those which are being lost at an alarming rate.
“Fifteen billion trees are lost each year. This is the reason we work with communities in Hurungwe and Hwange to provide alternatives for tobacco curing,” said Mbirimi.
Timber Producers Federation chairperson Dan Sithole said: “The federation will plant 10 000 hectares per year for the next 10 years to increase forest cover.”
Speaking during the celebrations, Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said urban forestry was critical to combating effects of carbon emissions.
“We have open, green spaces within our residential areas and we should realise how important these open spaces are to our health,” said Min Muchinguri-Kashiri.
“Countries such as Morocco invest immensely in urban agroforestry as a means of livelihood and combating effects of climate change. Also, the greater composition of air pollution is from urban areas, in particular industrial sites. Urban forests become vital in acting as sinks for carbon, waste and emissions.”

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