Several private- and public-sector entities are embarking on the planting of trees to support the national reforestation programme, in order to protect the environment.
The initiative, which was launched recently by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, is aimed at planting three million timber and ornamental trees over the next three years, and expanding forested areas, including public and private forests.
In his address, the Prime Minister told the audience that climate change must be addressed in order to secure the future and that children are depending on the actions of adults.
“Indeed, climate variations have resulted in our intensified drought and the unpredictable rains we have been having recently,” Holness contended.
He emphasised that the success and longevity of the programme can only be achieved with the “meaningful inclusion” of every sector and every individual, adding that the planting of the three million trees, though significant, will only be a small part of the overall programme.
The Prime Minister further argued that the “critical component” will be the medium-to-long-term maintenance of the seedlings, ensuring that they remain viable and transition into healthy forests.
“It is for this reason that the Government is protecting over 74,000 hectares of the Cockpit Country. This area comprises the majority of the vulnerable ecosystems in that region of Jamaica, as well as sensitive hydrological, ecological and cultural assets. While the country continues to develop, the Government’s aim is to ensure that there is no net loss of Jamaica’s forest cover,” Holness said.
For his part, Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries, Audley Shaw, said Jamaicans need to be a part of the initiative, and that children should be integrally involved.
“Let them learn to love to plant, and to watch a tree grow,” Shaw added.
For Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Daryl Vaz, who has responsibility for the Environment, the tree-planting effort is all about building climate resilience and protecting the nation’s watersheds.
“We are taking proactive steps to preserve the forest cover through the implementation of several corrective measures and capacity-building programmes,” he told the audience.
In his remarks, Parliamentary Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Senator Robert Morgan, argued that with the massive tree-planting programme being undertaken by the Government, Jamaica is signalling that it is serious about the environment and climate change.
He called on Jamaicans to make a commitment to plant at least one tree this year. “We want to exceed the three million trees, and the Prime Minister is very committed to it,” Senator Morgan said.
CEO of the Forestry Department and Conservator of Forests, Marilyn Headley, informed that the agency is issuing free seedlings for planting, and will be working with a number of companies to expand its ‘adopt a hillside’ initiative.
“These are lands that we manage, and we want you to take charge and be responsible for the maintenance of them,” she said.
Support for the programme has also come from the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ).
PSOJ Vice President Mariame McIntosh Robinson said the business community has a “vested interest” in a “well-managed environment, and trees must be integrated in all designs”.
“Let us not let up on solving this problem of climate change,” she emphasised.
Teacher at the Greenwich Primary School in Kingston, Andrea Richards, told JIS News at the launch that trees are essential to life.
“This is something that we have to take up. I see the importance, and I will make sure that my students know the importance of planting trees,” she said.
Her colleague at The Queen’s School, Gary Morgan, who along with members of the school’s Environmental Club attended the function, said they will be doing their part to support the project by planting more trees at the institution, and in areas around the school.
Another educator, based at the Duhaney Park Primary School in St. Andrew, Deloris Christie, said the national tree-planting effort “is great for the children, great for the environment, and for the nation”.
Christie added that she has been inspired to do more in reforestation, and will be taking some of her personal trees, and with help from the 4-H Clubs, plant them at the school.
Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Jamaica, Ambassador Malgorzata Wasilewska, said the group is supporting the initiative with € I million, as it is a “very welcome move”.
“Planting trees is a simple act, but it demonstrates a resolve to build resilience, and fight climate change,” the ambassador told JIS News.
She added that the effort is an “investment in the future” and the EU’s funding is dedicated to reforestation and resuscitation of degraded lands.
“Under our funding, there will be four hundred and fifty hectares planted with trees, and that will be about 35,000 trees,” she noted.
President of the Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), Lenworth Fulton, said the programme is good for food security, as it will prevent land erosion.
“It makes very good sense to plant trees,” he told JIS News, while calling on persons to mark milestones, such as birthdays and anniversaries, with the planting of trees.