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The recent announcement of the Government of Jamaica’s ‘Three Million Trees in Three Years’ National Tree Planting Programme has sparked significant interest in tree planting activities. Prime Minister Andrew Holness made the announcement on September 27, 2019 as he delivered Jamaica’s Policy statement at the General Debate of the 74th session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly (UNGA) in New York and officially launched the Programme on October 4, 2019. This Programme complements the role that Prime Minister Holness assumed in 2018 when he was asked by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to co-chair a global political initiative to mobilise climate change financing for developing nations.
This resurgence of interest in tree planting is great news for many reasons. It represents an activity that can:
Accompong which is of tremendous importance to the Maroons? And how many of us have a navel string tree or even know what it is? (And to think that those are just a few selected potential benefits). The National Tree Planting Programme is complemented and bolstered by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries (MICAF) fruit tree planting initiative which runs concurrently and was announced by Agriculture Minister Audley Shaw in late 2019. The objective of this initiative is to plant 3 million fruit trees across the island. Tree planting is a long standing activity that has been promoted by the Forestry Department of Jamaica (via National Tree Planting Day - which was first observed in 2003, the Private Planting Programme, and other activities), the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) and the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA).Did you know that, each year, the first Friday in October is observed in Jamaica as National Tree Planting Day? Did you also know that March 21 was established as the International Day of Forests by a resolution of the UNGA and is celebrated annually?
Naturally, the question then becomes, what does this mean for me, personally? What do I need to consider in deciding whether or not I want to plant and maintain 1 tree or 1,000 trees? Here are a few things I've learned, that I tend to think about, and that may be useful to you as well:
We should remember that removing and damaging “bush” might actually mean damaging an important functioning ecosystem. The last thing we want to do is cause environmental damage by improperly conducting an activity that is actually aimed at benefiting the environment. For example, removing mangroves (remember that mangroves are trees!) also removes a natural coastal defence system and this might result in coastal erosion (including loss of our beaches in some places), damage to our coral reefs and other marine ecosystems (there’s that word again), and loss of fish and shellfish nurseries and habitat (i.e. natural homes or environment). There are many ways to be responsible stewards of our environment, and to play a part in mitigating against and adapting to climate change individually, within our communities, as a nation, and globally. This is one avenue that may be explored. Remember… technical expertise is available… if you are not sure about planting and maintaining trees, we encourage you to ask. Some organisations with these technical resources that readily come to mind include the Jamaica Institute of Environmental Professionals (JIEP) the Forestry Department, the Rural Agricultural Development Agency (RADA), and/or the University of the West Indies (UWI; for mangroves especially). There are also resources for organic and permaculture techniques. And… if you do not feel comfortable to plant and maintain a tree yourself, consider supporting ongoing tree planting and maintenance initiatives.