Forestry Department to Plant Trees on October 5

As the country prepares to undertake an islandwide post-Hurricane Dean clean-up on September 29 and 30, the Forestry Department will also be playing its part on National Tree Planting Day (October 5), to replant trees, particularly in areas that have been denuded.
In an interview with JIS News, Forest Information and Public Awareness Officer, Stephanie Donaldson-Francis informs that on October 5, the major activity for Kingston and St. Andrew will be a tree-planting ceremony at Hope Botanical Gardens. Explaining how the project came about, she says that the Nature Preservation Foundation approached the department several weeks ago after the passage of Hurricane Dean, which has given greater significance to National Tree Planting Day 2007. “They have lost quite a bit of their flora, so they approached us for seedlings for re-planting. So we thought it would be a good time, a perfect opportunity to make our contribution to the re-development activities that are now underway at the Hope Botanical Gardens,” she adds. The ceremony will begin at 10:00 a.m.
“National Tree Planting Day is a time when we are asking persons to plant trees. For the past five years, the Forestry Department, which has the mandate of conserving, and preserving Jamaica’s forest resources, has encouraged service clubs, schools, community groups and individuals, to go out and plant trees, because we recognize that although it is the purview of the Forestry Department to replant and reforest Jamaica, especially those areas that have been denuded, we cannot do it alone,” Mrs. Donaldson- Francis tells JIS News.
She says the theme for the day is, ‘A greener Jamaica and a healthier you’, and that the synergy between trees and individual health will be emphasized, “so we are pointing to things like the social and economic benefit of investing in trees.” The Public Awareness Officer points out that the interest in replanting activities has grown, with in excess of 40,000 seedlings distributed over the years to schools, service clubs, individuals, church groups and just about any group that is interested. “This year we have just about 10,000 seedlings for distribution. It is primarily hardwood and ornamental seedlings. Forestry doesn’t do fruit trees, we specialize in hardwood and ornamental, such as poor man’s orchid, (blue) mahoe, lignum vitae, cedar, those sorts of trees,” she notes.
Major projects in the other regions have not yet been finalized, but in the Eastern region, the department will be working with the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) and with a non-governmental organization in the West. Meanwhile, the venue for the central region is to be finalized soon. She notes that there has always been strong support for National Tree Planting Day, as persons become more aware of the importance of having trees in their areas. “Let’s take, for example, Hurricane Dean. We recognize that had there not been so many trees to buffer the winds, then we could have sustained worse damage to lives and property,” she argues. Mrs. Donaldson-Francis is urging persons to come out and plant in their areas, because “it’s about their own health. “When we have trees, we can breathe easier, when we have trees growing in our area, our air-conditioners can work less, so our electric bills can be less, so there are practical benefits to having trees in our areas,” Mrs. Donaldson-Francis said. She says the department’s public awareness unit is very active, and apart from this annual event, it strives to make presentations to interested groups to discuss the benefits of planting trees.
“We write to the schools and we ask them to make time for us to come in and make presentations. The school children are our future, so if we can inculcate in them right now the importance of preserving our national flora, then we know the generation of today, that will be tomorrow’s adults, will have a greater appreciation for our natural resources,” Mrs. Donaldson-Francis tells JIS News.
There is also an awareness drive for corporate Jamaica. “As it relates to corporate Jamaica, we are now on a drive to encourage more companies to adopt a hillside. So far, we have projects with Carerras, and Jamalco, and we have a project too with the National Water Commission, and we are looking at other companies, such as the Jamaica Public Service Company, to see if they would adopt a particular area for reforestation. So the public awareness drive is ongoing, and it has been bearing fruit,” she says.

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