I used to see this statement everywhere when I was a child.
“Trees are life. Izihlahla ziyimpilo. Miti upenyu.”
It seems in the ’90s, Zimbabwe went on a serious tree planting drive. In fact, in 1980, former president Robert Mugabe declared the first Saturday of December to be our national tree planting day.
environment By Thandekile Moyo
According to the Forestry Commission:
“The purpose of this day from the beginning was to motivate the nation to plant and conserve trees, to enlighten the nation on the importance of forest and woodland resources, to enhance biodiversity and to enhance household food security.”
The Forestry Commission goes on to explain that the target when the programme commenced was to plant just one million trees, but to date, more than 50 million trees have been planted.
Why all the fuss about trees? You are probably wondering. Well, trees are our biggest plants. They remove carbon from the atmosphere and turn it into oxygen. This helps our environment which is threatened by climate change caused by, among other things, high levels of carbon in the atmosphere.
Trees play that special function of reducing our temperatures. “They reduce wind speeds and cool the air as they lose moisture and reflect heat upwards from their leaves.It is estimated that trees can reduce the temperatures of a city by up to 7°c.” (The Regents Park Paper)
The oxygen they produce is that air which life survives on. Wikipedia describes oxygen as follows:
“Oxygen (O) is a chemical element. In nature, oxygen is a gas with no colour or smell. Oxygen is a very important element because we need it to live. It is a part of the air people breathe and the water people drink. Many living things (including humans) need oxygen to live and breathe, though it is poisonous to some forms of life. In liquid state of matter, oxygen is light blue.”
Without oxygen, there would be no life on earth.
Trees provide medication for all sorts of diseases. Pre-colonisation and even in some areas today, people self-treated their ailments with concoctions made with ingredients from trees and other plants. The medicinal properties are found on different parts of different trees. The barks, roots, leaves and seeds of trees can be medicinal.
The herbal medicines industry has been rapidly gaining popularity over the past few years with trees being one of the major sources of these herbs. In Zimbabwe (and other countries), the Moringa tree became hugely popular and was even called the miracle cure amid allegations that almost all its parts could be used to cure illnesses. It was even said to have the ability to boost the immune systems of people with HIV.
Trees also contribute to our economy. The timber and fruits industries provide millions of dollars for Zimbabwe yearly. Mazoe orange crush, a beverage made from oranges, is a worldwide favourite and earns the country a lot in foreign currency. Our furniture industries also depend on trees.
The world is fast escalating towards a shift in eating habits. Dieticians prescribe that people must eat seven different coloured fruits and vegetables each day. Trees provide us with the bulk of the fruit required for this healthy lifestyle. The English even came up with the saying: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
Trees provide many animals, people and birds with both shelter and food. Birds build their nests in trees and eat fruit and seeds. Larger animals like elephants also survive on fruits, leaves and maybe branches of trees too.
They provide us with shade from the direct rays of the scorching sun. I remember how we used to play under and in trees as children. I could climb any tree in the bush; but my friend once fell and broke his arm while trying to steal a pawpaw from my mother’s orchard. Lesson learned: Never attempt to climb a pawpaw tree.
Without trees, soil erosion would be uncontrollable and flooding would be the order of the day. They absorb large amounts of rainfall and hold the soil “together” preventing it from being washed away into rivers.
Trees are beautiful and add to the beauty of a place. Areas with lots of trees feel cool and provide us with feelings of peace and serenity. Houses in neighbourhoods with trees are moe expensive than those in barren areas. Trees therefore increase the value of any place.
Historians and archaeologists can tell a lot from old trees. They provide us with the much-needed insight of how those who came before us lived. You can also trace origins of people in a certain area using types of trees found in those areas.
It is to everyone’s advantage to develop a love and respect for trees. We should all play our part. Planting just three trees around a house can reduce your need to cool the house with a fan or air- conditioning thereby saving you money and energy.
Planting fruit trees in your yard is beneficial not just for your health, but also for food security. I challenge you to plant at least one tree in your lifetime. That way you can literally breathe easy knowing you contributed to the production of that oxygen none of us would be alive without.