Thandeka Moyo-Ndlovu, Chronicle Reporter
NATIONAL food security and nutrition depends on the status of forests and the planting of trees will ensure Zimbabwe is a food secured and richly nourished nation likely to attain an upper middle-class economy by 2030.
The First Lady Auxilia Mnangagwa said this during the pre-national tree planting day campaign for the 2020 tree planting season at Maphumulo Village, Tsholotsho yesterday.
The First Lady who is also the patron for the environment, tourism and hospitality industry, said the planting of trees is a culture to be passed on and embraced by children and future generations.
She said the tree of the year is umkhomo, also known as muuyu in ChiShona, African Baobab in English and mubuyu in Tonga.
The Mother of the Nation said the tree was chosen for its numerous uses which can be incorporated into daily living for healthier lives and economic empowerment.
The First Lady said the bark makes excellent ropes, bags, hats and floor mats which is a business opportunity for women to help meet the costs of running homes despite an economic climate worsened by successive droughts and the deadly Covid-19 pandemic.
The Baobab bark produces a semi- fluid gum used to treat sores while the fruit pulp is used to make beverages high in Vitamin C and its leaves can be used as relish and can be dried and stored as umfushwa.
Amai Mnangagwa said the flowers can be eaten raw or used to flavour drinks while the seeds produce oil that has wide application in beverage, pharmaceutical and cosmetic industry and are a potential source of protein.
She said the dried roots are believed to be a remedy for malaria and that the fruits are a source of income as they are collected and sold by local communities to those who consume the fruit pulp or process it into various value-added products.
In a speech read on her behalf by Matabeleland North Minister for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Richard Moyo, the First lady urged traditional leaders to lead by example in planting trees and conserving the environment.
She bemoaned the prevalent cutting down of trees and warned that perpetrators will be punished.
“It is a pleasure to be here with you today for the pre-launch of the 2020 National Tree Planting Day commemoration. Trees and forests remain a vital component of our daily lives and with many communities and industries deriving their livelihoods from them,” she said.
“It is critical for the country to recognise their importance and collectively work to conserve them. As a patron for the environment, tourism and hospitality industry, I initiated this programme together with the forestry commission after I noticed the rampant cutting down of trees wherever my philanthropic work took me across the country.”
The First Lady said the pre-National Tree Planting Day commemoration campaign is ongoing in all provinces ahead of the national launch by President Mnangagwa on the first Saturday of December.
“I therefore, urge leadership in all sectors of the society to demonstrate this environmental stewardship so that the whole nation appreciates the value and the need to conserve trees and forests. I encourage you to keep on working together and remind our citizens to develop forest resources through tree planting and widen livelihood bases for both rural and urban citizens,” said Amai Mnangagwa.
She encouraged chiefs who are the custodians of communities to take stern action against those who cut down trees as well as cause veld fires.
“I also want to thank Matabeleland North province, the Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution as well as the various stakeholders for ensuring that we gather today as a family and plant trees but while observing the covid-19 pandemic guidelines. In this regard, let me reiterate the clarion call made by the Government of Zimbabwe to strictly observe the prevailing regulations as we plant trees across the province.”
Minister Moyo took the lead in tree planting by planting trees at Mr Thandabantu Gumbo’s homestead, the village head who has been planting trees for a number of years.
Mr Gumpo said he planted 67 trees this year at his homestead to show villagers that it was possible to maintain them even in one’s homestead despite water challenges.
“I fell in love with tree planting years ago when I realised that I have a duty to preserve the environment while leading by example. We have been cutting trees for years since we were very young hence the need to plant more trees so that we invest into our future,” said Mr Gumbo.
Mr Amson Tembo the chief conservator for Bulawayo and Matabeleland North said: “Villagers should organise themselves so that there is no rampant cutting of trees. Communities should benefit from their natural resources and we believe that those licensed to cut trees should also provide schools, courts and other public entities with furniture.”
One of the villagers Ms Winnie Mabhena said the programme had given her business ideas as she never thought the Baobab tree had so many uses.
“We have always relied on trees for food and firewood and I am happy that the launch has given us business ideas as well because we need that extra income to be able to put food on the table.
We will do our best to plant trees. We will also group and venture into businesses using umkhomo as we have realised the tree can generate us an income,” she said. — @thamamoe