By Pamenus Tuso
Despite clear evidence of accelerated and unsustainable loss of forests in the country side, most Zimbabweans have failed to take heed of calls for tree planting in campaigns by various stakeholders.
Communities and individuals who have taken it upon themselves to preserve and conserve forests by nurturing plants have not received any meaningful support or incentive from relevant authorities resulting in loss of interest.
Never Bonde of Bulawayo’s Cowdray Park high density suburb is one of the few concerned citizens who have religiously taken up practical action to replenish the country’s depleted forests which are important sources of oxygen, key for mankind’s survival.
Bonde‘s exceptional passion for tree planting attracted the attention of the Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Oppah Muchinguri –Kashiri who on 27 June last year appointed the 35-year old tree planting fanatic the national indigenous tree planting ambassador in recognition of his role in fighting deforestation through planting various indigenous trees.
Bonde, who has been leading a crusade of planting trees in schools, churches and many other public places throughout the country, has already formed a tree planting Trust called Izihlahla Yimpilo /Miti Upenyu Trust. He is working together with other Cowdray Park residents on this project.
“When the Minster appointed me the Indigenous Tree Planting Ambassador, she advised me to form a Trust. Following the Minister’s advice together with my colleague, Phakamile Lugodlo Khumalo we mobilised the Cowdray Park residents and formed Izihlahla Yimpilo/ Miti Upenyu Trust,” said Bonde in an interview.
The Trust recently organised and hosted belated World Environment Day commemorations at Cowdray Park Primary school.
At the colourful event attended by various stakeholders, the trust donated 50 indigenous trees to the school.
“We decided to host the World Environment Day commemorations in Cowdray Park because we realised that there are a lot of environmental challenges in the suburb. Being a new suburb, the area does not have electricity and a lot of residents rely on firewood. The area is also grappling with sand poaching,” said Bonde.
Bonde also runs a unique indigenous tree nursery in Harare’s Newlands suburb.
“We have planted 34 000 different species of indigenous trees in Newlands. These seedlings will be sold to tobacco farmers and other players who deal with trees. These trees will be sold at a much subsidised cost of 20 cents each. I have decided to nurse and raise these trees after realising that the environmental havoc which de-forestation is causing in our communities,” he said.
The Tree Planting Ambassador said, so far, he has planted a total of 154 000 trees in areas such as Rusape, Maphisa, Harare and Chimanimani, amongst others.
Environmental Management Agency (EMA) Provincial Environmental Manager for Bulawayo Metro Province, Decent Ndlovu, applauded Izihlahla Yimpilo / Miti Upenyu Trust for taking the initiative of preserving the environment in the community.
“As EMA we are extremely delighted by the Trust’s initiative. All along environmental issues have always been associated with EMA but as we move forward the citizens now should be the ones leading the way whilst our role is only to come up with technical support as well as fostering the necessary skills and attitude on environmental issues,” said Ndlovu.
Ndlovu said the Trust’s initiative in Cowdray Park should be seen as a positive change of attitude by communities towards safeguarding their own environment.
“Over the years we have been crying about attitude in terms of the environmental issues. With this gesture we look forward to better things to come in future as communities come up with such programmes as enshrined in our vision. Our vision is to live in a healthy environment through stakeholders’ participation,” said Ndlovu.
Cleopatra Mangombe, an Environmental Officer in the Ministry of Environment Water and Climate also applauded the Cowdray Park initiative.
“As Ministry we are very much thrilled by Bonde and the Cowdray Park community‘s tree planting initiative. We encourage other communities who are facing environmental challenges to emulate the Cowdray Park residents,” said Mangombe.
She said parastatals such as EMA, Forestry Commission and Parks and Wild life Management are willing to assist environment conservation programmes such as that of Cowdray Park.
According to the Forestry Commission, Zimbabwe loses about 330,000 hectares of land through deforestation annually, a development Bonde says needs to be addressed.
At the current rate of tree felling, environmental experts say there will be no forests to speak of during the coming years, a development which might lead to unprecedented socio-economical and environmental repercussions. Trees help reverse global warming and keep global temperatures from rising beyond the dreaded 2 degree Celsius. Trees grown to maturity are also able to soak up an average of 440 tonnes of atmospheric carbon dioxide per hectare.