23 November 2006

Zimbabwe: Buffalo Thorn Chosen Tree of the Year

Harare — An indigenous tree -- buffalo thorn -- has been chosen as the tree of the year for the 2006 National Tree Planting Day because of its outstanding medicinal properties.

The start of the tree planting season is always the first Saturday of December, this year December 2, with more than 89 000 seedlings of several species earmarked for planting on about 105 hectares countrywide.

The Minister of Environment and Tourism, Cde Francis Nhema, said this year's tree planting day is going to be held under the theme: "Indigenous Medicinal Trees -- Revitalising the Health of the Nation". He was speaking at a Press conference in Harare where he addressed key stakeholders and journalists.

"The theme recognises the growing recognition of the important role indigenous medicine plays in the maintenance of people's health.

"The declaration of 2001-2010 as the decade for African Traditional Medicine by the Summit of the African Union is also a clear recognition of the important role traditional medicine plays in our society," said Cde Nhema.

He said buffalo thorn (muchecheni in Shona, umphafa in Ndebele and scientifically known ziziphus mucronata), is used to treat a variety of ailments, including stomach disorders, tuberculosis, boosts immunity and it grows well throughout the country.

The World Health Organisation estimates that 75 percent of people living in the developing countries rely on traditional medicine collected from the wild for their primary health care.

Cde Nhema hinted on the need to conserve and manage forests and woodlands to curb deforestation and to continually revisit trees that were planted earlier.

"I am calling upon the custodians of our national medicinal heritage, especially chiefs, headmen and traditional medicinal practitioners, to set up herbal gardens and to conserve and manage forests and woodlands within the area of their jurisdiction," said Cde Nhema.

The Forestry Commission, in collaboration with NTPD organising committee, will facilitate tree planting and all seedlings required for the occasion have been produced by farmers and are available in forest nurseries throughout the country. Cde Nhema spoke on the need for schools to carry out programmes for planting trees so that children can grow up knowing the importance of conserving them.

"As His Excellency, the President, leads the nation in tree planting, provincial governors will lead their respective provinces while other traditional and political leadership as well as policy makers will also lead tree planting in their respective districts," he said.

Cde Nhema urged all Zimbabweans to mark this year's NTPD by planting and managing locally and relevant indigenous medicinal trees in their areas. "Let us all join in the re-greening of our country and ensuring a healthy nation," said Cde Nhema.

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