The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Ok Zim to Unveil Tree Nursery

OK Zimbabwe Limited will today unveil a nursery at Katsukunya Secondary School to support tree planting activities in Mutoko and its hinterland. The Katsukunya nursery is the first to be

commissioned out of the 10 nurseries established as part of an initiative by Friends of The Environment (FOTE) to plant a whooping 500 million trees by 2025.

OK Zimbabwe, which is funding the project, has partnered FOTE to ensure that the initiative has sufficient feedstock to meet the stated objective of planting 500 million trees in the next 13 years.

To date, FOTE has established 10 nurseries across the country, with each nursery targeting to produce 500 000 saplings per year.

These nurseries will produce a variety of trees most suited to a particular area, according to its geographical location.

By locating the nursery at Katsukunya Secondary School, OK Zimbabwe wants to unlock the potential in youths to prepare them for future responsibilities.

The nursery will enable students to develop into adulthood with a sense of responsibility and respect for the environment.

The whole idea behind the project is to get them to appreciate the importance of trees at an early stage; get them to play a leading role in tree planting and develop them into staunch defenders of the environment.

Apart from funding the nursery, OK Zimbabwe sunk a borehole at the school to support the project. The retail giant has also acquired a water tank for the school to store the resource before it is piped to various points within the school yard.

Already, the school is now accessing water from the borehole which is safe for human consumption. The piped water is also being used to water the school garden and the nursery.

Now that there is a nursery at the school, students will be taught about the importance of trees and why it is crucial to plant them.

Tree planting will become part of their extracurricular activities at the school whereby the nursery will come in handy in their practical tree planting sessions.

The school is also expected to run the nursery as an income-generating project whereby its tree saplings would be sold to those who need them.

The proceeds from the sale of the tree saplings will go towards the payment of school fees for the underprivileged students who will have excelled in their studies.

The school authorities will have the responsibility of identifying the less privileged but academically gifted students who will benefit directly from proceeds from the nursery including those that can work at the nursery during weekends or school holidays to raise monies for their school fees which will be funded from the school's nursery account.

In due course, the school is expected to develop an orchard and a plantation to provide another source of revenue from proceeds from the sale of fruits and trees.

The plantation can also be used for honey production in the long-run.

Katsukunya Secondary School was established in 1981. It started off by using, as classrooms, the former Rhodesia Front army barracks at Katsukunya base. Two years later, the school was moved to new structures that were constructed not too far away from the former military base.

The school is bordered by five villages; Katsukunya and Machangara to the East, Gari to the West, Gwatu to the South and Zisengwe to the North.

In line with what FOTE call "catch them young" concept, a number of nurseries have been rolled out in Mhondoro (Nyangwene Primary School in Mubaira) and Mtshingwe Primary School (Zvishavane), among others.

The initiative aims at providing communities with a ready source of tree saplings right at their doorsteps to support their tree planting activities throughout the year.

The communities can also use the nurseries to grow flowers, which they can sale to discerning members of society.

In partnering FOTE in creating and adopting nurseries, corporates are not only giving back to their communities as part of their corporate social responsibility programmes, but they are also contributing to environmental management.

Simply put, the initiative is promoting sustainable development.

Regarding the walkathon, On Thursday, the walkers again came face to face with the effects of climate change in the form of water shortages, a result of the poor rains.

On Wednesday, we had planned to plant about 1,500 trees but we ended up planting only 70 tree saplings at Juru Cemetery because we could not access enough water to reach our target.

It was the same story on Thursday. We were only able to plant about 400 tree saplings owing to the same reason.

Traditionally, tree planting is made easier around this time of the year because of the rains which would have started around mid October. But despite the predictions by the Meteorological Department suggesting a normal farming season, the rains have so far been disappointing.

As FOTE, we were also caught unawares: Our walkathons are always scheduled towards the end of November for the simple reason that we want our walkers to benefit from the rains in terms of their tree planting activities.

In the past, the heavens have always smiled on us. We also plan our walkathons in such a way that the last day of each trot coincides with the National Tree Planting Day, held the first Saturday of December.

But our tree planting programme at Murewa Primary School and Murewa Secondary School could not go according to plan due to the shortage of water; a clear reflection of the impact climate change has had on the country: It is becoming increasingly difficult for farmers to predict rainy seasons and plan ahead. Those who took advantage of the first rains to plant early are currently watching helplessly as their crop starts showing signs of moisture stress.

But instead of weakening our efforts, it is these effects climate change has had on our country that have further strengthened our resolve to plant 500 million trees by 2025 for the greater good.

The time is now to reverse the trend otherwise our silos and rivers will run dry in no time, inviting hunger into our living rooms. We cannot delay our response a day longer because our animals would starve to death and our once fertile lands would turn into deserts, that is if we continue on this self-destructive path of destroying trees, which are an essential element in fighting global warming and climate change.

We are happy that more and more people are joining our struggle voluntarily. Yesterday, we were expecting representatives from Bain Iveco, South Africa to join the final stretch of the walkathon.

To us, this is indicative of the growing level of interest in our tree planting activities. It has become important that we spice up this message with music so that it can reach a wider audience.

Thursday was another day whereby artists who have joined the fight against deforestation kept the crowds entertained. Leonard Zhakata took to the stage at Murewa Centre on Thursday and did not disappoint.

It was a day to remember for those who attended the show, which recorded a bumper attendance. On Friday, Fungisai Zvakavapano Mashavave was expected to entertain the crowds at Mutoko Centre, the final destination for the 2012 edition of the FOTE walkathon. Pax Gomo and theatre groups from Mutoko will also perform.

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