MEMBERS of the defence forces have been urged to plant trees on a regular basis in order to replace those that would have been cut down. Speaking at a national tree-planting project yesterday, commander of the defence forces General Constantine Chiwenga said the people's livelihood and survival depended on trees.
The ceremony was held at Kabrit Barracks in Harare where he also planted a tree.
"I am aware that this programme kicks off on the first Saturday of December every year, but it is a programme that can and should take place all year round.
"I have come here to officiate at this programme with the full knowledge that this programme has already kicked off in most formations, bases and units of the Zimbabwe National Army and Air Force of Zimbabwe," Gen Chiwenga said.
He said the ozone layer was being damaged because of the many carbon gases being emitted into the atmosphere particularly from developed countries.
"Although the developed industrial hubs are the main producers of the damaging emissions, we are in a way contributors through deforestation, veld fires, mining operations, etc," Gen Chiwenga said.
He said there was a need to bequeath the children and their children a functional and green planet.
"Our livelihood and survival will depend on these trees that we shall plant every year. It is my wish that in five years time, this camp (Kabrit Barracks), and indeed all defence forces cantonments will be turned into green zones," he said.
Gen Chiwenga said it was his wish that the officers extended the programme to their farms and villages, among other areas.
He said they should make it a point that the officers and their families each plant a tree every year.
Gen Chiwenga said a local company, Tetrad, had joined hands with the ZNA and AFZ to plant trees in camps.
He applauded the company for the initiative and urged them to maintain the momentum in ensuring that the military could each year double the number of trees planted the previous year.
Meanwhile, ZNA planted 51 trees at II Presidential Guard Barracks in Dzivarasekwa.
These constituted three species, red mahogany (khaya anthontheca), acacia (acacia poly) and Kenyan Croton trees.
The red mahogany was declared the 2013 Tree of the Year. ZNA in conjunction with Tetrad and the Forestry Commission planted the trees as a means of promoting reforestation of urban and rural areas.
ZNA Commander Lieutenant General Phillip Valerio Sibanda said it was important to conserve trees.
"I want to take this opportunity to urge all members of the army to take good care of the trees we are planting and those planted in the past. Let us desist from the habit of planting and forgetting," he said.
Lt Gen Sibanda said trees were important for the economy.
"We all know that without trees our country will be condemned to desertification, severe poverty and suffering," he said.
Tetrad Holdings donated 400 000 trees for this tree planting season.
Gen Sibanda said indigenous trees were more suitable for the climatic conditions and required minimum attention.
"I urge all of us to desist from indiscriminately cutting down trees and causing veld fires.
"These bad habits do not only damage the environment but also pose a danger to human life," Lt Gen Sibanda said.
Speaking on behalf of Forestry Commission deputy general manager Mr Abednigo Marufu, the Harare province forest extension officer Mr Duncan Chiwala said the National Tree Planting Day was meant to address deforestation.
"More than 330 000 hectares of forested land are lost every year to veld fires and change of land use patterns. It is therefore imperative that people plant four trees for every one cut down," he said.
Mr Chiwala said projects such as 'Tree Growing, Tree Caring' were being put in place to include youth participation.
Tetrad Group chief executive Mr Eugene Mlambo said 200 000 trees were planted last year from a target of 500 000.
"We have implemented a five-year programme that started in 2010 to plant 500 000 trees every year. Today 6 000 trees are being planted at and around the airport," he said.
National Tree Planting Day is traditionally observed during the first Saturday of December.