Children, if properly engaged, can play an instrumental part in a campaign of social awareness that can lead to better preservation of the environment, First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa has said.
Speaking at the launch of "Every child a tree" initiative by local environmental conservation concern Forest Lovers, the First Lady described teaching children to plant trees as an investment in a lesson which is priceless and that will benefit future generations.
Amai Mnangagwa is the country's environment, tourism and hospitality industry patron.
The initiative comes at a time when Zimbabwe's forests were being depleted at the rate of 330 000 hectares per year, stripping the country of benefits associated with maintaining forests.
The First Lady has previously been involved in conservation issues and last year she planted over 20 000 trees during which period she also taught communities on the need to stop deforestation which had negative effects on the environment.
She has always been leading from the front in promoting environmental conservation with communities welcoming as beneficial her tree planting initiatives.
"It is my honour and privilege to be with you at this event 'Every child a tree' initiative here at the Grange Christian School. I am delighted to witness such an initiative that is involving the participation of kids. As a mother it is my passion to work with children and invest in the young generation as this is a guarantee of a brighter future," she said.
"Under 'Every child a tree' programme, Forest Lovers aims to engage every child in Zimbabwe in planting a tree in their community during their time at school.
"Their idea is to instil values of sustainable environmental management in children so that they grow to be adults who are environmentally sensitive and custodians of the environment."
By stimulating environmental interest and stewardship in children, the First Lady said there was hope that they would share what they learn with their respective communities and families.
"Children by their very nature, if properly engaged can play an instrumental part in a campaign of social awareness that can lead to better preservation of our environment, so by teaching them to plant trees we are investing in them a lesson which is priceless and that will benefit future generations.
"I have been informed that Forest Lovers is going to start 'Every child a tree' academy to empower children to learn more on climate crisis and how they can help mitigate the crisis, they will be also taught to inform other children about the climate crisis, equity and global citizenship and empower them to become climate heroes ambassador and their duty as ambassadors will be to teach other children to become climate heroes as well.
"The children will show that everyone can assume responsibility and can actively shape the future by organising planting parties, giving speeches, and encouraging others to participate," she said.
Zimbabwe, she further said, was among countries with the largest annual net loss of forest area with statistics at hand showing that the country is losing 330 000 hectares annually as a result of deforestation.
The environmental patron said the country was in danger of losing forests hence there was need to start steps reversing the damage that was caused by deforestation adding that children had an important role to play.
Every child a tree initiative, she said, comes at the right time when there was need to teach children to plant trees and take good care of the environment and its surroundings.
"The goal of halting deforestation and restoring forests, as set out in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, is an attainable objective if youths such as the Forest Lovers team and the entire nation join hands and continue to come to be educated about the significance of trees.
"Forest lovers you are really making a difference. Our environment has been damaged and we are experiencing heatwaves, droughts and cyclones in particular Cyclone Idai which resulted in loss of lives and property all as a result of cutting down trees.
"If this programme is cascaded down effectively, you will see tangible results every day and maintaining trees is a fantastic learning activity.
"A lot of kids do not cope too well in a classroom environment and getting them outside you can have some amazing conversations, not just about science and biology, but also about art and maths. You can link anything into trees," she said.
Speaking at the same occasion, founder of Forest Lovers Mr Bob Mavende said he was driven by the need to involve children in mitigating climate change and make the younger generation role models in the fight.
"The idea behind every child a tree initiative, we are actually trying to involve kids in the mitigation of climate change. We have seen it fit that if we catch the kids, especially the younger generation, they can actually become the role models of tomorrow's climate change fight.
"We saw it fit to involve Her Excellency Amai Auxillia Mnangagwa to launch every child a tree initiative because she is the patron of environment and she has actually emphasised a lot in the environmental conservation so we are really proud to have her shadow in this initiative that we are actually partaking." We are targeting primary schools across the country therefore this is an ongoing programme," he said.
Forestry Commission operations manager Mr Lewis Radzire said they were excited because conservation dovetailed with their daily activities.
"Our general manager Mr Abednigo Marufu is the patron of Forest Lovers so as Forestry Commission we are so much excited with this kind of development. It then dovetails with our day-to-day activities as we are quite aware that as Forestry Commission our mandate is to ensure that we conserve our forests and champion tree-planting in Zimbabwe. Right now we are losing forests at an alarming rate at about 300 thousands hectares every year. So Forest Lovers in conjunction with the Forestry Commission, this kind of initiative will go quite a long way in ensuring that we re-green the economy.
"More importantly, the unique aspect about this project is that it is involving kids. We are trying to catch them whilst they are still young. As Forestry commission we are also running projects in schools where we are promoting tree growing and tree care. You will find that with forest lovers we have got a target of planting 100 000 trees in most schools. The Grange School is just the beginning but our target is to make sure that we engage most of these schools," he said.
Mr Radzire said the planting of trees would be an ongoing exercise ensuring that trees are planted and conserved.
"We have quite a number of benefits that we derive from these forests. Let me also take this opportunity to harness that Amai spearheaded tree-planting nationwide in the previous season where she planted more than 20 000 trees across the provinces. She is not going back so its aluta continua. As Forestry Commission we appreciate these kind of initiatives which are being led by her Excellency Amai Mnangagwa as she leads by example. We are also saying that tree planting is everyone's responsibility," he said.
Yesterday the First Lady planted a tree called Kenyan croton.