Arbor Month was celebrated in Aberdeen this week, when the town was chosen to receive 120 young trees from the Sarah Baartman District Municipality.
Historically, Arbor Day was first celebrated in South Africa in 1983, then it expanded to being Arbor Week in 1996, and this year, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries declared the whole of September as Arbor Month. The theme for this year’s Arbor Month is Forestry and Sustainable Cities.
The campaign aims to raise awareness of the importance of trees in South Africa, particularly those indigenous to the region. Special programmes have been run in schools to encourage pupils to appreciate the benefits of trees in the environment, and the Sarah Baartman District Municipality chose Aberdeen to be the recipient of young indigenous trees to be planted in the area.
The local schools and crèches, as well as public facilities such as the hospital and clinic, churches, library and parks were identified as suitable sites, where trees planted this week would give shade and help reduce climate change for future generations.
On Monday, Akhona Tshaka, a senior forestry development officer from the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries arrived from King William’s Town to officially hand over and plant wild olive, celtic, rhus, and yellowwood trees. She was accompanied by Zanele Dyayiya, communications manager from Disaster Management in the District Municipality, who was able to explain the role of trees in helping to prevent natural disasters.
These officials, together with representatives of various beneficiary organisations within the two wards in Aberdeen, visited the four schools, each of which received six saplings. At Aberdeen Secondary School, Akhona herself, together with principal Timotheus Webb, did most of the digging for the hole for the first symbolic tree to be planted. The group then visited the other three schools.
Trees for the remaining sites were delivered by Cllr Willem Safers and Clive Kombani, the Area Manager in Aberdeen later in the week.
On Tuesday, a function was held at the library hall where visiting dignitaries, including Cllr Notizi Vanda (Portfolio Councillor for Community Services) and the Speaker of the Dr Beyers Naude Local Municipality, Cllr Thembisa Nonnies, who represented the Mayor. School children from Aberdeen Secondary School and Aberdeen Full Service School marched to the hall, accompanied by vehicles from the Traffic Department. The children filled the hall, along with a few parents and other members of the community, and mostly listened attentively to the procedings.
Cllr Safers directed a programme which was both informative and entertaining, with main speaker Akhona Tshaka emphasising to the children their role in preserving trees, and passing on information to both the older generation and, in future, their own children. Cllr Safers emphasised a local example where children must play a vital role in educating others in the community, regarding the Fonteinbos Nature Reserve. This area is sadly being systematically stripped of trees every winter, when members of the community go and cut down trees for firewood.
Entertainment during the meeting was provided by choirs from Aberdeen Secondary School and Luxolo Intermediate School, as well as a very thoughtful drama piece performed by an immaculately dressed group of youngsters from Kamdebo Primary School.