First Lady calls for mindset shift in tree-growing. . . underlines need to provide optimum care for trees First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa and other dignitaries observe as Chief Mutambara waters a tree he planted in Chimanimani yesterday. - Pictures: John Manzongo

Tendai Rupapa in CHIMANIMANI

ZIMBABWE needs a mindset shift from tree-planting to tree growing for the plants to thrive which will in turn benefit the economy, First Lady and environment patron Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa has said.

She said just as babies are nurtured, trees also need optimum support as they are key in easing the rising cases of human-wildlife conflict, as well as mitigating the effects of climate change.

Amai Mnangagwa made the remarks when she joined the community, including traditional chiefs, in planting thousands of trees at Mhandarume Secondary School and a nearby forest in Chimanimani district.

The mother of the nation dispersed seed balls, a new method of planting trees where clay coated seeds are broadcast and left to germinate when it rains.

Trees planted included tree of the year Muunga, baobab and bolusanthus.

Dr Mnangagwa also held an interactive session with the community on social issues affecting them, such as drug abuse and domestic violence.

Environment and Wildlife patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa teaches people how to randomly scatter seed balls, while Manicaland Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Advocate Misheck Mugadza and other dignitaries look on as she launched the clay coating broadcasting seed balls in Chimanimani yesterday

This came as she was roundly praised for her interventions which resulted in millions of trees being grown countrywide, beating the Forestry Commission’s annual targets.

Herself ground in traditional norms and customs, Dr Mnangagwa started by paying her condolences to the community following the deaths of Chief Makumbe and Chief Chipunza.

“I was saddened by the passing on of Chief Makumbe and Chief Chipunza; I say rest in peace,” she said. “I want to thank you for voting wisely in August because you wanted President Cde ED Mnangagwa to complete the work that he started. You also allowed me to carry forward the programmes that we started together. I am pleased to be with you here as we plant trees.

“The Government saw it necessary to protect our forests and the environment. This year’s exercise is running under the theme: Trees and Forests for Ecosystems Restoration and improved Livelihood.”

Dr Mnangagwa said it was everyone’s responsibility to plant and grow trees.

“Let us all plant trees so that they multiply in our communities as we also look after them,” he said. “From tree planting we get to tree growing. When a child is born, there is time to raise the child until they come of age. 

“The same with trees. After planting we water the trees and look after them as they grow. So I am saying, yes we are planting new trees but at the same time let us grow and look after the ones we planted. 

“This area is under Chief Mutambara and receives little rainfall which affects yields and many people rely on selling fruits like baobab and mapfura. This shows the importance of our forests and the trees. Our rural economies are sustained by trees, therefore let us protect them.” 

Amai Mnangagwa educated the community on the new method of planting trees.

Learners plant trees during a tree planting programme initiated by Environment and Wildlife patron First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa at Mhandarume Secondary School in Chimanimani yesterday

As a framework for conservation, the First Lady humbly urged traditional leaders to lead the way in ensuring the indiscriminate cutting down of trees which has become common practice is addressed.

“I wish to thank the Chief for allowing us to gather as a family teaching one another the importance of trees,” she said. “Ndaikumbirawo kuti vanenge vabatwa nemitemo kumatare ana mambo vapihwe mitongo yakakodzera so that we curb the indiscriminate cutting down of trees. We now have a new method of planting called seed broadcasting. 

“This helps increase our trees and rebuild our forests. Let us protect the environment and we say no to those who move with axes on their shoulders. 

“Our trees have history and our medicine comes from them. If we cut down trees, how will our future generations know about them? Our forests are essential because they provide a habitat for our animals. Some people are resettling themselves illegally in wetlands and destroy forests to build homes yet wetlands are important. 

“I went to Japan and asked that Nerica rice be grown here and it is supposed to be cultivated in the wetlands that we are destroying. Churches, I encourage you in your numbers to plant trees.” 

Engaging her audience, Dr Mnangagwa sought to know why trees are important?

In response, people said trees provides oxygen, provide fruits, shade, medicine and help curb land degradation. 

The First Lady weighed in saying trees are life.

Mhandarume Secondary School learners prepare to water trees they planted during a tree planting programme initiated by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Chimanimani yesterday

“It’s true that trees are life. Human-wild conflict cases are increasing because of the destruction of forests and veld fires which makes animals come to our homes looking for food and shelter. We should protect our environment to avoid this,” she said. 

Dr Mnangagwa also tackled social issues, especially domestic violence.

As the country joins the world in commemorating 16 days of activism against gender based violence, she engaged the people on behaviours, attitudes and norms that perpetuate gender based violence.

“Who is starting violence in the home?” she asked whereupon men and women pointed fingers at one another.

“Men are the causers. They squander all the money on beer leaving me and the children wallowing in poverty. I then look for okra to feed the family and when he comes home drunk and if you give him sadza and okra, he throws away the food and demands meat, igniting a fight,” a woman said.

Men on the other end, accused women of not being grateful.

“Our wives are not grateful for the little things we give them as they demand more votanga noise mumba,” said a male responded.

A child said: “Between my parents, my father is the one who starts noise. He spends all his money at beerhalls without paying our school fees. When my mother works for her money, our father takes it and spends it with girlfriends and this is when it all starts.” 

The First Lady, however, took time to counsel couples and unite families.

Manicaland Minister of State for Provincial Affairs and Devolution Advocate Misheck Mugadza spoke on the need to protect trees at all times to ensure the country enjoys their many benefits.

He also decried the massive depletion of forests in the province and thanked Dr Mnangagwa for her tree planting intiatives.

Mhandarume Secondary School learners prepare to water trees they planted during a tree planting programme initiated by First Lady Dr Auxillia Mnangagwa in Chimanimani yesterday

“Amai has gathered us all here to raise awareness on the importance of our forests as we enter into the national tree planting season. In Manicaland Province, forests contribute largely to economic growth, job creation and poverty reduction as it is one of our main industries and contributes immensely to the province’s Gross Domestic Product. Of late Your Excellency, we have been observing with great concern a rapid disappearance of some of our pristine forests that used to characterise this beautiful landscape. The hardest hit areas being tobacco growing districts such as Makoni, Mutare, Mutasa and peri urban areas by people cutting trees for firewood. However Amai we are grateful for your awareness campaigns encouraging tobacco farmers to plant woodlots for tobacco curing. 

“Our communal areas have also not been spared as firewood remains the major source of energy for domestic cooking, heating and construction. It is my hope that a permanent solution will soon be found as we continue to search for a lasting solution to this energy crisis we are facing. 

“Your Excellency we value your visit today as it also helps us create awareness amongst our people to plant as many trees as possible in order to minimize effects of climate change. Mhamha you are a climate change champion. This is the seventh province she has visited to do such wonderful work within a short space of time,” he said. 

A representative of the Ministry of Environment, Climate and Wildlife Professor Munyaradzi Shoko from the Forestry Commission paid glowing tribute to the First Lady for her interventions which had resulted in millions of trees being grown annually.

“As the Forestry Commission we are very happy to have come to plant trees here under your leadership. You are the patron of the Environment where we fall under as the Forestry Commission. Here you have planted many trees including orchard trees and other seed balls that you launched in Masvingo recently. 

“It is our wish that Manicaland becomes the leading province in terms of planting and protecting trees because this is where the forestry college is. What we want the whole population to understand is where we are coming from and heading to with our mother. In 2020, before you were our patron as we shot in the dark, we would plant around 470 000 trees but when we appointed you our patron, we leapt from there to 4 million trees in Manicaland. 

“Some of you may think it’s the Forestry Commission’s responsibility alone, but our mother encourages everyone to plant trees. In 2022 we planted 4,6 million trees so you continue encouraging us and this year we promise you that we will reach our target of above 5 million trees. What we have already done shows that by the time our season ends, we would have managed to plant over 5 million trees. This means our national target of 25 million trees is attainable,” he said. 

Prof Shoko said he was awestruck by the First Lady’s hard work.

“That track record qualifies someone to be a climate change champion. This is not a laughing matter, isn’t you saw the figures that I gave you that we rose from below a million to over 5 million in three years’ time. As the Forestry Commission and the Ministry of Environment we are so happy with the work that our mother is doing. We are happy that Manicaland is second to Mashonaland West in terms of survival rates for trees. I am however pained that here in Manicaland out of 100 trees that we plant, 76 survive. Mashonaland Central is on top in terms of tree survival at close to 95 percent,” he said.

Prof Shoko gave details of districts that had become infamous for destroying trees.

“Looking at districts here in Manicaland Province, the worst destroyer of trees is Makoni District. In Makoni, Rusape, the situation there is very bad. Trees are being cut because of tobacco. Mutare comes second again because of tobacco and artisanal miners. We are happy that these artisanal miners now understand that trees need to be replenished, thanks to Amai’s efforts. The best district here is Mutasa in terms of preserving trees. Chiweshe comes tops countrywide,” he said.

So pleased with the First Lady’s visit were members of the community who promised to look after their trees.

“Our mother has shown us love by coming to spend time with us and working with us planting trees in this hot weather. She taught us about the importance of trees and that we should protect them. Isu vanhu tisu tine misikanzwa nekungotema miti asi nguva nenguva Amai is always teaching us. We promise to shift our mindset from tree planting to tree growing,” said Mrs Tatenda Mugombi.

Mrs Tsitsi Choga echoed similar sentiments.

“The First Lady has visited us with a great lesson on the importance of planting trees. She also came along with food hampers and toiletries which she gave to everyone including chiefs, the elderly and those with disabilities.

“She has also given us life lessons on the need to stay away from domestic violence which leads to marriage breakdowns, resulting in children abusing drugs and alcohol,” she said.

Iyasa provided edu-tainment.

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