By JOHN MUBAMBE
North-Western Provincial Permanent Secretary Grandson Katambi has implored the people of the region to participate in tree planting which offers numerous ecological, economic, social and health benefits.
Colonel Katambi has also advised the people of the province to avoid indiscriminate cutting of trees and encroachment of forest reserves which were set aside for both protection and productive purposes.
He was speaking on Tuesday March 21 at Kyapatala Primary and Secondary Combined School in Solwezi during this year’s International Day of Forests.
The Day was commemorated under the theme Forests and Health, which highlighted the health factors of forests.
Colonel Katambi said the significance of forests was reflected in the theme which underscored the importance of forests in ensuring a healthy ecosystem that supported all life forms.
“Forests give so much to our health, and the concept of health has to be understood widely to include not only treatment of diagnosed illnesses but to prevent illnesses,” observed Colonel Katambi.
He explained that forests provided timber used for furniture, construction works and poles, alongside food, livelihood and income-earning opportunities.
Colonel Katambi said forests were a source of a wide variety of medicinal products that formed the backbone of traditional medicine used to prevent and cure various health challenges. Forests were precious natural resources whose edible products such as wild fruits and vegetables, tubers, caterpillars, honey and mushrooms contributed to a healthy diet. “Forests also provide us with oxygen which is important for our very survival as they clean up the atmosphere of harmful elements such as carbon dioxide which is one of the greenhouse gases responsible for global climate change.”
He said forests protected river sources that provided water for the generation of hydroelectricity, irrigation of farms, and fish farming.
Colonel Katambi urged the people of the province to support President Hakainde Hichilema’s call to plant two million trees countrywide over the next five years.
“The New Dawn Government of President Hakainde Hichilema is committed to ensuring the protection and preservation of forests. This can be seen in the current steps taken to review and strengthen the Forestry Policy of 2014 and the Forestry Act of 2015,” he said.
And Provincial Forestry Officer Maxwell Phiri explained several health benefits that forests provided to human beings and animals.
The theme for this year’s International Day of Forests underpinned the importance of forests in poverty reduction, environmental sustainability and food security. Phiri cautioned every citizen to act responsibly for their benefit and the benefit of future generations.
“When we lose or destroy our forests we also lose the benefits we have accrued from these forests,” he said.
Phiri disclosed that in Southern Africa, Zambia was considered to have the highest rate of deforestation, with a record annual forest loss of 276,000 hectares per year.
The major drivers of deforestation included illegal charcoal production, unsustainable timber production and unsustainable agriculture.
“So, if we continue cutting down our trees, it will culminate into negative effects, and to avoid this scenario let us encourage ourselves to develop a habit of planting trees,” he said.
To protect forests and other natural resources, the Government had put in place legislation to protect the forests.
Phiri said the responsibility to conserve and plant trees should not be left to the Government alone but involve everyone in all communities.
In a vote of thanks, Kyapatala group leader Janet Mwambila thanked the Government and other stakeholders for spearheading the tree-planting campaign in her area.
She advised residents of the Kyapatala area not to uproot the trees that were planted at the school during the programme, and encouraged them to continue doing the same to promote the benefits of the forests’ existence.