The Forestry Department is urging every Jamaican to plant at least one tree on October 2, 2020. This call is being made by the Agency in commemoration of National Tree Planting Day (NTPD) which is observed annually on the first Friday in October.
The theme for 2020 is “Healthy Trees, Healthy You; Plant a Tree Today" and it serves as a timely reminder as we all face what can only be described as our new normal.
The act of planting a tree though a seemingly minor one at the individual level, will have a much more significant impact when thousands of Jamaicans engage in the activity. This will extend beyond enhancing the aesthetics of our immediate surroundings and contribute to the maintenance of the island's physical and natural environment generally.
The focus on the link between trees, a healthy environment and people, comes against the background of the global pandemic, which has increased the focus on the benefits of good health and the factors that contribute to attaining and maintaining a sound mind and body.
Ms. Rainee Oliphant, Acting CEO & Conservator of Forests, outlined several benefits that can be derived from trees, many of which are linked to our physical as well as mental wellbeing.
She noted that “trees contribute directly and indirectly to our overall state of wellness as they provide a significant proportion of the fruits and food that we consume daily. This helps to build our immune systems and to nourish our bodies with some trees, because of their medicinal properties, actually providing healing benefits. Many have been used in traditional medicine to treat various maladies and to fight different viruses and infections.” Ms. Oliphant said.
Ms. Oliphant further noted that trees contribute to our health by trapping airborne pollutants, thus removing them from the atmosphere and keeping our lungs healthy.
“Trees also help to secure water by preventing it from rushing off our hillsides and allowing it to seep through the soil to recharge groundwater resources. While that process is taking place, the roots help to filter the water making it easier and less costly to be treated by the National Water Commission. This makes it more affordable and accessible to Jamaicans to drink and to carry out various functions to promote good health,” Ms. Oliphant shared.
In addition to those benefits, green spaces in urban areas help to decrease stress and encourage exercise which contributes significantly to health and wellness. They also provide a welcome respite from the searing temperatures and serve as a beautiful backdrop for our immediate surroundings.
Meanwhile, Ms. Oliphant is encouraging all Jamaicans to take care of the trees in their yards and communities as the health of these trees will determine the benefits they are able to provide.
“The care of trees first starts with planting. So, ensure that trees are planted properly and in the right place where they can get the required amount of sunlight. Trees need water to grow, so water them. You can reduce the number of times that you may need to water them by applying mulch or dried leaves and other plant materials around the roots. This will help to keep the soil moist as well as fertilize the tree. For mature trees, ensure to check for rot and other damage and prune where necessary,” Ms. Oliphant noted.
As is customary, the Forestry Department will be distributing an assortment of timber and ornamental seedlings for persons to engage in tree planting exercises to mark the day. The Agency will also have select fruit tree seedlings for sale. Distribution will begin on Wednesday, September 23, and will continue until Wednesday, October 7, 2020.
For organizations and groups that require more than 10 seedlings, kindly write to the CEO & Conservator of Forests outlining the specific amount that is required and species.
“In light of the COVID restrictions, we will not be having a national project, but we'll be planting trees at various places across the country. We are encouraging everyone to join us by planting trees at home or in common spaces in their communities,” Ms. Oliphant shared.
Distribution and tree planting will be done under strict adherence to the Ministry of Health and Wellness' Covid-19 guidelines.
“For those who will be engaging in tree planting activities as well as visiting our offices to collect seedlings, please adhere to the protocols by wearing your masks, sanitizing and social distancing. We will be putting measures in place to ensure that these and other guidelines are followed”, Ms. Oliphant said.
Seedlings will be distributed from the Agency's Head Office at 173 Constant Spring Road and from its nurseries in Moneague, St. Ann, adjacent to the JDF Camp and Williamsfield in Manchester. Distribution runs Mondays to Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.