I should have given you more warning: Tomorrow is National Tree-Planting Day. Unless the rain washes us all away (which, the way the weather is going, is more than possible) I hope there will be some efforts made to try and redress the balance.
Balance? You may ask. Well, yes. You see, although Jamaica’s forests have gained a tiny bit (0.4 per cent) between 1998 and 2013, this is largely due to an increase in secondary forest (that is, less valuable forest that has already been disturbed). According to the Forestry Department of Jamaica’s National Forest Management and Conservation Plan (revised just last month), we lost 95 per cent of our wetlands (mangrove and swamp forest) during this period, and there was also an 88 per cent reduction in tropical dry forest. St Ann, Hanover, Clarendon and Kingston experienced the greatest rate of deforestation. Agriculture, tourism and mining are the three main activities contributing to deforestation and the degradation of our forests.
And then, there is climate change.
So, not very cheerful news really, but the Forestry Department presses on with its wonderful work. I recommend taking a look at the Plan (it is not at all hard to read, with lots of tables that set things out very clearly). It will help you put things in perspective.
As for tomorrow, the Forestry Department has been offering free seedlings for the day (they often have free or very cheap tree seedlings), and have given detailed instructions on how to plant and nurture your baby tree for future generations to come… Take a look at their website and Facebook page for more information.
The European Union got a head start today, planting flowering saplings including Lignum Vitae, Jacaranda and Poinciana at the Constant Spring Primary and Junior High School in Kingston with Grade Six students and teachers. Nice choice of trees, there. The EU actually supports the school through the Poverty Reduction Programme managed by the Jamaica Social Investment Fund and funded a whole new block of classrooms.
The Forestry Department also decided to plant in advance, this time at the Mount James Basic School in St. Andrew, and gave a talk to the little ones about the importance of trees.
I hope that these trees will be properly cared for. It’s rainy now, but they will still need maintenance. Don’t plant them and forget about them!
Also, I very much hope that tree planting does not just become a fun exercise for small children in schools. We need more than that. If you look around your community, there are empty spaces, I am sure, that could do with some greening. This is especially important in urban areas. Our leafy yard now has more trees than all the others on our street put together, I swear! So many trees have been cut down to make way for concrete townhouse complexes with a few little imported palms in the yard. So, I would recommend:
Plant a native tree; plant a tree that flowers and will attract hummingbirds and/or butterflies; plant a tree that provides fruit or a medicinal tree like moringa (we have two moringa trees and we use the leaves and seeds); plant a tree that is the right size for your space.
The Forestry Department of Jamaica is on Facebook and Twitter @ForestryDeptJa. It is also on Google Plus and YouTube. If you want to visit them, they are at 173 Constant Spring Road. They also have nurseries at Williamsfield, Manchester; and Moneague, St. Ann. Tel: (876) 924-2667/8