You may have missed this (as I almost did in the horrendous month of January) – but the Forestry Department has been busy. You may recall that last October Prime Minister Andrew Holness announced a “Three Million Trees in Three Years” project.
The numbers are great, but the devil is in the details. Does the Forestry Department have enough seedlings? I am hoping that, since were are now going through a dry spell, that they are being duly maintained, watered and cared for – if already planted. You can’t just plant a young tree “and done.” I would love to know where Wisynco, GraceKennedy et al are planting their trees, for example. However, I am all for timber trees being planted and “urban spaces” to be greened (Where? I will be keeping an eagle eye out to see young trees planted). The treeless dustbowl that is Portmore, St. Catherine badly needs some greening!
Let’s be sure each tree is “the right tree in the right place.” I am not sure who said this, but it is very important.
Hopefully the entire project will get a significant boost from a major programme funded by the European Union, under which the Forestry Department received J$128 million recently for technical assistance towards creating a business model for the Department. I am glad to see that earning an income from our forests (including eco-tourism) will be included in the plan.
I am hoping also that the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica will issue a new Call for Proposals for its Forest Conservation Fund shortly. Seven priority sites have been selected for funding. I am waiting for news on this one.
Here is the Forestry Department’s announcement in January:
Thousands of Trees Distributed Under 3 Million Trees Planting Initiative
Over 85,000 seedlings have been distributed and 57 hectares planted in forest estates across the island under the Government of Jamaica’s ‘Three Million Trees in Three Years’ National Tree Planting Programme since its launch on October 4, 2019.
The Programme, which was launched by the Most Honourable Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, is aimed at supporting national reforestation efforts through the planting of three million trees island wide over three years as well as the engagement of environmentally focused Housing, Opportunity, Production and Employment (HOPE) interns. Miss Rainee Oliphant, Acting CEO and Conservator of Forests at the Forestry Department describes the level of interest in the programme to date as significant. “There is still ample opportunity for each and every Jamaican to get involved in the initiative as we are targeting engagement from the individual level to medium and large-scale planting supported by entities in the public, private and non-governmental sectors.”
“Under the initiative, private and public sector entities have engaged in a positive way with the Agency to contribute in a meaningful way to this programme. GraceKennedy Limited has pledged to plant 2,000 trees, Wisynco Group Limited 12,000 and Noranda Bauxite has committed to plant 100,000 trees initially with plans to increase to 300,000. The Jamaica 4-H Clubs has also made a pledge and other companies are currently discussing what their roles will be in the initiative,” she said.
The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) has also announced that it will be facilitating the planting of 500,000 trees over two years in support of the initiative. “It is a very exciting time not just for the Forestry Department, but Jamaica as a whole,” Miss Oliphant added.
Several preparatory activities have commenced to meet the demands of the initiative one of which is the production of seedlings required to meet the three million tree target.
The Agency has increased the number of staff with responsibility for seed collection and field officers are being trained to assist with this component. The seeds collected will be used to germinate seedlings for planting under the programme. The staff capacity within the Agency’s nurseries has also been increased and additional equipment is being utilized in the production process to ensure that adequate seedlings are available to support the initiative. “The Agency is also in dialogue with private nurseries with a view of working with them to assist with the production of seedlings,” Miss Oliphant added.
The initiative, which is being led by the Forestry Department, will see the planting of two million timber/forest seedlings on approximately 3000 hectares of land while the remaining one million timber and ornamental seedlings will be distributed to the public and planted in urban spaces including roadways, parks and along major thoroughfares in towns across the island.
Under the programme, approximately 1,000 HOPE interns will be trained and certified in basic core elements of forest management which includes seedling production, tree establishment & maintenance and forest law. In addition to the HOPE interns that will benefit under the project, employment opportunities will be provided for persons from communities adjacent to areas to be planted.
Meanwhile, elsewhere on the globe, countries are trying to outdo themselves to make up for the devastation of our tropical rainforests (think: not only the Amazon but also the forests of the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ghana and elsewhere in Africa); and the even speedier destruction of our mangrove forests (think: right across the Caribbean, the Sundarbans of Bangladesh and here, there, everywhere). According to the excellent Mongabay website, which has a major focus on forests, “pirates” in the Bolivian rainforest are busy picking out and felling the rarest and most valuable species, such as the threatened Mara (big-leaf mahogany). Going into forests and picking out the “best” trees is a common practice of criminals in Jamaica, too. Yes, they are criminals. In Bolivia, deforested areas are often turned into coca plantations, from which cocaine is made. Organized crime threatens forests, besides the various impacts of climate change and sheer carelessness on humans’ part.
Ethiopia last year claimed to have planted 350 million trees in one day; since its forest coverage is only around four percent, it has plenty of space for the four billion it is aiming for. Others are coming up with some big numbers. Will they make a difference? Is it just too little, too late?
I will end with one inspiring example of the resilience of Nature, if given the chance. An ancient tree on the island of Vieques, off Puerto Rico, “La Ceiba,” which has endured two major hurricanes in 2017 (the “double whammy” of Irma and Maria), is blooming again. Please read the beautiful story of La Ceiba here.
Yes, I am an unabashed tree hugger. If anything deserves a hug, trees do.