YANDE SYAMPEYO, Chinsali
EMMANUEL Chibesakaunda is holding a bag of seeds and he is ready to share the significance of the seeds by showing what his father, Frank Chibesa Chibesakunda, told him.He told him: “God has given you a million talents and -talents are like seeds.
“What is important is not the talent itself, but where you plant it in your life.”
Guided by his father’s wise words, Emmanuel has today taken up the mantle to plant seedlings that will not only grow into trees but also translate into money.
Just like the Bemba adage goes; Imiti ikula empanga (seedlings are the forests), Emmanuel is a champion of an initiative called Plant A Million Tress.
The initiative, which was first announced by Vice-President Inonge Wina in February this year, in Rufunsa district, seeks to promote the planting of trees as a business venture.
An economist by profession, Emmanuel believes the initiative, which was recently launched by President Edgar Lungu at Kapasa Makasa University in Chinsali under the theme: ‘Growing money from trees’, is achievable only if Zambians mobilise and begin to appreciate the value of the God- given natural resource.
“I love our Zambian environment. It is full of trees, animals, birds, and all that goes with nature. But amidst all this is poverty and this is because people have not appreciated the need to translate the natural resources such as trees and water into money,” he exclaims.
He says trees are of economic value as people can extract a number of products from the natural resource such as juices, dried fruits and jams. From indigenous trees such as mukula, one can make furniture, doors and from bamboos one can get charcoal, floors, furniture and tooth picks.
“The Plant a Million Trees initiative should not be seen as just planting a tree, but as part of Zambia’s transformation agenda that will transform lives because our belief as a team is this concept can be one of our anchors for a diversified economy and we expect Zambia to move towards a tree-based economy,” he says.
Although Zambia remains one of the most forested countries in Africa, its valuable tree species is threatened by uncontrolled and indiscriminate harvesting.
Studies have shown the country loses over 100 million trees every year to indiscriminate cutting down of the natural resource.
President Lungu is of the view that to control this negative trend calls for a mind-set change among citizens to begin to value the importance of growing and preserving trees.
“This initiative here today marks the beginning of growing money from trees,” he said.
Mr Lungu says the Plant A Million Trees Initiative is cardinal as it will not only envisage to create a tree based economy but mitigate negative effects of climate change.
“This is in line with the Seventh National Development Plan, which is premised on economic diversification moving from a copper dependent economy to other sectors and this will ensure creation of more jobs and wealth.
“It is gratifying to note that trees provide many goods and services such as construction materials, food and natural medicines, wood for energy, wildlife habitat, climate regulation, soil enrichment and protection of water catchment and river sources,” Mr Lungu says.
The head of State wants Zambians to begin to endeavour to engage in practical modules to ensure a sustainable forest for the provision of these good and services.
He says there are many valuable trees and plant species which Zambians can plant such as pine, moringa and solid bamboo.
“Some of these trees can be planted in the backyard, orchard and plantations,” he says.
The President says the Patriotic Front (PF) government remains committed to ensuring the protection of the environment.
“Those of you who care to read you will find that in our PF manifesto, we have guaranteed sustainable use of trees.
“In pursuant of political party manifesto, I wish to direct the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources to employ an integrated and participatory approach for us to achieve positive results in environmental protection,” the President said.
It is Mr Lungu’s desire that the Ministry of Lands and Natural Resources collaborates with other line ministries and cooperating partners to accelerate and speed up tree planting countrywide.
“This exercise should involve all schools, colleges, universities; and all of us should get involved,” Mr Lungu said.
The President says Government stands ready to provide necessary enablers required to achieve the initiative.
Minister of Lands and Natural Resources Jean Kapata said the initiative aims to plant 100 million trees across the country by 2021.
Ms Kapata says the initiative is important as it will contribute significantly to the country’s food security and improve household income.
Minister of Higher Education Nkandu Luo, who was present at the launch of the initiative, said the project will be integrated in all universities to change the landscape of the country.
Professor Luo pledged to ensure every student at higher institutions of learning plants 100 trees per day for three days, in the country’s bid to beat India’s world record of 66 million trees.
YANDE SYAMPEYO, Chinsali