Chair, H.E. David Granger, President of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana, Fellow Ministers and Parliamentarians, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Regional Chair of East Berbice Corentyne, Regional Officials, Staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, farmers and residents of Region 6, Special Invitees, Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to our 5thNational Tree Day.
It is my distinct honour and pleasure to be here and to participate in this National Tree Day Exercise in Region 6. This initiativecommenced in 2015 and every year I look forward to this day as the planting of trees is essential for the survival of our ecosystemin general and more particularly our very existence on planet Earth. Ladies and Gentlemen, as you are aware, the Government of Guyana has decided, as a policy initiative, to promote the development of a Green Economy. This is evident from our recently launched Green State Development Strategy (GSDS) Vision 2040. One of the specific activities we engaged in every Agriculture Month isNational Tree Day where we encourage every Guyanese, regardless of your location, to plant trees. This year we celebrate the theme “Sustainable Agriculture for Ensuring Food Safety in a Green Economy,” and indeed, an Ancient Chinese Proverb proclaims that “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second-best time is now”.
It is an important responsibility for us to take care of our environment and trees are one of the most important aspects of a healthy environment. Trees are an important resource in our natural ecosystem with several benefits; trees play several roles in our lives. Trees are a natural habitat for all wildlife. Trees act as a reservoir for genetic resources and bio-diversity. Trees provide us with food and oxygen. Trees prevent soil erosion and maintain the water cycle. Trees prevent global warming by reducing greenhouse gas emissions and even cool our environment – our sidewalks and outdoor recreational areas.
The forest cover about 30% of our planet. In Guyana, the forest cover is 87.79 % (18.4 million hectares), one of the highestproportions of forest cover in the world. Additionally with a minimal deforestation rate of 0.05% Guyana stands out, at a time when widespread destruction of forests and other woodlands is on a steady increase. Our stewardship of our forest is a success that we as Guyanese must take pleasure to upkeep.
Therefore, our National Tree Day is not only about planting trees but to respect standing trees and avoid deforestation.
On a global level agriculture and forestry accounts for 24% of global greenhouse gas emissions making deforestation a significant contributor to climate change. Trees help to regulate the world’s climate. Over the last few months, the World haswitnessed raging forest fires in the Amazon Basin, which will increase the rate and severity of global warming. However, deforestation is reversible, by managing forestry resources, and planting new treesreplacing those removed are good steps to reduce deforestation and it its negative environmental impact on our planet.
Ladies and gentlemen, we must ACT NOWto prepare ourselves and deal with the basic causes of global warming. Today we are doing our part and challenging others to follow. While this initiative may appear insignificant to some, we must persevere and continue to underscore the importance of planting and replanting trees. Imagine if 20,000 Guyanese were to plant 1 tree per month – at the end of the year, this would translate to 240,000 additional trees to our pristine forest reserve. As recent as 2018, China reassigned 60,000 soldiers to plant trees in a bid to fight pollution, that translated to at least 84,000 square kilometres (32,400 square miles) of trees by the end of that year. Therefore, I urge parents to teach their children and explain the importance of trees while encouragingthem to plant trees. Get the children to plant trees along the streets in our communities. This would also contribute to peaceful and harmonious communities as well as their beautification.
I recognize that efforts are being put in place to protect our environment. At the global level, emphasis is being placed on development projects that are supportive of global and regional environmental conventions on climate change; protocols on substances that deplete the Ozone Layer and protection of the Ozone Layer.
At the national level, our agriculture policy for ‘Hinterland Development’ discourages the clearing of forested land for agricultural purposes, we have identified two distinct areas of savannah land for agricultural expansion; the Intermediate Savannahs of Region 10 (approximately 292,000 ha), and the South East Rupununi Savannahs of Region 9 (some 1.3 million ha). All in keeping with establishing a ‘Green Economy.’ Moreso, the Government encourages reforestation through theGuyana Geology and Mines Commission (GGMC) Land Reclamation Project and inter alia, the continued observation of National Tree Day each year among other efforts.
The tree is a symbol for us. It reminds us of nature and the importance of climate and environmental protection. Today’s occasion should not be seen as the end of such an important activity, but rather as a start and a way of reminding us to be more conscious of the need to protect our environment.
As we plant these trees today let us consider them as a symbol of our solidarity in our quest to attain a green economy as we will grow together with our trees towards a cohesive and better future.
11 October 2019