S. African gov't launches tree-planting project

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One million trees will be planted this year to create a most friendly environment in South Africa, a government official said on Tuesday.

The remarks were made by South Africa's Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Tina Joemat-Pettersson as she delivered her speech at the launch of the 2013 National Arbor Week in the southeastern province of KuaZulu-Natal.

Highlighting the importance of greening the environment, Joemat- Pettersson planted 20 trees at the botanical gardens in the provincial port city of Durban, the South African Official BuaNews agency reported.

As one of the major greening campaigns in the country since 1983, the National Arbor Week is celebrated in early September every year, stressing the value of trees in daily lives and how they would benefit the environment in general and improving the awareness of the need to continually plant trees.

The 2013 national Arbor Week started with the theme "Our Forests, Our Future", aimed at greening the country for the environmental conservation and development.

The one-million-a-year tree plantation program is also in line with the national greening strategy, which is a comprehensive environmental protection initiative through which the government seeks to encourage the planting of one million trees across all nine provinces every year.

Given some trees' values, Joemat-Pettersson encouraged people to plant the "champion trees", including some of the oldest, largest and culturally significant trees. Some fruit trees would be planted in KwaZulu-Natal, according to the minister.

As an active supporter, the South African petroleum giant Total South Africa has been in partnership with the South Africa's Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in advancing the tree-planting project. "The trees we plant are meaningful to our communities, they will enhance our communities and transform our neighborhoods for the better," said the Total South Africa spokesperson Pansy Mekwa.

It was reported that commercial plantation resources of about 1. 2 million hectare covers only 1.1 percent of the country's total land area, but contributes nearly 27 percent of the agricultural GDP in the country.

The trees to be planted this year will bring to the total number of trees planted across the country to 13 million since the program started in 2000.

The 2015 World Forestry Congress will be hosted in Duban, with an expectation to attract more than 7000 delegates across the world.

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