The International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) intends to plant trees throughout South Africa and other Southern African countries, in an effort to fight against climate change. The IFRC believes that trees play a crucial role in the fight against climate change and that they should be protected actively. Opposing this is the crucial issue of deforestation, which continues unabated globally. The IFRC Southern Africa Cluster Delegation has developed their Tree Planting Initiative, which aims to contribute to the protection, management and restoration of forests, while at the same time addressing the drivers of food insecurity in Southern African.
Annually, 4.1 million hectares of natural forest in Africa are lost to human activity. Between the years 2010 and 2019, South Africa lost 1.42 million hectares of trees. From 2002 to 2019, the total area of South Africa’s humid primary forest decreased by 8.3 per cent. Most deforestation occurs around densely populated areas, where trees are needed to supply the needs and wants of communities . According to the Climate Change in Southern Africa report by the World Food Programme, climate change has threatened food security by increasing the frequency and severity of natural hazards, especially in disadvantaged rural areas. The report states that 30 per cent of production is now at risk from the effects of climate hazards. Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns also increase water scarcity making agricultural maintenance in rural areas extremely difficult.
For over 100 years, the International Federation of Red Cross (IFRC) Southern African Cluster has assisted vulnerable communities to recover after the natural disasters and health emergencies it has witnessed. The IFRC has recently developed the #ZeroHungerInitiative 2020–2030. This is a 10-year initiative, which plans to address food insecurity in the Southern Africa region by leveraging existing large-scale operations and emerging innovations. The programme will also assist in offering an integrated portfolio of interventions and enabling vulnerable rural and urban households to move from food insecurity and subsistence agriculture, to surplus production, participation in value chains, and food security. Under the #ZeroHungerInitiative 2020–2030, the IFRC have developed a two-year Pan-African Tree Planting Initiative. The tree-planting initiative is a natural extension of this concern for community health and wellness. Through this initiative, the IFRC aims to raise awareness of climate challenges and education on how to contribute to the protection, management, and restoration of forests while simultaneously addressing the key drivers of food insecurity in Southern African Communities.
The programme aims to ensure proper execution of the Tree Planting initiative. The IFRC has opted to take a multiphase approach in rolling out this initiative in communities. The programme further ensures that each phase of forests is well established and that care systems are implemented adequately before moving on to the next, thus ensuring longevity and sustainability of the initiative in each location (phase). Daveyton is a township located in the Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality of Gauteng in South Africa. It has been nominated as Phase 1 of the initiative owing to the community’s high level of carbon emissions. There are twenty-five thousand trees to be planted in the local schools, clinics, and community centres. A portion of the trees will be distributed to individual community members for their home-grown use. The home-grown project will be monitored and supported with technical skills for individuals to manage their trees at home through demonstrations at the centre.
The IFRC also intends to plant trees in urban areas such as building complexes, office parks, and parks to create more urban green spaces throughout Southern Africa. According to the World Health Organisation, urban green spaces have a distinctly positive effect on human health. Parks with shrubs and trees lead to improved mental health and lower the risk of obesity, type-2 diabetes, and cardiovascular morbidity and mortality.
Hilary Motsiri, Senior Food Security Officer at IFRC Pretoria Cluster Delegation, says that the IFRC is planning to partner with communities, private companies, other international organisations, municipalities, and the Department of Agriculture to ensure rollout of this initiative. Ultimately, the IFRC aims to plant five billion trees in Africa by 2030. ‘In vulnerable communities, we plan on planting fruit trees in order to promote food security while enhancing the urban green spaces. We will work collectively with community centres to govern the use of these trees and to ensure everyone has access to the produce and can use it as a potential source of income. When there is surplus of fruit after consumption, we will donate trees to early childhood development centres, to supplement existing feeding schemes, and to ensure everyone can benefit from these trees.
‘Climate change and food insecurity is everyone’s problem, and we need everyone on-board to help fight this unfolding crisis. We are appealing to everyone to join us in our efforts. Partnerships go a long way,’ concludes Motsiri.
Through the tree planting initiative, the cluster aims to plant 1 million trees per country every year, as part of the abovementioned multi-phase approach. This process will incorporate lessons learned from the first phase in Daveyton, paying careful regard to the context and needs of each community using established Community Engagement and Accountability mechanisms.