National Arbor Week 2021 – 30 August to 5 September

South Africa celebrates National Arbor Week the first week of September annually. The Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), as the custodian of forestry in South Africa, is responsible for the campaign.

September is also heritage month and as we celebrate Arbor Week, the department also focuses on the country’s champion trees which include some of the oldest, largest, and culturally significant trees. These include the Sophia Town Oak Tree and the Sagole Baobab Tree in Limpopo, which are part of our heritage.

In 2003 the Sophiatown Oak became the first tree to be declared protected under the National Forests Act (NFA). The landowner was in the process of removing the tree, when Mr. Steve Kotze, ward councillor for the area, contacted the Department (then Water Affairs & Forestry) with a request to prevent destruction of the tree. The Department intervened and stopped further cutting of the tree by protecting it through the emergency clause in Section 14 of the NFA.

By the time the tree was protected, it had already been pruned badly to the extent that only some top branches remained. Because of the damage already done, the tree eventually didn’t survive. By 2008 the tree was completely dead and only a portion of the trunk remained. It was estimated to be almost a century old.

Following the event of the initial cutting of this tree, an evaluation panel was established to assist the Department with the Champion Tree project, of which Councillor Kotze became a founding member.

The memory of the Sophiatown Oak lives on. The tree has been immortalised in literature and art and its progeny has been cultivated. The legend of this tree will live on in seedlings propagated from its surviving acorns planted around the new Sophiatown. Two of these seedlings were planted during a commemorative Arbor event in 2008.

The Sagole Baobab is the largest baobab tree in South Africa. It is located east from Tshipise, in the Vhembe District Municipality, Limpopo Province and has a trunk diameter of 10.47 metres, and circumference of 32.89 metres. That means, there is a need of approximately 18–20 people to complete embracing the tree with open hands.

National Arbor Week is an opportune time to call on all South Africans to plant indigenous trees as a practical and symbolic gesture of sustainable environmental management.
It affords government, the private sector, non-governmental and community-based organisations, and the public to be involved in "greening" their communities. Planting trees and greening human settlements takes place in communities.
It is therefore important for the public to join hands with partners in local government and community-based organisations.
Greening refers to an integrated approach to the planting, care, and management of all vegetation in urban and rural areas, to secure multiple benefits for communities
Greening in the South African context takes place in towns, townships, and informal settlements specifically because in the past the latter mentioned areas were disadvantaged in terms of planning for parks as well as tree planting in streets and open spaces.

“For in the true nature of things, if we rightly consider, every green tree is far more glorious than if it were made of gold and silver”. - Martin Luther

National Arbor Week 30 August - 5 September 2021National Arbor Week 30 August - 5 September 2021 (1.03 MB)

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