old SMMS Celebrates Arbor Week

 Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary Arbor Day Celebration  

‘Forests and People: Investing in a sustainable future’

written by Thembelani Mtshaulana 

Thembelani Mtshaulana teaches us about the importance of trees for the environment.
Thembelani Mtshaulana teaches us about the importance of trees for the environment.


In the 19th century (1872) a tree planting campaign called “Arbor day” was launched by a journalist by the name of J. Sterling Morton in Nebraska in the United States of America. In the first Arbor Day about 1000 trees were planted in this treeless town of Nebraska.

In South Africa the culture of tree planting has been promoted since the 1970’s and the concept of a National Arbor Day ensued from a 1973 Green Heritage Campaign. Since then there has been a request to officially establish National Arbor Day from various bodies, the then Department of Forestry obtained approval in 1982, and it has been in place countrywide since 1983.

In 1996, the then Minister of Water Affairs and Forestry emphasized its importance in South Africa and extended Arbor Day from one day to one week “Arbor Week”. The campaign has evolved into a public event that receives major publicity and public participation throughout South Africa. Arbor Week is an annual campaign celebrated from 1 to 7 September, under a specific theme, and is celebrated annually as part of the implementation of the National Greening Strategy (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).

Today, Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary celebrates Arbor week, and purpose of the day is to get our hands dirty planting trees. As part of a greening initiative, 20 shade trees and 10 fruit trees have been organized. 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.

Arbor Week aims to instil the following principles

  • To promote a better knowledge of trees particularly indigenous trees.
  • To stress the necessity for everyone to plant trees and care for them.
  • To highlight the vital role of trees in our lives.
  • Contribute to the achievement of a green, dignified and healthy environment.

This year’s Arbor Week is celebrated under the Theme: ‘Forests and People: Investing in a sustainable future’. The theme has been adopted from the XIV World forestry Congress that will take place from 7 to 11 September 2015 at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre in Durban. The congress aims to highlight the value of forests with regard to sustainable livelihoods, environmental conservation and development in general.

Protected trees

During Arbor Week, the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (Forestry) as the custodian has made people aware about trees declared protected in terms of National Forest Act (NFA), 84 of 1998. All trees in a natural forest are protected, however, there about 48 tree species which are specially protected, like Podocarpus latifolius (yellow wood). Some trees are declared protected because they are facing extinction, while other play important role in the functioning of the ecosystem. The effect of the declaration is that no one is allowed to cut, disturb, damage or destroy, remove or collect trees without a license.

When I arrived at the seminary January 2015, I noticed a yellow wood tree and many other indigenous trees planted around. 

Importance of indigenous trees

SMMS community plants a tree
SMMS community plants a tree
  • Provide us with shade
  • Improves the aesthetic value of our residential areas.
  • Produces fruit, eg Harpephyllum caffrum – wild plum.
  • Provides good quality timber.
  • Absorb carbon dioxide and release Oxygen.
  • Serves as windbreak.

Trees of the year

  • Forest bushwillow (Combretum krausii). This tree has been selected from the list of common species. It is handsome, quick growing and reasonably cold resistant. It is recommended for shady areas in gardens with a mild to warm climate. Found from the coast to the midlands in the eastern regions of South Africa and neighbouring Swaziland. The habitat ranges from rocky hillsides at altitudes from almost sea level up to 1 200 m. It grows anywhere from evergreen forest or forest margins to dense woodland.
  • Parsley tree (Heteromorpha arborescens). This tree has been selected from the list of rare species. This small to medium-sized, deciduous tree or straggly shrub is suitable for a small maintenance-free garden. It occurs in wooded grassland, bushveld and on forest margins. It is fairly widespread in the eastern regions of South Africa, from the southern Cape up through Eastern Cape and eastern Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, Swaziland into Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. It also occurs further north in Africa.

I would like to thank the SMMS Environmental Committee for affording me the opportunity to share with you the

Mvume planting 'his' tree - the Harpephyllum caffrum – wild plum or umgwenya tree.
Mvume planting ‘his’ tree – the Harpephyllum caffrum – wild plum or umgwenya tree.

importance of forests and trees in our lives. I hope all seminarians will take this as a challenge and plant trees in their circuits as the Church’s contribution to mitigate climate change.

The President of the seminary Rev. Dr. Dandala will plant an indigenous tree (Harpephyllum caffrum – wild plum or umgwenya) to mark 2015 Arbor Week campaign at Seth Mokitimi Methodist Seminary.

3 September 2015