SPEECH BY THE MAYOR OF AMUWO ODOFIN LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA, LAGOS STATE, NIGERIA, COMRADE AYODELE ADEWALE, AT THE AFRICAN YOUTH FORUM ON CLIMATE CHANGE, AT THE UNITED NATIONS FRAME WORK ON CLIMATE CHANGE CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES (COP18) IN QATAR, ON 29 NOVEMBER 2012.
THEME: Mobilizing African Youths on Reasons for Planting Trees
"Never before has man had such capacity to control his own environment…, we have the power to make this the best generation of mankind in the history of the world ----- or to make it the last."--------- John F. Kennedy
I bring you warm greetings from my people back home, particularly, from my immediate constituency, Amuwo-Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos state, south-west Nigeria. I am very pleased to be a part of this all important forum. By partaking in this arrangement today and promising to plant more trees, we are sending a message to everyone that our beloved planet indeed needs help.
A summary of earth’s dire situation reinforces this stand, with its rainforests disappearing. Many rare varieties of plants and animals are dying. Fresh water is becoming insufficient. In fact, the world now loses one square mile of rainforests every six minutes. At this rate, tropical rainforests will be gone by the year 2035.
With all these, of all the global efforts on earth’s conservation, tree planting appears to be one of the most effective and efficient strategy, for we cannot over-emphasize the significance of tree planting.
Changing climate is posing the most devastating threat to earth’s survival and continuity. Our world is in grave danger. If we don’t take care of it now, nothing may one day be left of the very planet we call home. Some may say planting trees is no big deal. After all, trees have always been with us. In fact, scientists say trees first appeared some 400 million years ago, long before the dinosaurs did. But it would be a mistake to think that trees will always be with us. Like dinosaurs, they also could become extinct.
That is why we commend the idea of this forum, whose purpose is to mobilize African youths and orientate them on tree planting. No project could be nobler at this material point in time.
SIGNIFICANCE OF TREE PLANTING
There are very important reasons why we should plant trees and take care of our forests. Trees are our friends. When trees are cut down or forests are cleared, the earth becomes poorer. Forests affect climate, protect the soil from erosion and help control floods. When trees are cut down, rains easily wash away valuable topsoil. It is in the topsoil where all our food is grown. If it is washed away, the earth becomes unusable for farming, with the attendant food crisis. Trees also soak up harmful carbon dioxide and puff out oxygen so that we can breathe.
Trees reverse the impacts of land degradation and provide food, energy and income, helping communities to achieve long-term economic and environmental sustainability. Trees also filter the air and help stave off the effects of climate change.
With the reality of increasingly unpredictable weather patterns and more frequent and violent storms and floods, trees cover to prevent devastating soil erosion has never been more important.
Fortunately, the movement towards a deeper commitment to environmental protection through planting new trees and taking care of the existing ones, is rapidly increasing all over the world. At the global level, trees and forests are closely linked with weather patterns and also the maintenance of a crucial balance in nature. In this way, we will be making an important gesture to the world in demonstrating our global concern and at the same time making our own little but significant, contribution to the cause.
We are all aware that trees are an important resource in our natural ecosystem with many benefits. The list of benefits is long, just to point out a few: they represent a vast reservoir of genetic resources and bio-diversity; provide important habitats for all wildlife, but in particular for threatened and endangered forest species and guarantee supplies of non-wood products such as pharmaceuticals, which have enormous export potential.
The above benefits are by no means exhaustive, but they do the role that trees and woody vegetation play in our day-to-day lives. Unfortunately, the statistics on forest cover for many countries point at a bleak future. The destruction of forests and other woodlands is on a steady increase and at the moment, our forest cover stands at less than 5% against the recommended 10% of the land mass. Today, the world’s forests are being threatened by rapidly increasing human population, which has led to increased human activities and encroachment of forestland. This has resulted in rapid environmental degradation hence, reducing our existing natural resource base to meet current and future societal needs. For instance, forest areas guarantee essential water supplies, and are vital in regulating rainfall and stream flow, which on the other hand are important for agricultural production and power generation. However, the destruction of forests, coupled with excessive settlement and other human activities all lead to one result; uncontrolled severe soil erosion, high sediment load and subsequent siltation of dams and, decreased river flow. Without a doubt, the world must take seriously, the business of planting trees.
LESSONS FROM AMUWO ODOFIN LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA
Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area (LGA) is one of the 774 operating in Nigeria, West Africa. It is located in Lagos state, south-west Nigeria, and one grassroots community that has given tree planting the attention it deserves.
At the inception of the present administration, the local government (LG) presented its blue-print on environmental sustainability, and has consistently been a conspicuous player in the various local and international efforts to address climate change.
The LG administration has planted over 12,000 trees of various species across the community including, Kings Palms, Queens Palms, Royal Palms, and others suitable for our local soil. This is just a part of a bigger agenda and concerted efforts to go green.
To sustain this noble project, we created the green club comprising youths. Its responsibility is to nurture and maintain the trees, plant more trees, and ensure a green environment.
There is also the special climate change unit, the first and only existing kind in the entire country, at the local government level. This unit is responsible for sensitizing and creating awareness in the community of the effect of climate change. Aside this, we have gone into partnership with private organizations to continue the education of members of the public.
In addition, we have also engaged the pupils of primary institutions of learning with the purpose of ‘catching them young,’ and inculcating in them the right orientation about their environment, more so, to come to terms with climate change at an early age.
Still on the matter, we created a special environmental unit to ensure regular sanitation of the local government environment and proper waste management.
Our noble efforts in environmental sustainability have been pursued with unmatched zeal in the history of the local government area, and have not gone unnoticed, with local and international recognitions coming in regularly. We have at a time won the Federal Government award as the best local government on environmental sustainability in 2009. There is also the Lagos state award as one of the local government with the best nurtured trees in 2011. In recognition of our commitment on the subject matter, we have also been invited to partake in several international conventions, seminars and workshops on climate change and environmental sustainability, including COP15 in Copenhagen, Denmark, COP16 in Cancun, Mexico, COP17 in Durban South Africa, inter alia. Today, we are more than motivated to do more in the areas of tree planting and environmental sustainability.
As the wife of the former UN Secretary General Nane Anan puts it, “there are many things we can do to help our planet. Planting trees is one of them.” Nothing can be truer. Going by the increasing threat faced by our planet today from climate change effects, tree planting should be the pre-occupation of all. It is therefore, in line to call on the African youths to act fast while something can still be done.
In sum, the greater reasons for planting trees include but not limited to reduction of atmospheric carbon dioxide, growing more food, (since trees are natural fertilizers) preserving water supply, preventing desertification, resisting erosion and avoiding landslides, preserving bio-diversity, economic empowerment, etc.
Let us be reminded that the global environment is our collective heritage, it is our collective responsibility to protect it. Let’s plant a tree today.
CHAIRMAN, AMUWO ODOFIN LOCAL GOVERNMENT AREA