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The Forestry Department, in partnership with public and private sector entities, united to plant over 10,000 fruit, ornamental and timber trees across the island as part of projects executed to mark National Labour Day on May 23, 2023.

Many of the trees were planted as part of the National Labour Day project, which was Plant-a-thon to plant 10,000 trees. This was executed on lands adjacent to the PJ Patterson Highway in St. Catherine and organised by the Forestry Department. Approximately 600 volunteers from several private and public sector companies including, the Forestry Department, National Health Fund (NHF), Urban Development Corporation (UDC), Sagility, Pathfinders (Eastern Jamaica Conference), Jamaica Defence Force (JDF), the JDF Coast Guard, National Water Commission (NWC), H&L Rapid True Value, Rotaract Club, Project Management Institute, Jamaica and the National Road Operating and Constructing Company Limited (NROCC) braved the heat and sodden ground and planted with efficiency and sustained enthusiasm. 

During the National Labour Day ceremony, Prime Minister, the Most Honourable Andrew Holness explained that the trees planted will “beautify the highway, increase shade on the road, reduce highway temperature and absorb carbon dioxide”. In addition, the fruit trees will enhance food security for neighbouring communities. Honourable Matthew Samuda, Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, in his address, reassured the public that considering the drought, water for maintaining the trees planted will come from “sources alternative to potable water”, including rivers and canals. Mr Ainsley A. Henry, CEO & Conservator of Forests at the Forestry Department, echoed a similar sentiment and encouraged the public to use grey water, that is, domestic wastewater from sinks and washing machines, among others to water trees planted. 

Over 40 persons were employed to prepare the planting site, most of whom were residents of the nearby Hartlands Community. Some of have been employed to assist with the maintenance that will be done in the coming months. Ackee, Jacaranda, Poui, Cedar and Fiddlewood were among the species planted on the 10-hectare site.

In keeping with this year’s theme, “Plant a Tree… For Life”, several Labour Day projects incorporated tree planting. Among the entities that partnered with the Forestry Department to plant trees on Labour Day were the Municipal Corporations. Each Corporation received a tree species significant to their parishes, dubbed the ‘parish tree’ to plant symbolically in communities across their parishes. The Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation also partnered with the Forestry Department to distribute tree seedlings to encourage tree planting in various parts of the island. Staff from the Forestry Department also engaged communities, schools, the Jamaica Constabulary Force and Local Forest Management Committees in several tree planting activities.

The focus for Labour Day 2023 was intended to drive the achievement of the National Tree Planting Initiative to plant three million trees in three years. The implementation of the Initiative, led by the Forestry Department, has so far seen the planting of just over 2.5 million trees. The Agency distributed thousands of trees from its nurseries to facilitate and encourage tree planting in the various Labour Day projects.

Photo caption: Prime Minister the Most Hon. Andrew Holness (centre) gets ready to plant a white poui seedling at the site of the Labour Day Plantathon/National Labour Day Project on lands adjacent to the PJ Patterson Highway on May 23, 2023. He is joined by CEO and Conservator of Forests, Forestry Department, Ainsley A. Henry (right), Minister of Culture, Gender, Entertainment and Sport the Hon. Babsy Grange (left), Minister Without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Senator the Hon. Matthew Samuda and Minister of Local Government and Community Development, the Hon. Desmond McKenzie.

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