Trees For Life Launch

I’m excited to be here with you on this beautiful morning in Molepolole! I can’t think of a better start to the day than planting trees and hugging babies!

Before we do that, I want to recognize all of you with us today for this fantastic opportunity to kick-start tree planting in Botswana. To Paramount Chief Kgari Sechele the Third; District Commissioner Bernice Mosise; Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources Conservation, and Tourism Deputy Permanent Secretary Felix Monggae; the team from Forest Conservation Botswana; government officials; representatives of the media; and members of the community, thank you for joining us!

We’re here to launch Forest Conservation Botswana’s Trees for Life initiative, and our goal is to plant 10,000 trees over the next year across five regions:  Molepolole, Ramotswa, Palapye, Maun, and Tsabong. And welcome to all of the beautiful babies—and their parents especially—for taking time away from their naps, feeding, and play time. Because what each of them represent—like these saplings—is Botswana’s future.

FCB, as most of us know Forest Conservation Botswana, has collaborated with the Ministry of Health and Wellness through District Health Management Teams in the five regions to distribute tree seedlings to new mothers and fathers when they are discharged from health facilities. By planting the trees, these parents are not only marking the birth of their children, but also securing a greener future for them.

Botswana is already feeling the impact of climate change, and we just recorded the hottest summer in 2018. Climate change is increasing our vulnerability to disasters such as heat waves, fires, floods, and droughts. Trees will play an important role in countering the effects of deforestation and climate change.  It is against this backdrop that Botswana and the United States, working together through FCB, have embarked on this massive tree planting campaign.

When it comes to tree planting, we should all stand up and be counted. Each and every one of us can play a role in countering the effects of deforestation and reversing land degradation. I’m impressed with the efforts of the people of Ethiopia, Nigeria, Senegal, and other countries to plant trees as part of the African Great Green Wall to stave off the encroachment of the Sahara. Just the same, we can have our own Great Green Wall to prevent further desertification in the Kalahari.

The United States’ support for Forest Conservation Botswana is a modest but important example of our cooperation with Botswana on environmental conservation. Our ecosystems are linked, and so is the fate of our children, who depend on us keeping this planet green for them and their generations to follow. So we must face climate change together if we are to deal with the intertwined challenges of deforestation, desertification, and human-wildlife conflict. As habitats for humans and wildlife both shrink, our competition for resources intensifies.

Our environmental conservation programs recognize that the best interventions are the ones that benefit humans, wildlife, and the environment we all share. For example, the U.S. Agency for International Development program called Resilient Waters works to provide access to safe drinking water and sanitation services for the people of Botswana and its neighbors. The program also improves management of transboundary natural resources needed to maintain healthy water systems for humans and wildlife. Meanwhile, the VukaNow and KAZA programs are strengthening enforcement against poachers, improving policy frameworks, and promoting collaborative action and learning to address wildlife crime.

The symbolism here is clear. These saplings, like the babies who will adopt them, represent hope. Hope that Botswana will remain an environmental treasure, and hope that these babies will live long, happy, and fulfilling lives. But for them to succeed—they need our help. These parents can’t do it alone.  They depend on each and every one of us here to build communities and ecosystems where both can thrive. To families and communities, the birth of a child brings joy, love, a new beginning and a renewed hope for a better tomorrow. It is now my honor to officially launch the Trees for Life initiative.  PULA!

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