Hon. Eric Evelyn, Minister of Youth on Nevis, planting a fruit tree with a student of the St. Thomas’ Primary School at the school grounds Wednesday to launch a tree planting programme by the Ministry and Department of Agriculture on Nevis.

The first 16 of 10,000 trees were planted at the St. Thomas’ Primary School (STPS) Wednesday as part of an environmentally friendly island-wide initiative by the Department of Agriculture.

Under the project, both ornamental and fruit trees will be planted at the island’s schools, public areas and homes throughout 2020.

“The air that you breathe, the trees impact that, the food that you eat, even your very heathcare, climate change. You have been hearing about climate change over the years and that is the most important thing to consider at this time because the very trees that we are planting here, today and in the future, will have a significant impact on our environment and create that buffer we require to ensure that we are combatting climate change,” Hon. Alexis Jeffers, Minister of Agriculture in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA), said in remarks at the launching ceremony after planting the first tree to signal the start of the project.

“You hear about a lot of weather patterns all over the world: snow, rainfall, flood, drought. All sorts of different things are impacting our environment, and we are hoping that in our little neck of the woods here in Nevis, so to speak, we will be making that very impact on the environment to ensure that positive results come from it,” he explained.

The minister of agriculture said he was pleased to be a part of the initiative and urged every stakeholder on the island to participate to ensure that the environment of Nevis becomes one which all can be proud of in the future.

“Get on board and plant at least one tree. As I said, it can be a fruit bearing tree or it can be just an ornamental but every tree will have an impact on our lives, our very livelihood here on the island of Nevis, and persons visiting Nevis as well will certainly come and say what a very beautiful island we have and that’s why I want us all to embrace this initiative,” he said.

Mr. Jeffers stated that the initiative stemed from Hon. Mark Brantley’s 2019-20 Budget Address, in which he indicated the need for planting fruit bearing and ornamental trees throughout the island.

Mr. Floyd Liburd, Deputy Director in the Department of Agriculture, who is in charge of the project, believes that the tree planting exercise would assist in eliminating pollution caused by the increasing number of vehicles on the island, and it would also result in a better quality of life.

“We realise that more and more or every month vehicles enter our island and too cause some sort of pollution, and the more plants we have planted on the island would help in cleaning the atmosphere and give us cleaner air to breathe,” he said.“So indeed, more plants some people say rain because of the respiration of the plants sending back that moisture to the atmosphere and creating more rain for us here on the island of Nevis. Plants can act as a nose barrier also filter our air from debris and other small micro debris that you are not seeing with the naked eyes, to intercept those and help protect us and protect our respiratory system.”

He explained while the programme is beginning at the STPS, it will be taken to other schools on the island, along the island’s coastlines and other key areas where the trees are needed.

The first set of trees planted were sour orange, pomegranate, soursop, Bajan cherry, fig tree and Cane Fig. Mr. Liburd said the fruit trees would lend themselves to eventually providing fruits for fresh juice making at the school’s cafeteria.

“We want to encourage the children here at St. Thomas’ Primary to take this initiative seriously and to come and check to make sure these plants are doing well. Plants need water just like children need food to grow. So, we are encouraging you,” he said.“We want to make you the guardians of these plants that are being planted here. So if you see your fellow classmate or a student trying to disrupt the plants in any way or trying to cause some damage to those plants, we want you to call on them and report it to the headmistress because we want to continue.”

Hon. Troy Liburd, Junior Minister of Education, also spoke to the importance of the programme, citing the essential role of trees in sustaining life and commended the partnership between the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Education. He said sharing the importance of trees, and living at one with nature, which well for the future of the students who would be the beneficiaries of the project.

Other remarks came from Mrs. Avril Elliott, Education Officer in the Department of Education; and Mr. Randy Elliott, Director of the Department Agriculture. The ceremony was chaired by Mr. Huey Sargeant, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture.Among those present were Hon. Eric Evelyn, Minister of Youth, who was among those who planted a tree.