Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, on Thursday announced the Ghaf tree as the theme for the Year of Tolerance 2019.
The logo, which is inspired by the Ghaf, the UAE’s national tree, is set to be used by government, private and media entities in all campaigns, initiatives and programmes launched during 2019.
Sheikh Mohammed, in a tweet on the occasion, said, “Tolerance is a universal value, and Ghaf is our authentic national tree, a source of life and symbol of stability in the middle of the desert, under its shadows our ancestors gathered to consult on matters related to their daily lives. In the ‘Year of Tolerance’, we chose the Ghaf as a logo for all of us to live by the principles of tolerance, coexistence and diversity.”
The Supreme National Committee of the ‘Year of Tolerance’, chaired by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, said that the Ghaf tree was chosen as a major component of the logo due to its great significance as one of the authentic national trees in the country.
The committee went on to say that the Ghaf “represents a great cultural value in the UAE and is associated with the identity and heritage of the country.”
“The late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan has given great importance to the Ghaf and issued laws and regulations prohibiting the cutting of the tree throughout the country,” a statement by the committee read.
“Our ancestors and tribes gathered under the shadows of the Ghaf trees to discuss their daily matters. Also, a number of UAE rulers used to meet their citizens and listen to their demands directly under the shadows of these trees,” the committee added.
The statement continued, “the Ghaf tree symbolises stability and peace in the desert and has the ability to adapt in the desert.”
“The Ghaf is planted in many countries around the world, particularly in the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia and the Americas, but under different names. For us, this year, we aim to establish it as a global logo for tolerance,” it added.
The committee pointed out that the positive reaction of the UAE community with the launch of the ‘Year of Tolerance’, which was announced by President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, “will contribute in achieving the seven pillars of tolerance that are aimed at establishing values of openness to other cultures and peoples.”
It further added that successful initiatives are expected to be implemented this year.
The Supreme National Committee of the ‘Year of Tolerance’ concluded by saying it is working to establish policies and legislations that guarantee the sustainability of tolerance as a community value and a platform for good work in the UAE, inspired by the legacy of the founding leader Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan who established the country’s foundations based on the values of tolerance and positivity.
Ghaf: A look at the importance of UAE’s national tree
About Ghaf tree
The Ghaf was declared as the national tree of the UAE. A drought-tolerant, evergreen tree native to the desert, the ghaf is a resilient plant and good for the soil and requires little water. Difficult to harvest though as only one in 5,000 seeds take root – insects get at them.
Illegal to cut a Ghaf
Since groves of ghaf trees in recent years were mowed down due to urbanisation and rapid infrastructure development, it is now illegal to cut down a ghaf. You need permission from the authorities. If a ghaf is in the way of more buildings coming up, the tree is uprooted and transplanted elsewhere where it will survive.
The template is familiar. A company as part of its CSR policy rounds up its employees and sounds off the media that they’re doing something good and grand so come and witness the sowing of the seed. Over the last couple of years, planting ghaf has become a CSR trend. Every planting season, more than a dozen companies have a few of their employees – sometimes with families kneel into the soil and plant a few seeds into the ground. Often school children join the drive.
In 2011, Goumbook, the local online green portal, launched the “Give a Ghaf” Tree Planting Programme – their planting season is October through May – to raise awareness about the ghaf and water scarcity, and how little water the ghaf needs to survive.
But despite active PR machinery that makes ghaf planting about the planter rather than the need to plant, and despite the lack of self-effacement on the part of these companies, fact remains we need more Ghaf.
Uses of Ghaf
> Fodder: The leafy portion is available for 4-5 months (June-October), during which it is used as dry fodder for animals and is sometimes mixed with animal feed.
> Fuel: The scanty, purplish brown heartwood is preferred to other kinds for firewood. It is an excellent fuel, also giving high-quality charcoal (5,000 kcal/kg), hence the species name.
> Timber: Wood used for boat frames, houses, posts and tool handles; often the poor form of unimproved trees limits use as timber.
> Gum or resin: The tree yields a pale to amber-coloured gum with properties similar of gum acacias.
> Tannin or dyestuff: Bark and leaf galls used for tanning.
> Medicine: Reported to be astringent, demulcent, and pectoral, it is a folk remedy for various ailments. In India, the flowers are mixed with sugar and administered to prevent miscarriage.
The ashes are sometime rubbed over the skin to remove hair. The bark, considered anthelmintic, refrigerant, and tonic, is used for asthma, bronchitis, dysentery, leucoderma, leprosy, muscle tremors, piles, and wandering of the mind. Smoke from the leaves is suggested for eye troubles, but the fruit is said to be indigestible, inducing biliousness, and destroying nails and hair.
Not recommended. The pods are astringent.
> Reclamation: The trees are planted for sand dune stabilisation and reclamation. Soil improvement through ashes and nitrogen fixing, favouring the growth of other species. It is a fact that the soil fertility increases under its canopy.
> Intercropping: Owing to the deep root system, a mono-layered canopy and the ability to fix atmospheric nitrogen, P.cineraria is compatible with agri-horticultural crops.
The tree boosts the growth and productivity of the companion plants. Besides, it does not compete for moisture with crop plants, which may be grown close to its trunk.
Tips for planting:
> Plant the trees away from walls – three metres is acceptable.
> Check for the right depth you can reach when digging.
> Check for utilities nearby, (and ask if not sure).
> Prepare an adequate site well proportioned, the size of the root ball.
> Provide some fertiliser in the specific area, before and after planting the ghaf; water once per week, distribute water also away from the trunk to favour the explorative nature of the trees roots (a circle 50cm and 1 metre away); best if done at night or in the early hours of the morning.
> Don’t prune it until completely established, remember that trees are self-equilibrating dynamic structures, they will lose what they don’t need”.
Goumbook also offers tailored corporate tree planting packages with the following add-on options (prices upon request):
> Transportation to and from the venue
> Breakfast/lunch/snack options all freshly prepared on the premises
> Private villa for corporate retreat/function