The people of Co. Roscommon are being urged to “plant a tree and go pesticide free”.

Under an environmental initiative, every national school child in the county will receive a native Irish tree to plant in their own garden this autumn.

The community initiative, which was launched during Ireland’s Rural Water Week, will see 7,500 trees planted across the county in a bid to help “protect local water sources, enhance biodiversity and capture carbon”.

It is also intended to “inspire the next generation to think green”.

Concerns over the damaging impacts of pesticides on water sources and biodiversity lie behind the initiative, which has been developed by the Mid Roscommon Group Water Scheme and Variety Ireland, along with Roscommon County Council and developer Ballymore Group.

This autumn, national schools will be receiving information explaining how to “plant a tree and go pesticide free”.

Every school child will receive a tree, as well as a certificate confirming the part they have played by planting it.

CEO of Ballymore Group Sean Mulryan said that the initiative “helps to reduce CO2 [carbon dioxide], is fantastic for biodiversity and also for flooding defences”.

“Initiatives like this spark young people’s curiosity and help to get them involved in safeguarding our planet’s future.”

Derek O’Neill, director at Variety Ireland, said those involved have a very “simple message”:

We want everyone in Roscommon to plant a tree and go pesticide free.

“It’s very simple and effective – children love colour, they love that they plant a tree; then they grow up, [and] they can bring their own children to see that tree.”

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar praised the initiative, saying that it is a “very practical way to learn about what we can all do to help the environment”.

EU Biodiversity strategy

Under the EU Biodiversity Strategy, one of the aims outlined is to have three billion trees planted by 2030 across the EU.

A key commitment of this strategy is to “strictly protect at least a third of the EU’s protected areas, including all remaining EU primary and old-growth forests”.

According to the European Commission, forests are hugely important for: biodiversity; climate and water regulation; the provision of food; medicines and materials; carbon sequestration and storage; soil stabilisation; and the purification of air and water.

The commission says:

“In addition to strictly protecting all remaining EU primary and old-growth forests, the EU must increase the quantity, quality and resilience of its forests; notably against fires, droughts, pests, diseases and other threats likely to increase with climate change.

The uptake of agroforestry [trees grown in combination with agriculture on the same land] support measures under rural development should be increased as it has great potential to provide multiple benefits for biodiversity, people and climate.

The commission will be proposing a dedicated EU Forest Strategy in 2021 in line with its wider biodiversity and climate neutrality ambitions.