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10-Year-Old SSudanese Kickoffs Tree Planting Campaign

FILE - Rita Joy Samantha Burk (R), assisted by Africano Mande (L) plants a tree on the premises of the South Sudan National Revenue Authority in Juba. VOA/Juliana Siapai

JUBA — A 10-year-old South Sudanese girl, Samantha Burk, has launched a campaign to plant 100 trees in Juba before June 5, a date coinciding with the annual World Environment Day that encourages awareness and action for the protection of the environment.

Samantha, who represented the East African nation in the Little Miss Africa competition held in South Africa this year securing 2nd runner-up, won the Little Miss Environment Ambassador award.

Samantha said she hopes other South Sudanese will join her in planting trees around Juba town to protect the environment in the country.

"I choose to plant trees because I think Juba does not have enough rainfall because there are not enough trees," she said. "I hope all of you can help me with that," she added.

South Sudan’s National Revenue Authority joined Samantha on her goal, where she began her quest by planting 31 trees on the authorities premises this week.

The NRA’s deputy commissioner-general, Africano Mande, said the taxpayer’s education department would support Samantha to achieve her goal.

"We are not a substitute for the Ministry of the Environment, but we are saying that climate (change) and the issues of the environment cut across the globe, and nobody is going to escape," Mande said.

Trees and forests play an essential role in easing the impact of climate change, according to the United Nations' environment agency. The global organization says planting trees, particularly in urban areas, is one of the more important actions that can contribute to the health of the planet.

Samantha says she wants to plant the trees in South Sudan’s capital to "reduce the effects of industrial pollution."

Her mother, Salwa Suzy, a relationship coach, said her daughter has promised to plant the trees at offices, schools, and orphanages around the city.

"(She) is very passionate about the environment and also helping orphan children, the orphan children thing comes in because it is a part of our tradition as a family that even with my mum and with us," Suzy said.

Others have applauded Samantha for her efforts. Daniel Kon Ater, the acting commissioner for Corporate Services at the NRA, said Samantha's initiative to plant trees was inspiring, and called on all South Sudanese to support her.

"If a little girl has decided to show us the fathers, mothers, brothers, aunties, and sisters, therefore it is important, regardless of age, to be able to do something that will help the current and the future generations to come," Ater said.

Samatha has appealed to other government and non-governmental institutions to join her effort, which culminates in two weeks.

Led by the United Nations Environment Program, World Environment Day will this year be hosted by Côte d'Ivoire, under the theme #BeatPlasticPollution.