Volunteers are gathering every weekend to plant trees in Kesra Forest, in northwestern Tunisia, two years after it was devastated by fires. The initiative, launched by the Soli & Green collective in early March, aims to plant 20,000 pine trees by the end of the month.
In late February, environmental activists from the Soli & Green collective posted a call-out on Facebook looking for volunteers to spend their weekends camping and planting pine trees in Kesra Forest.
"Plant a tree and name it after someone you love”
Houssem Hamdi, president of the nonprofit Tunisie Recyclage (Tunisia Recycling) and a member of Soli & Green, said that more than a hundred volunteers have been turning out each weekend.
Two years ago, when large wildfires ravaged northwestern Tunisia, I worked with several activists to help restore the environment and support the local communities affected. We decided to organise our projects more formally and that’s how the Soli & Green collective was born. We also wanted to build our projects around an original concept: having volunteers plant a tree and name it after someone they love.
Our goal is to plant 20,000 trees across a 20-hectare zone by the end of March. The project will also help fight against the area's desertification.
We started in an area near Siliana, where there were many pine trees before the wildfires. The local communities made their livelihoods from the pine nuts so we wanted to offer them some sort of compensation. I hope that in a few years, these pine trees will bear fruit!
"I hope that our project will help restore the thousands of hectares acrossTunisia that went up in smoke."
At first, we financed the project ourselves, with help from friends and members of the collective. Then the park rangers in Kesra Forest started providing support. They gave us equipment, including shovels, and showed us how to properly plant trees.On Facebook, Hamdi called on volunteers to "plant a tree, save nature and immortalize the people dear to your heart”
Over a hundred volunteers came for our first session and we were able to plant 3,700 trees. We had friends, campers, nature lovers and hikers, but also people who saw our post on Facebook and signed up.
Unfortunately, we are nearing the end of March and the end of the reforestation period. The next one starts in November. Until then, our aim is to keep growing and go to other regions that were affected by wildfires, study the forest needs on a case-by-case basis and see the types of trees that need to be replanted.
I hope that, with time, our project will restore the thousands of hectares across Tunisia that went up in smoke. Currently, efforts to replant trees after wildfires are few and often carried out in isolation. We want to bring these initiatives together and work with both locals and the government to make Tunisia greener.
In July 2017, around a hundred fires were reported in northwestern Tunisia, destroying some 2,000 hectares of forest land. Some were likely due to arson. The government had announced earlier that year a plan to combat desertification that would encompass around 75 percent of arable land.
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This story was written by Maëva Poulet.