'One birthday, one tree' campaign brings together Conakry residents to rebuild forests

These people took part in the 'one birthday, one tree' challenge in Conakry, Guinea. (Photos: ACOREC-Agir Contre le Réchauffement Climatique)
These people took part in the 'one birthday, one tree' challenge in Conakry, Guinea. (Photos: ACOREC-Agir Contre le Réchauffement Climatique)

A group of environmental activists in the Guinean capital of Conakry launched a campaign last year called “One birthday, one tree”, to encourage people to celebrate their birthdays by reforesting the city’s parks. Our Observer says nearly 700 trees have been planted in Conakry under this initiative in the past year.

Each week, the Facebook page of the environmental NGO ACOREC (a French acronym for Act Against Global Warming) is full of photos of people who have taken up the challenge. The first image shows the person holding the tree, and the second shows the freshly planted tree in the soil.

In the first Facebook post, ACOREC (in French) calls on people to act themselves before telling others to do so and gives a shout out to someone who did just that – in this case civil engineer Camara Ibrahim Papa, who celebrated his birthday by planting a tree. In the second post, ACOREC gives a shout out to a young grad named Kaningbé Kaba who also chose to take up the challenge.

'Tree nursery experts sell the seedlings to participants, give them advice and then take care of the trees'

Baldé Mamadou Bhoye is the founder and executive director of ACOREC. He says he launched the challenge to raise awareness about Conakry’s “green lungs", which are threatened by the capital's rapid urbanisation.

According to official statistics, there are 175 forest reserves in Guinea. However, the country loses, on average, about 86,000 acres of forest per year. That statistic alone made us want to act to save our environment. Our forests are currently under threat from many different factors, including mining activity, deforestation, wood charcoal use and rapid construction.

This Facebook post from ACOREC (in French) begins with an inspirational quote: “Being generous is an indispensable quality for attracting happiness", before going on to applaud lawyer Mohamed Traoré for planting a tree and showing his support for the NGO.

We launched the “one birthday, one tree” initiative last year in October 2018. Birthday celebrations are a big deal for young people in Conakry, so we wanted to harness that energy and get people to do something good for the environment and good for the community.

This group of young people decided to celebrate the first year of their organisation, the CJEPEG, which promotes education in Guinea, by planting four trees in the Kakimbo Forest. (Facebook post by ACOREC)

We invite participants to come plant a tree at our site in the Kakimbo Forest in Conakry. Our NGO has forged a partnership with a local nursery cooperative so they sell the seedlings to our participants, give them planting advice and then manage the upkeep of the trees. Everyone gets to choose their own tree.

In Conakry, prices range from 20,000 Guinean francs (€1.95) for a forest tree seedling to 25,000 (€2.43) for a fruit tree.

'Important community figures and businesses have both taken up our challenge'

We are hoping that this initiative will restore the Kakimbo Forest, because it's a public park that has been damaged in recent years. In the 1970s, this forest covered around 83 hectares (200 acres) but now, after years of urbanisation and unregulated building, the forest measures around 20 hectares (50 acres). A sand quarry was also set up within the forest, but it is no longer in operation. It is all the more devastating because this forest is like a lung for the city as well as being a designated reserve.

In this post, ACOREC celebrates the tree that Mamoudou Montesquieu Diakite planted for his birthday.

Important community figures and businesses have both taken us up on our challenge. We organised an event with BICIGUI Bank [Editor’s note: The Guinean branch of the French bank BNP Paribas]. Since last October we have had nearly 700 participants.

During the Labé Arts and Laughter Festival last April, we launched a mini campaign called “one festival-goer, one tree” and managed to plant 200 trees. We also organised group planting sessions.

In this post, ACOREC talks about its work to raise awareness about global warming at the Arts and Laughter Festival in Labé with its mini campaign “one festival-goer, one tree”. The NGO hoped to have around 30,000 students visit its special caravan at the festival. Members of the NGO also paid a visit to a local high school and junior high.

In total, our NGO has managed to plant 1,460 trees in Conakry and beyond. Our group of about 20 volunteers also organise sessions in local schools to teach kids about the dangers of global warming. In the future, we are hoping to get the support of authorities, especially city officials, to help us and provide us with other sites to reforest!

In this post, ACOREC celebrates the participants in their fourth group tree-planting event.

In July, Guinean President Alpha Condé launched a nationwide campaign to reforest close to 4,000 acres in an attempt to combat global warming. Government officials say that this presidential initiative aims to both rehabilitate decimated forests and create jobs for young people.