Saturday,22 September, 2018
Current issue | Issue 1262, (10 - 16 September 2015)
Saturday,22 September, 2018
Issue 1262, (10 - 16 September 2015)

Ahram Weekly

Foresting our cities

Nada Diaa learns about an initiative to plant lemon and olive trees across the country

Al-Ahram Weekly

Sandstorms have become more and more common throughout Egypt, with visibility sometimes reduced to just two metres. The country’s lack of urban green areas plays a major part in the worsening problem.

The solution may be as simple as planting a tree and becoming part of a national project to plant 50 million fruit trees across Egypt. The initiative, created by a civil society group, aims to increase green areas in Egypt by planting lemon and olive trees. The goal is to plant 50 million lemon and olive trees, with minimal help from the government, by 2023.

The project plans to increase the country’s total green area without cutting into already scarce water supplies by reusing domestic waste water. It also aims to make Egypt self-sufficient in its production of lemons and olives.

“The idea is very simple,” says Ahmed Hanafi, the initiative’s coordinator. “We will use clean waste water to double the amount of green areas and the number of trees in Egypt without consuming any extra money or resources.”

Turning the idea into fact started in 2011, but it took the team four years of intensive research to prove that it could be successfully applied in Egypt before announcing it to the public this year.

“We have now planted 345,000 fruit trees in various governorates, and all of them by relying on self-help alone. Can you imagine what it would be like if more people helped us?” Hanafi asked. Al-Mahalla Al-Kubra has planted 1,000 lemon trees and Alexandria has begun to do the same.

Anyone can take part simply by planting a fruit tree near their home and taking good care of it, according to Hanafi. He says that if every family took the step of planting one fruit tree near their house and took care of it, it wouldn’t cost the family much money and would beatify the area.

Moreover, the new plantings could be used to forest the new urban areas instead of spending money on ornamental trees that would not be as rewarding as fruit trees.

But while Hanafi says the project has received government approval, the Ministry of Agriculture says otherwise.

“I’ve never heard of such a project,” says Eid Hawash, a spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture. “Even if it were true, I would be against it. It would be almost impossible to carry out.” According to Hawash, the ministry cannot support the project because it would need intensive follow-up and facilities the ministry can’t provide.

Hanafi says that lemon and olive trees were selected for the initiative because they require little watering and are naturally insect repellent. “In Europe, they plant these kinds of trees beside trash cans to drive away insects,” he says. “They consume half the amount of water of other trees, and they can also handle high salinity in the soil.”

“The project can be easily applied in Egypt,” says Mahmoud Dessoky, a professor at the desert reclamation authority. “The only support we need from the government is to ensure that people do not cut the trees down when they are planted in their neighbourhoods.”

Hanafi argues that the project would be owned by all Egyptians and would reward all with its results. “This project is sponsored by the power of the people,” he adds. “We just need the government to give us the water instead of wasting it, and anything else we’ll take care of ourselves.”

The writer is a freelance journalist.

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