FYR Macedonia's 'Tree Day' campaign sets an inspiring example
The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia's popular tree-planting campaign is fast becoming a national tradition, and one which will hopefully be imitated in other European countries. The 'Tree Day' campaign was launched in 2007 following a spate of devastating summer wildfires in FYR Macedonia. The man out to fulfil the "dream of an afforested future" is UNESCO Peace Ambassador Boris Trajanov, who found full support from a wide range of stakeholders: national government, local governments, citizens, NGOs, foreign embassies and the business sector.
The first mass tree-planting effort was held on March 12, 2008. Two million seedlings were planted that day, roughly equal in number to FYR Maceonia's population. Three follow-up efforts were organised during 2008 and 2009, resulting in the planting of an additional 18.5 million seedlings. To date, more than 20 million seedlings have been planted over an area of 8,000 hectares.
The fifth tree-planting effort, titled 'We share the same birthday: Me and 20 million trees: We grow together', was held on Mach 30, 2010. The Macedonian government allocated 50 million dinar (EUR 815,000) for the campaign, and hundreds of thousands of people - children, army troops, the diplomatic corps, the country's prime minister and president and many others - jointly planted an estimated 7.5 million trees. This was followed by a countrywide internet, electronic and print media campaign to raise awareness even further.
As of this year, FYR Macedonia's tree-planting campaign is taking on symbolic importance throughout South-Eastern Europe, and one can only hope that its popularity will grow. Seedlings were also planted in this year in Bulgaria and Albania. Mayors from border locations between Greece and FYR Macedonia planted in the buffer zone between crossings, demonstrating that trees represent good neighbourly relations and friendship, and are neutral with respect to religion, ethnicity and nationality.
REC lends helping hand in Caska Municipality
The Regional Environmental Center's country office in FYR Macedonia has taken part in all five planting efforts. This year, armed with 300 seedlings, REC Macedonia staff took the campaign to Babuna-designated Public Forest Enterprise locations, which are responsible for afforesting activities in Caska Municipality. Caska was selected because of its association with a REC-organised, Sida-financed local environmental action plan (LEAP), within which one of the priorities was to spearhead re-seeding efforts in places which suffered the most fire damage in 2007.
"We planted pine and cypress seedlings over approximately 40 hectares near the village of Omorani," said REC Macedonia Country Office Director Katarina Stojkovska. "It was a great pleasure to see children from primary and secondary schools planting trees with great care and love around the country. It was more than obvious that all participants embrace the campaign as a day for celebrating a personal connection with nature. We also took this opportunity to talk with local people about their opinion and future activities regarding environmental protection. We were pleasantly surprised that they were willing not only to participate in the tree-planting effort, but also to take good care and preserve forest resources, as well as the beautiful nature in their municipality. They've even fenced the location were the seedlings are planted to protect them from grazing goats."With this spring's activities successfully concluded, a sixth tree-planting effort is scheduled for later this autumn. REC Macedonia is striving to promote the initiative by inviting communities from throughout Europe to mobilize their own 'Tree Day' campaigns. The campaign's continued growth and development all around Europe would have a positive impact on environmental awareness and tourism; and attraction of new business development, horticultural and other retail activities would be very beneficial economically.