Around 350 million trees have been planted in a single day in Ethiopia, according to officials, in what could possibly be a new world record.
The tree-planting campaign, which is a part of a national initiative meant to grow 4 billion trees throughout the country this summer, aims to prevent further deforestation and climate change in a country that is prone to drought.
Every citizen has been encouraged to plant at least 40 seedlings, with public offices even facing days off so that civil servants can take part, the Guardianreports.
News that the 350 million trees were planted in 12 hours came via a tweet by Ethiopia’s Minister of Innovation and Technology Getahun Mekuria, who trumpeted the news:
If proven, the achievement is truly record-breaking, shattering the current world record for planting trees in a single day, which stands at 50 million trees planted in India in 2016.
State-run media have urged members of the public to devote their efforts to planting and caring for the indigenous trees, with staff from foreign embassies in Ethiopia as well as international and regional organizations such as the United Nations and African Union taking part in the project.
The exercise, led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and dubbed the Green Legacy Initiative, is taking place across the country in 1,000 different locations, according to BBC.
Critics of the prime minister claim that the campaign is a cynical exercise aiming to distract Ethiopians from domestic troubles, including internecine warfare and strife between ethnic groups that has driven around 2.5 million people from their homes.
However, such conflicts are also rooted in the degraded agricultural conditions in the region, where lush vegetation and greenery has faded and made way for barren land due to decades of poor land-use policies and general underdevelopment.
The United Nations says that since the early 1900s, Ethiopia’s forest coverage has precipitously declined from 35 percent of total land to barely 4 percent in the 2000s.
Bekele Benti, a bus driver in the country’s capital Addis Ababa, told Xinhua:
“As a bus driver, with frequent trips across the country, I have witnessed the extent of deforestation in different parts of Ethiopia.
It’s really frustrating to see forest-covered areas turned to be bare lands within a few years.
This is a great opportunity for me and fellow Ethiopians to contribute to our country’s better future towards a green and environmentally well-positioned Ethiopia.”
Officials hope that the tree-planting initiative can improve the living conditions of local populations, rebuild agricultural plots and rural economies, and ensure climate stability for future generations.
The initiative will also open doors to broader progress toward social development, allowing Ethiopians to remain at home rather than be forced out by the desperation that drives migration from impoverished regions in Africa.
The World Food Programme believes that the initiative is “critical for Ethiopia which had lost billions of trees and forest resources over the years.”
Dan Ridley-Ellis, the head of the Centre for Wood Science and Technology at Edinburgh Napier University, told the Guardian:
“Trees not only help mitigate climate change by absorbing the carbon dioxide in the air, but they also have huge benefits in combating desertification and land degradation, particularly in arid countries. They also provide food, shelter, fuel, fodder, medicine, materials and protection of the water supply.
This truly impressive feat is not just the simple planting of trees, but part of a huge and complicated challenge to take account of the short- and long-term needs of both the trees and the people. The forester’s mantra ‘the right tree in the right place’ increasingly needs to consider the effects of climate change, as well as the ecological, social, cultural and economic dimension.”
Ethiopia joins other groups in their recent tree planting efforts. As the Mind Unleashed previously reported, a Sikh initiative called The Million Tree Project aims to plant one million new trees throughout the world, with tens of thousands already having been planted.
According to a new study published in the journal Science, these initiatives have the potentially to be an effective means of reversing climate change. As previously reported by the Mind Unleashed, planting about a billion trees across the globe could remove two-thirds of all carbon dioxide emissions worldwide—approximately 25 percent of the CO2 in the atmosphere—creating a vast natural means to trap and store the emissions in an affordable and politically non-controversial manner.