Jordan aims to expand green footprint with 10-million tree campaign


Published: 2021-03-09 18:43

Last Updated: 2024-02-29 11:37

Jordan aims to expand green footprint with 10-million tree campaign
Jordan aims to expand green footprint with 10-million tree campaign

Tuesday, the Kingdom began its campaign to plant 10-million trees beginning on a bare hill in the Ajloun region. Dozens of people planted saplings as part of the reforestation efforts that aims to plant 10 million trees in 10 years.

An 11-year-old, Mohammed Al-Ananza, was found helping his father plant seedlings, "the trees in our region are beautiful," he said.

"It's a real shame that we have lost so many to fires... We should work together to protect them," said the young boy's father, as they worked near the Kufranjah forest.

In Jordan, forests make up only one percent of its territory, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, although the Kingdom also has an estimated 23 million orchard trees, half of which are the regionally-significant olive tree.

Forest fires strike Jordan on an annual basis due to the sweltering summer heat, a trend which scientists fear will intesify with the escalation of climate change.

These fires are often started by those engaging in social activities, such as picnicking, wherein people carelessly discard lit cigarette butts.

According to the ministry, there were 499 wood and forest fires in 2020 alone.

"We must make up for what has been lost in the fires," said the Head of the Nature Department at the Ministry of Environment, Belal Kteishat.

"It's the only way to fight desertification and climate change and to protect biodiversity."

- Region-specific -

Mahmoud al-Ananza watched on as his grandson and son got to work, planting seedlings on the forest hill.

The Al-Ananza family is one of many families which volunteered to plant trees, however, agriculture and environment ministry employees were also among the 150 people in charge of planting 30,000 trees in the area.

"I was born here and I can tell you that if you plant cypress trees, eucalypts, olives, carob or oak, they will grow on their own," said Mahmoud, wearing a traditional red-and-white 'koffiyeh' scarf on his head.

The program focuses on tree species that, after the initial phase of taking root, can survive without a lot of water.

When the project launched last month, the former Minister of Agriculture, Mohammed Daoudiyeh, said that fires were the biggest issue faced by Jordanian wooded areas.

"Illegal tree felling (cutting down trees) only represents one percent of the damage to forests," he told AFP reporters.

In October, over 120 acres of olive and forest trees burnt in the Ajloun region, while a year earlier in Jerash province, 80 hectares were set ablaze.

Kteishat said the reforestation project aimed to rehabilitate only "the regions fit for doing so."

- Bees -

The aim of the first stage of the campaign is to create forests in the Karak and Tafilah governorates, by planting 30,000 commonly found trees in each area, such as eucalyptus, jujube and carob trees.

The campaign began in Kufranjah Forest, which Kteishat described as "Jordan's lungs".

Jordan also plans on working on fire prevention by setting up monitoring patrols, providing its civil defence with specialised vehicles and carrying out forest surveillance using drones.

Daoudiyeh described the reforestation program as both "ambitious and realistic," adding that results could be seen in the next four to five years. He added that bees and honey production will also benefit from the expansion of the Kingdom's green footprint.

Notably, Jordan produces an average of 250 tons of honey per year.

"Our nurseries produce 2.5 million forest trees a year and 500,000 fruit trees. So in theory, we could plant 10 million trees in four years," said Daoudiyeh.

"But we decided on 10 years in order to do the job well."