Friday, December 16, 2011

Planting Season

 Planting season has come and gone!  Over the past several weeks I have been assisting in the planning and implementation of the fall series of tree planting projects that my host country organization puts on each year.  Before the tree plantings started, my host country organization MaiMultVerde (MMV) organized a course to train volunteer coordinators in planting projects.  The course gave its 40 participants the skills needed to plan and implement a tree planting on their own.  It also expanded the pool of coordinators that MMV utilizes to assist in their own plantings.  The planting projects offered by MMV give those coordinators some practical experience in conducting a tree planting activity.  The season started with a bang.  

Three tree plantings were scheduled for the last weekend of October.  There was a small one in Bucharest on Friday, a larger one in Ploiesti on Saturday, and the largest was held on Saturday in a small village called Lesmir in Bihor County.  

Panorama from the top of the hill at the planting in Lesmir
The Lesmir planting was set up on a bare hillside for the purpose of helping to prevent future landslides.  The MMV team along with the coordinators made the 10-12 hour trip by van to Marghita where they stayed and commuted to Lesmir.  It was a beautiful area of Romania, but as you looked out from atop the steep hill where the planting was to take place, you saw a number of towers in the distance poking up out of the foggy haze which had settled in the valley.  We were in oil country.  Those towers were oil drills and our tree planting activity was one of the many projects funded by “Tara lui Andrei” the CSR branch of Romania’s largest oil company, Petrom.  On Friday the Petrom coordinators set up the location to receive volunteers while the MMV team and coordinators set up the planting area so that when the volunteers arrived the next day it would be easy for them to know where and how to plant the “puieti” (young trees).  The hard work setting up the terrain and early morning wake-up time the following morning, put the MMV team and coordinators to bed at a decent hour, eagerly awaiting the next day’s events.  

The team was up and out the door into the cold morning by 6:30am.  The sun had not yet risen and the sharp sting of the cold northern air was enough to wake up each member of the team as they all piled into the vans.  The warm air circulating through the vans discouraged them from exiting once at the planting site.  Minor morning preparations had to be made in order to be ready for the four hundred volunteers who were about to show up ready to work.  The volunteers consisted of children from the local schools with their teachers, nearby community leaders, and Petrom employees with their families.  They were split into four teams with two of MMV’s coordinators helping each team.  As with all of the season’s plantings, the first several minutes are the most hectic and crucial.  Volunteers come ready to start and tend to rush into things rather than patiently and attentively listening to directions.  In the first half hour of planting the coordinators must make sure that the volunteers are doing it correctly and in an organized fashion.  After that first hour things seem to go rather smoothly.  

Unfortunately, for the coordinators of the two blue teams, things didn’t go so swimmingly that day.  The day before, we identified one of the yellow sections to be the most difficult because if it’s steep grade and tricky terrain, but the blue section ended up being by far the most difficult because of its hard soil.  The soil in the yellow teams’ section was much more sandy and easy to dig, but the soil in the blue teams’ section was difficult to break and volunteers lost their patients.  After giving some instruction, handing out some water, and getting dirty a bit, the blue team coordinators got through the lengthened first half of the day which ended in an awards ceremony for the hard working volunteers.  The second half of the day consisted of cleaning up the planting terrain after the volunteers left and then heading down to the small village of Lesmir to eat and drink with the locals.  Certainly that evening the volunteers and some of the coordinators continued celebrating back at the old hotel in their host city of Marghita.  The next day came early but much less taxing as the group only had to pile back into the vans to embark on another 12 our trip back to the capital.  

The Lesmir trip was only the start of the planting season and it created a team that would come back together as a whole for the final planting in Marsani.  Many of the Lesmir coordinators were involved in the plantings in between the first and the last as well.  All in all, MMV organized seven tree planting activities in the fall of 2011 addressing one of their goals of the reforesting Romania.  At the final and largest planting of the season an impressive 37,000+ trees were planted in an area that you could play beach volleyball on.  We were not planting in soil, it was sand.  Riding the bus away from the planting site you could see large plots of trees planted in the same ground a few years earlier taking nicely to the soil.  Plus, the trees planted were one of my favorites found in Romania, the acacia tree.  Seeing the before and after, and the realization that a forest was just planted was a very rewarding aspect of the project, but certainly not the most rewarding aspect.  Meeting, working with, and getting to know the coordinators was by far the most valuable reward that I gained in this project.  For that I thank MaiMultVerde.  For the coordinators themselves, maybe it was the trees and realizing the positive impact that they can make, maybe it was the smiling faces and the interesting stories of the volunteers they coordinated, or maybe it was getting to know the other coordinators a bit better.  If one of the coordinators happens to read this I kindly ask them to leave their perspectives in the comment section below.  

If you wish to donate to future tree plantings you can donate here.  Ten RON ($3) plants 1 small tree. 

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