By: Natasha Pei
July 19, 2012- Roots & Shoots’ Million Tree Project (MTP) has just planted its milestone one millionth tree, in the ongoing battle to stop desertification. Between July 15th and 18th, sixty volunteer participants from four companies/organizations and the first American MTP school, travelled to Kulun Qi, Inner Mongolia to experience the effects of the Chinese desert, witness the town, and bring the area back to life through trees.
Planting of the 1,000,000th tree
Activities included touring the desert, visiting previous planting sites, a full (hot) day of planting, and a trip to visit a local farmer family. On the first day, volunteers were able to see the detriment that the desert and harsh climate have brought to the surrounding land. At dusk, participants were shown- from the top of sand dunes- how the desert sands are shifting and encroaching on the land directly across from the intervening stream. This view was contrasted when everyone went to visit the Million Tree Project’s (MTP) 2010 and 2012 sites planting sites, where the land is now much greener and bright green tree leaves are blowing in the wind. Participants were explained the process of resolidifying the ground, and allowed to explore all of the new vegetation in their forests. The special viewing brought Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) employees to see their employer’s personal forest (2,500 trees) as well as the very first forest SCB planted in 2010. Now two years later, the large team has helped the MTP reach the million tree goal by donating 65,000 trees in 2012.
MTP 07/08 planting site in 2012
The second day started early, taking two bus-loads full of participants to the hilly new planting site. This is the first time Roots & Shoots has planted on land so uneven, and will attempt to refirm the sandy soil with pine and poplar trees. Planting on the site of Ferrari’s 2012 forest, all participants planted 4 year old pine saplings between the poplars (planted in spring 2012). The teams got a good start, and quickly formed innovative ways for irrigation- forming lines to pass water buckets back and forth, as well as marking holes, digging, and planting. By far the best feedback of the trip was the team-building that company employees were able to do. Together with employers, colleagues from different departments, and various office locations, everyone was able to come together and learn a little bit more about each other during the planting. Despite some minor bus mishaps, the weekend went as planned and the teams were successful with their planting goals. The full team planted well over 600 trees, and celebrated far into the night.
The final activities of the weekend included a visit to the nearby Eleshun Town to talk to and visit a local farmer family. This family demonstrated and allowed everyone a chance to milk cows; brought everyone inside their brick house; talked about life and work; and had their young daughter give a special musical performance on the “horse head fiddle”. This family is exceptional, as both parents are able to speak Mandarin as well as their traditional Mongolian language. They showed participants how they heat their bead with solar energy and bricks, and the well pump that is used to fetch water.
Inner Mongolian daughter playing the “horse head”
Brookwood U.S.A. Mandarin teacher with Inner Mongolian child
Roots & Shoots’ MTP has been planting trees now since 2007, and has reached its 1,000,000 tree target two years ahead of the target. Doubling the amount of donated trees each year, the community’s response to the call for environmental action has been phenomenal. By planting a large forest in Kulun Qi, Inner Mongolia, the project’s designs not only halt the process of desertification in the area, but also help to alleviate poverty in a primarily agricultural society, and help urban residents fight climate change by offsetting their carbon dioxide emissions. R&S works in cooperation with the local government and tree plantation farm to ensure the land and maintenance for the full life of the trees. Farmers benefit with modern agricultural training, and receive supplementary income by the project through employment and intercropping revenue. The program receives technical expertise through the Oregon State University’s College of Forestry, as well as a full-time on-site forestry manager and assistant. The MTP is donation and volunteer-based, welcoming any company who sponsors a 2,000 tree forest; school who meets the 1,000 tree challenge; or individual who contributes 500 trees, to help plant the trees with R&S in Inner Monoglia.
After a tiring weekend, many participants travelled back home with new friends, special memories, and a mission to tell others about why trees are essential to the land and people in Inner Mongolia. As the MTP has now achieved its 1,000,000 tree target, the team is looking towards the second 1,000,000 trees. With 1/3 of China’s landscape still threatened by desertification, the project will now aim to rectify another 600+ hectares of land.