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    The Power of Trees for a Sustainable Future

    Bezawit Mesfin Bogale
    HAF-UVA Intern 

    Trees play a vital role in preserving the environment for generations. The environment is key for survival in terms of not only health but also association with one another in our community. It is known that trees give off oxygen, reduce the amount of stormwater, provide natural habitat, and contribute to clean air, among other things. Thus, tree planting is incorporated into almost every human settlement. Urban tree planting is a highly adopted phenomenon by many countries and communities to improve living conditions through storm water and flood protection, increasing physical activity through walking, and increasing neighborhood property values. Nursing homes and hospitals are seeing the benefit of trees through the improved health status of their patients. Moreover, trees bring calmness and tranquility that benefits our mental health.

    Trees also represent a notable connection to building communities. Communities are composed of the environment around them, the people, and relationships within them. Besides adding beauty, clean air, and protection, trees are also sources for bringing people together

    When people come together for a tree planting event, important things are exchanged:

    1. Tree planting involves some physical exercise. Doing exercise helps the body’s metabolism that leads to a healthy and strong immune system.
    2. The movement that tree planting requires is inclusive of young to older people, bringing in different age groups in the process.
    3. The ethical element of planting trees brings in positive satisfaction, specifically, doing good. In tree planting, the “good” is for everyone involved and others to come. Therefore, people engage in such activity with the common ground to help themselves and others at the same time.
    4. Tree planting provides a platform for discussion. Many community mobilizers set up events to give people a different type of stage from the regular town hall style to communicate. When planting trees, people talk to one another about community issues and may facilitate group work. As we know, group work initiates problem-solving, supports one another, and encourages the start of interesting relations between diverse people. There is a sense of friendship that arises from being in a group which is essential for communities. 
    5.  Tree planting is a unique activity to foster community engagement because of its nature to stay long-term. After trees are planted, they require continuous treatment and care. Thus, communities get a chance to continue to come together when they are caring for the trees, either through watering, cleaning the area, or protecting the surrounding. Fortunately, with proper care, trees live a long life. Thus they have the ability to connect past generations to the future. Doing so, trees show the efforts of those who cared to teach others to do the same.  

    Community tree planting has transformed communities in Morocco. The High Atlas Foundation (HAF) has been working to facilitate tree planting for many years. In Morocco, tree planting season starts around mid-December. This season brings people from all over Morocco together for a time full of education, fun, and engagement when community members get to know one another through discussions. Moreover, important aspects, including gender inequality, are constantly being challenged because both men and women are encouraged to get involved. HAF allows the use of planted trees both for economic and non-economical purposes. Many farmers receive trees for lower prices, which helps them afford other essentials. Also, HAF donates trees to schools to provide students with clean air and beautiful attractions. The above are some of the many benefits that Moroccan communities gain from planting trees together. With the help of actions like this, paired with social media and pushes from organizations working on environmental issues, there is increasing advocacy to expand tree plantation. 

    People are often divided because of political, spiritual, and economical reasons. In the midst of division, community tree planting activities play a vital role in bringing together those with different views. As history shows, creating a common ground connects people with a sense of belonging and understanding beyond the differences. Therefore, it is important to keep involving communities in planting trees. That way, we can do two things at once, restore the environment while creating a safe space for conversation and knowledge sharing. 

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