Friday, July 18, 2014

Tree Planting 101: It Takes More Than Just Digging Holes on the Ground (Part 2)

We’ve discussed in the first part the basics of tree planting Philippines. Now, we will discuss the necessary steps in organizing the activity.

1) Conduct a needs analysis

Organizers cannot just choose an area where they want to plant trees. No one would want to plant trees that will only be uprooted after a few days just like what happened to 28 fruit trees planted on MacArthur Park by Heart of Los Angeles volunteers.

One of the few things to determine is whether the area is a candidate for future developments otherwise the efforts will be wasted. Inspect the climate and growing conditions locally.

You may also ask the local people which trees they would want to see on the vicinity. Empower them by giving them a sense of ownership of the activity, so they would take part without hesitation.

2) Consult the experts

Again, deciding which saplings to plant needs guidance from the experts. It is possible to coordinate and partner with local government units such as the City Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO). The office, which usually includes a forester, can suggest areas where you can implement the activity.

In some instances, the local units also provide saplings to plant. This is free of charge provided that you’d provide documentation of the activity. CENROs can provide organizers with as much as 5,000 saplings. It would be best to ask the experts which trees are suitable and yet do not consume much water. You may also choose to plant extinct and medicinal trees.

3) Accomplish the documentation

Depending on the location, secure permits to formalize the process. Write a letter of request to inform the entities having jurisdiction over the area the intention to plant trees on the property. Secure a copy of the permits and other documents.

4) Prep the area

The majority of the volunteers expect actual tree planting and not necessarily clearing the area. Arrange a prep date that may involve only a few people, depending on the extent of activity. For instance, preparation may only mean removing unwanted shrubs and grass or it may include pre-digging holes so the volunteers would know where to plant the trees exactly.

In digging furrows, the rule of thumb is 6” deep and 2 meters apart. Stick 3 bamboo poles around the perimeter of the furrows. These will serve as markings, and they also purport to indicate that the furrow is already planted. Saplings come in separate plastic bags. The plastic bag must be removed during planting. The plastic bag must be then placed on at the other end of the bamboo pole to let the others know that it is already planted.

Further, you may borrow grass cutters from CENRO if they have any, or any of the volunteers themselves. Prepping the area may require 1 to 3 days though this will depend on the total area that needs planting. This should be accomplished 5 days or a week before the activity.

5) Spread the word

As an organizer, you need not spend too much on promoting the tree planting activity. Leverage the use of social media. Have your friends like and share the cause with their friends and so on.

Look for local celebrities who also support the cause of preserving the environment. Politely ask him or her to share or re-tweet the announcement, so more people will be aware of such an activity.

Tips during tree planting

  • Remind the volunteers to wear protective gears such as gloves, hats and boots when planting, if no sponsors will provide such.

  • Teach the volunteers the proper way of de-soiling the sapling after removing it from the plastic bag. Shaking it gently will suffice, but be careful not to remove the roots. Don’t use the soil that you remove from the plastic. Instead, use the soil around the furrow in buying the sapling. In this way, the newly planted tree will easily adapt to the new environment.

  • If you can choose the saplings, choose that are more than 3 feet in height. They have a better chance of surviving than those saplings 3 feet below in height.

  • When transporting the saplings from pickup points to the planting areas, don’t hold them on the stem. Hold the plant on the plastic bag.

  • Encourage the volunteers to bring their own shovels. If not possible, use improvised shovels such as coconut shells which can be obtained from any local market for free.

  • Some activities require ongoing monitoring while some can be left as is. Plan the extent of the activity early on so the volunteers would know what to expect. Send them with a progress report by collecting their contact information before or during the activity.

  • Visit the area regularly to determine whether watering is still needed or not. Check will plants thrive and which didn’t and consider re-planting the portions with new trees (if possible).

Environmental servanthood is one way of giving back to nature which had blessed us with a very important resource that we must appreciate and nurture for the years to come. If organizing a tree planting activity is not for you, you might as well become a volunteer. The benefits are surely rewarding!

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