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They uproot, we replant: The Million Tree Campaign

Jerusalem24 – What if we planted a million trees in Palestine? And then another? And another after that?

This is just what the Arab Group for the Protection of Nature (APN) has done with its Million Tree Campaign. Although the APN has long since surpassed its initial goal (with around 2.5 million trees planted since 2001), the organization continues its mission across the occupied West Bank – a remedy to the army and settlers uprooting, burning, and confiscating Palestinian lands, APN General Manager Mariam Al-Jaajaa tells Jerusalem24.

The program also assists farmers in developing their abilities to manage their agricultural lands in a sustainable way.

Million Tree Campaign achievements 2001-2021. [Courtesy of Arab Group for the Protection of Nature]

“They uproot, we replant”

Launched in 2001 under the slogan “They uproot a Tree, We Replant Ten”, the APN has plenty of trees yet to plant if it intends to stick to its slogan. According to the Palestinian Farmers’ Union, Israeli forces and settlers have uprooted around 2.5 million trees in the last 30 years.

Mariam says the settler-colonial occupation wields natural resources as a weapon in order to punish and erase an entire population.

“There’s another layer which is the power imbalance between the occupier and the occupied, and the systematic violations that are happening in Palestine,” she says. “We expose the impact of occupation on natural resources and also try to hold the actors accountable, and mobilize international and local support.”

Even though they plant everywhere in Palestine, the campaign specifically targets Area C as well as areas that have been the target of Israeli settler and military attacks.

The APN maintains a strong connection with local farmers, which helps to be informed in real time of cases of arson or vandalizing agricultural lands. The organization is then able to dispatch a team of volunteers to help replant the land – usually the very same day.

The importance of going (and growing) local

Mariam stresses the key role played by local communities in the implementation of programs and in discussions surrounding them, because they are the first to be impacted.

“Generally, at the regional level nature is not a top priority for public institutions,” Mariam says. “Usually it’s local communities who are more interested in nature protection.”

This locally-driven interest is reflected in the independent organization’s finances: outside of their own (limited) resources, APN relies mostly on local and regional funding.

Mariam says that convincing the general public of the paramount importance of food sovereignty, agriculture and nature conservation remains, however, a challenge at times.

“This is not an easy matter,” she says, “but hopefully we are getting a lot of recognition and accountability – by not only people and local communities but also by public institutions.”

Listen to the full interview on Vibes.

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