June 13 is now marked as a special day for UCBC. It is the day of tree planting. It is a day that, as Noé Kasali proclaims, “We will commemorate!” It is the day that 324 faculty, students, and staff each planted a tree on the UCBC property. Sadly, DRC is losing its forests to international interests and greed. It is also losing its forests to survival needs. UCBC’s own neighbors come onto the property to cut trees for firewood and slash and burn to plant vegetables. So we planted trees yesterday.
But June 13, 2012 marks more than just planting trees. It marks the spirit and ethic of Congo Initiative and UCBC.
|Noé (L) instructs faculty about planting|
The initiative began a couple of months ago when James, president of the UCBC chapter of Youth With a Mission (YWAM), approached Noé Kasali, Manager of the Student Work Program and Personnel Services. Through YWAM James and his peers had met a local man who was interested in donating 200 seedlings to UCBC. Within two weeks, James and the other YWAM members had made arrangements for the seedlings to be transported to UCBC. At the same time Student Council President Isaiah suggested a way for the wider student body to participate in a tree-planting project. Isaiah knew of a women’s organization in Beni that promotes environmental protection and raises tree seedlings. Isaiah negotiated and secured a donation of another 100 seedlings from this local group. “These groups were interested to participate because they knew we had a plan for our property,” explained Noé.
A tree planting event was coming together.
|Tools at ready|
To make the event truly memorable, it was important that everyone—students, staff, and faculty—be involved. The project needed close to 500 trees. Through other contacts and with a small budget, UCBC's Work Program and Land Management Committee purchased the remaining 200 seedlings from local sources.
So yesterday the planting began. Three hundred twenty-four students, faculty, and staff members were handed a seedling and tools and instructed where to plant. Students planted eucalyptus varieties around the property perimeter, to serve as boundary markers. Faculty and staff planted a variety of species, including acacia and croton, for shade and landscape on the developed portion of campus. Those who didn't plant yesterday will do so today.
Everyone built barriers around their seedlings, as goats and chickens would otherwise enjoy easy snacking. Each planter also wrote her or his name, domain/discipline of study, and year here at UCBC on a piece of paper, and attached it to the tree. A method of permanently marking each tree is underway so that as the years progress, people can recall, “I planted this tree on June 13, 2012.”
|Yup, I planted, too!|
Sure, planting trees is a valuable ecological initiative. That was the beginning point of Wangari Maathai’s work and the initiation of the Green Belt Movement. But, as Noé pointed out, yesterday’s event marked even more. It marked student initiative and leadership. Students were the ones with the ideas. Students developed the plans and made logistical arrangements. The event also illustrated the power of community relationships and the role that UCBC students play in the local community. It was because of the collaboration and service that students have engaged that the various individuals and organizations were interested to donate to the initiative. The event reminded everyone that at UCBC manual work is part of our ethic. Faculty and administrators were out digging and planting.
And then there was another unexpected, added benefit. All six of Beni’s local radio stations broadcast stories about the event. The stations reported on the importance of planting trees and that UCBC and its students were setting an example for the community. The reports also noted that the people in the offices planted trees (a notable item in a professional culture that esteems one’s ability to sit behind a desk and tell other people what work to do). Given that radio is the chief form of information exchange and communication, and that Beni’s radio stations cover a 50-60km radius and reach close to 1 million listeners, this is the kind of broadcast coverage that most PR executives would envy.
Yes, June 13 is a special day in UCBC’s history.
|Chickens stay away!|