On 27 January 2021 Menaqua organised the webinar “How to plant more trees in MENA?”. The issue was addressed from different angles by three keynotes speakers with extensive hands-on experience in reforestation and sustainable agricultural development. The keynote speakers gave short, mind sharpening presentations followed by a forum discussion where questions, concerns and propositions from the audience were taken up.
The simultaneous translation in Arabic and English made the webinar accessible for a broad audience. There were over 75 participants, including the Ambassador of Lebanon in the Netherlands.
The webinar started with an address of Professor Salma Nashabe Talhouk of the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences and the Nature Conservation Center of at the American University of Beirut. She stated that “Planting trees is easy, but long-term care is the challenge”. In her presentation she elaborated on the role of resident communities and their empowerment. Professor Talhouk strongly advocated that tree planting always has to be led locally and contribute directly to the livelihood of residents.
Mr Arnout Asjes MSc, Chief Technology Officer with the Land Life Company, confirmed that “Planting trees is easy, growing is difficult”. He started with various examples of ambitious projects that had failed. He agreed with Prof. Talhouk that no trees should be planted without the commitment of the local population. In his presentation Mr Asjes elaborated the role of technology, with special attention to water conservation techniques. He emphasised that the selection of the right species, location and the right timing are critical factors.
Dr. Melle Leenstra, Agricultural Counsellor to Egypt & Jordan from the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality of the Netherlands. He elaborated on the role of regenerative agriculture including agroforestry, and the need of a paradigm shift from the maximizing of agricultural production, towards more sustainable systems, in order to reverse the “economic race to the top and the ecological race to the bottom”. Mr. Leenstra elaborated extensively on the role of social entrepreneurs for long-standing initiatives. He presented some successful examples and advocated that international organisations invest more in long-term relationships with social entrepreneurs in MENA.
After the presentations there was a lively forum discussion on a variety of issues such as the creation of economic value of tree planting, the trade-offs of tree planting and tension with other land users, the political and conflict dimensions for tree planting initiatives, the scale of projects in relation to bottom-up and top-down processes, and global experiences of community-driven projects.
We are a land restoration organization, establishing ourselves in the Middle East and North Africa with the primary focus on Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine. Our mission is to plant trees through agroforestry and reforestation programs ignorer to restore degraded lands and improve local livelihoods.
“We Listen. We Learn. We Plant. We Grow”.