“He who plants a tree Plants a hope.”
Lucy Larcom (American writer)
When it comes to marketing, Ikaria is often promoted as a «green island», with lots of waterand green hills, where hiking is possible in the wonderful shades of the Randi forest. But perhaps not only the locals have noticed that over the last decade, Ikaria is suffering from the effects of deforestation and forest degradation: former green hills are turning into naked rocks, where you can find hardly a green plant. During winter time, after heavy rainfalls, this causes serious danger for the inhabitants and damages to the infrastructure and the local economy. One of the reasons behind this are the free grazing goats, who are eating every kind of green, wherever they find it.
To remedy this, various initiatives have been taken by the local people volunteering to protect their island. Trees were re-planted all over the island, but many have been destroyed again, because either the free roaming goats still love the fresh new greens of the seedlings or the follow-up ‚taking-care‘ measures, such as protecting the trees and watering them, have not been sufficient.
Nevertheless, actions do continue and «Friends of Ikaria» would like to support the activities of the various groups, not only by working side by side with them, but also by providing funding.
Why do we want to get engaged in “tree planting activities” on Ikaria?
We believe that a well-functioning society is built on «giving and taking». When we come to Ikaria we are consuming a lot of what the island is offering to us: the wine, the good food, the beauty of the nature, the hospitality of its people. Therefore, it is only natural that we give something back. We can give back our commitment, our time and also some of our money to preserve the nature of the island by working as volunteers, side by side with the Ikarians or – if this is not possible – by supporting them financially to «make things happen». Acting like this means that we are taking good care of each other.
Furthermore, these activities are strongly linked to the aim of our association: supporting environmental, educational and social projects on Ikaria. «Planting Trees » represents a crucial project that is connecting all these aspects. The idea of «oli mazi » (all together) – perhaps one of the most quoted phrases, when it comes to the particularities of the Ikarian society and traditions – can be proven in these activities.
How do we get the funding for the project ?
This is a long term project and it will need a continuous «feed-in of money». The funding will partly come from donations provided by the association «Friends of Ikaria» and from donations given by the broad world-wide-fan-community of Ikaria. We have built up a «crowd-funding-project» on our webpage, where we will collect money for this project (www.friendsofikaria.com). On this web-page we will talk about the project, its needs, its progress and its results.
Furthermore, we will spread the word using social media, mailings and ‚word of mouth‘. We hope to make people understand that every amount is making a difference. May it be 5 EUR or 100 EUR.
How will the project be implemented ?
The project will be implemented by various groups on Ikaria. There is no «one idea fits all» approach. The basic line of our engagment will be:
- the trees have to fit into the natural environment of the island
- the different volunteer groups on Ikaria will decide how to realize the project : may it be by planting seeds, e. g. acrons, or may it be by putting in seedlings.
- Permission for planting trees should be given – this is predominant for the project to avoid «random» planting and to raise public awareness for the activity.
- The ‚plantation area‘ should be protected to avoid destruction by animals or humans. So ‘protection’ is crucial, when it comes to the long-term planning of the project. Funds will be required for this part of the project, too.
- The areas where the plantings will take place, should be easily accessible so that follow-up measures, like ensuring the protecting of the trees and watering them, are possible on a day-by-day basis (even during summer / vaccation time).
- If possible, the project should integrate from its very beginning the schools and youth activities on Ikaria. The educational approach of «planting trees » is crucial for the long-term success of the project. To our understanding, education is the first step to raise awareness for environmental matters and actions and the «planting tree project » is one way of getting children engaged.
- Whenever possible, members of «Friends of Ikaria » will work side by side with the Ikarians on this project. In order to enhance activities, e. g. contacting schools, «Friends of Ikaria » will reach out to the different groups on Ikaria and discuss with them what support is needed for their specific activities. Where needed and possible «Friends of Ikaria » will provide the link between activities and groups.
- People who would like to volunteer in this project can contact the various groups and offer their help (it should be noted that «planting time » is mostly from October – March).
What are the main requirements for the project to be a «success» ?
- Commitment, determination, time, the belief «we can make it happen», acceptance that this is a long term project that needs a lot of hands ; joining the volunteer groups on Ikaria while you are on the island and your financial support to purchase the trees / seedlings / equipment / tools etc. required to plant the trees and ensure they are adequately protected and taken care of.
What will be the benefits of this project?
The benefits of the “planting tree project” are manifold.
For the nature:
- trees produce oxygen that humans and many other living organisms depend on.
- Trees roots grow deep into the soil, holding it firmly in place and help to prevent soil erosion and reduce flood risks.
- Trees provide an important habitat for wildlife and are fundamental to many eco systems on Ikaria.
- Trees provide shade, food and increase the pollinator numbers.
For the local society on Ikaria :
- The project will help to build community spirit and unity
- It will educate participants about the benefits of trees and nature. It will also demonstrate the positive impact on mental health and wellbeing by reducing stress and encouraging outdoor acitvity.
- Concerning the educational part, children can learn about nature by being around trees and observing and interacting with them.
- During the «planting activities», participants are taught how to plant a tree. Furthermore, general conversations around the importance of biodiversity may come up as well as ideas how everybody can develop and protect the environment of the island.
- In addition to this, «planting activities » are not just an opportunity for people to learn about trees, but they also enable people to connect with their local community and to gain practical, hands-on experience of tree planting and maintenance.