On Saturday 12th of November, sets of sleepy eyes with an active spirit found themselves riding buses out of the city and towards the mountains. After the huge June fires which completely devoured an 18.5km green area in Solea valley near Ayios Theodoros, the forestry department has created a re-forestation plan in hope to bring the scenery back to life.
The first steps of the plan were to take anti-erosion measures, dig trenches and prepare the soil for planting. With the rainy season in sight, the next stage is now ready for take-off. The Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative (CSTI) published a call for volunteers to help with the tree-planting plan and Global Shapers Nicosia members along with numerous other individuals were eager to dig their hands in the soil.
After an hour's drive, we arrived at the area on a sunny November morning and huddled into cars to reach the remote location. As we drove around the valley, orange-flaked trees and hollow, black branches covered the area with a smoky dark earth for soil. The burnt area seemed never-ending as with every turn, more lifeless nature appeared.
Once there, we grabbed shovels, sticks and small plants and headed up the hills to plant these baby trees in digged-up trenches in the earth. Many of us were newbies to tree-planting, gardening and shovel-holding yet with a little help of fellow volunteers we began re-foresting the area.
After understanding what the best way to plant trees is, the trenches were disappearing and the trees were running low. On short breaks waiting for more plants to arrive, we fueled on mandarins provided by the forest rangers.
In pure team spirit, the volunteers worked together, unconsciously creating a system that worked for everyone. When new plants arrived, groups of people would climb the hill handing them to others, who would then pass on to whoever had a spot to fill. Those who mastered the art of removing the tree roots safely out of its box would offer their skills, those with steadier hands would place the sticks well into the ground and ribbons for tying the trees to the sticks would be shared freely.
In a way, the biggest hope witnessed during this occasion, was to see complete strangers coming together with a desire to save nature. In total, 270 volunteers of all ages and nationalities; children, teenagers, adults, Cypriots and foreigners spent their morning re-waking the Soleas valley. A thrilling amount of 1500 trees were planted that day by the volunteers and we can only hope that with rain there is high chance for survival.
Nonetheless, there still remains a large area of burnt vegetation and it will take time and dedication for the re-forestation plan to work. What we can do, at most, is to continue donating our time and helping out on such occasions in hope to save Cyprus' nature.
Follow the The Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative's (CSTI) Facebook page to stay updated with tree-planting news: https://www.facebook.com/csti.csti/
Stay informed of local issues and action taken by following Global Shapers Nicosia' activities: https://www.facebook.com/GlobalShapersNicosia/