At the center of the village of Budesti, a small village about a half hour’s drive from Chisinau, there lies a rolling, open pasture. Ducks and geese from local households feed in a gentle stream which flows through the bottom land of the pasture flanked by steep hillsides. That open pasture will one day be a woodland of walnut, mulberry and willow trees, thanks to Plantam Fapte Bune (“Let’s Plant Good Deeds”) of the Million Trees Moldova Initiative, who brought a host of volunteers, about 125 people, to that pasture yesterday, to plant trees. The mayor was there, as well as the principal of the local school, a Peace Corps Volunteer who teaches English there, and many of his students. The activity drew resident volunteers from Germany, France, Italy, and Japan as well.
Plantam Fapte Bune, is a participant group in the Million Tree Moldova collaboration, which is, in turn, a participant in the worldwide Million Tree Initiative, a coalition of grassroots environmental groups around the world, which hope to increase the Earth’s urban forest through the planting of one million trees. Cities that are currently involved in the initiative include Los Angeles, New York, Shanghai, Denver, London, Ontario….and now Chisinau! They all share a common motive of wanting to improve air quality and reduce global warming. The mission of Plantam Fapte Bune is “to help reforest Moldova for the health of the Moldovan people and the entire ecological environment.” The Million Tree Moldova collaboration has been in operation for two years and together they have planted approximately 10,000 trees throughout Moldova.
According to information from a 2011 report, “The State of the Forests of Moldova, 2006-2010,” (funded in part by the EU,) the land that lies currently in Moldova has seen about 75-80% of its forests destroyed since the advent of human activity, compared to an average for the earth of about 50% of forests destroyed. Moldova’s territory in the 19th century was about 30% forested, but now is about 12% forested, making it one of the most deforested countries in Europe. (This makes Chisinau’s current abundance of tree-lined streets, and green parks even more remarkable.) Most of the remaining forested land is state-owned, (87%) and the rest is primarily owned by municipalities (12%). But thanks to the energy, optimism, enthusiasm, can-do attitude, initiative, persistence, and determination of these young grassroots leaders, Moldova will one day see a restoration of its native woodlands.
The wider world beyond Moldova’s borders may think of Moldova as a tiny hidden away place still steeped in traditional and post-Soviet ways, a poor country, made poorer in recent years by the robbery of their treasury by powerful elites and by rampant corruption. While it’s true that this despairing view of Moldova is shared by many Moldovans themselves, I have to say that getting to know young Moldovans over the past year, has helped me to begin to take a different view. In the inspiring initiatives of young Moldovans, like the folks of Plantam Fapte Bune, I see the seeds of a future Moldova which warrants much more optimism.
I am a tree-lover too, so I was delighted to get to work with PFB yesterday planting trees in Budesti. The tree species that grow commonly in Moldova are old familiars to me, –– Walnuts, Oaks, Poplars, Birches, Linden, Beech, Willows, Wild Cherry, Hornbeam, and Buckeye, as they also grow in the Ohio woodlands where I grew up. While I was growing up I probably planted over a thousand trees, because my father was an avid tree planter and enlisted his children in the project. We planted rows and rows of evergreens as windbreaks along the western edges of the fields of our 125 acre Ohio farm. My siblings and I took our turns sitting close to the ground on the seat of the tree planter pulled along behind the tractor, slapping each little seedling into the furrow which was opened up by the blade just in front and below us. Behind the seat, a second blade on the tree planter closed the furrow. I spent many a summer hour watering and trimming around each seedling, and driving the riding mower between the rows. Over the years, I felt a deep sense of pride and pleasure in watching those trees grow to maturity. In later years, when I came home and walked the paths around the edges of the fields, I would often come upon groups of white-tailed deer resting in their shade.
I wish all the Moldovans who are contributing to this effort, not only the satisfaction of a good deed done, but the deep pleasure and contentment of seeing those trees grow to maturity, and the opportunity to enjoy a life surrounded by these towering friends who purify our air, protect our soil, give us shade, and generally sustain a healthy environment for us all.
You may read more about Plantam Fapte Bune and see some photos and videos of their tree planting events on their Facebook page. And you can also donate through their fundraising website:
You can also read about other tree planting events in Moldova at the Facebook pages of “Million Trees Moldova” and “Seed it Forward.”
Plantam Fapte Bune!