Caribbean Tree Planting Week: A Cultural Celebration of Trees

Next week (July 5 to 11, 2021) is the first Caribbean Tree Planting Week. So what, you may ask? This is certainly not a symbolic week, but the result of over a year of activities and networking (Zoom was working overtime!) among citizens of all ages and backgrounds (including a major youth contingent) – in no less than 22 countries across the Caribbean.

Please join the amazing tree planters and their friends and supporters, next week. Take a look at the program below – more events may be added. You can register for all events (free) at this Zoom link and also watch on Facebook Live.

An 18-year-old youth ambassador in Haiti (screen shot from the launch of the CariPhil Alliance Tree Planting Ambassadors on Zoom, which visited every corner of the Caribbean!)

The Caribbean Tree Planting Project (CTPP) has resulted in the planting of 1.4 million trees across the region – you could say from the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic up to now. I am quite sure they are not done yet, either! The numbers were tallied during a group Zoom meeting recently, where all participants reported in. All of this has happened through some intense networking among non-governmental organizations, youth groups and individual citizens, and some charitable foundations that have come on board (including the Clinton Foundation and the (including the wonderful McLaughlins of Trees That Feed Foundation).

Among other things, the CTPP is a significant example of the power of volunteerism – across national boundaries. It also represents a burning commitment to create a better future for the Caribbean people, by taking action, working together, sharing thoughts and knowledge, and overcoming challenges – including language barriers and our far-flung distances.

What I also love about this project is that it is truly grassroots. Besides, it is “accelerated action.” The Caribbean has slipped into a super-slow rhythm since the pandemic began – understandably – but in my view it was already slowing in terms of dynamic action, communication, and innovation. This has manifested itself in sluggish economic and social growth for the last decade or two – apart from the increasingly heavy/lazy dependence on tourism. We are lagging behind, and young people are increasingly frustrated. I certainly would be, if I were young.

It’s initiatives like this – involving ordinary citizens with a vision, and determinedly using digital technology despite a few challenges – that give me hope that the Caribbean can shake off its apathy. The energy is there – it’s just a question of harnessing and directing it collectively. And what could be a more critical focus than on climate change, building our resilience…and planting trees.

CARIBBEAN TREE PLANTING WEEK: Protecting Biodiversity, Restoring Ecosystems, Strengthening Cultural Roots 

Since February 2020, the Caribbean Philanthropic Alliance (CariPhilAlliance) and its network of partners have mobilized youth, community-based and non-governmental organizations across 22 Caribbean countries and territories to plant more than 1.4 million trees, through the Caribbean Tree Planting Project (CTPP). See Overview of 2020 activities. As a result, there has been an upsurge in enthusiasm and advocacy, especially through youth action – the CariPhilAlliance Tree Planting Ambassadors. 

These ongoing activities have inspired the CariPhilAlliance’s inaugural Caribbean Tree Planting Week (CTPW), to be celebrated virtually from July 5 to 11, 2021. The week’s events, under the theme “Protecting Biodiversity and Cultural Heritage in the Caribbean,” aim to build public awareness of the importance of planting trees – a critical part of the region’s environmental and cultural heritage.

At the same time, the week will reflect on how to achieve several of the global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted by the United Nations in 2015, especially the worst performing SDGs in the Caribbean. According to the 2020 SDG Report, these include SDG #2 (Zero Hunger); #6 (Clean Water & Sanitation); #8 (Decent Work & Economic Growth); #9 (Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure); #10 (Reducing Inequalities); #11 (Sustainable Cities & Communities); #14 (Life Below Water); #15 (Life on Land); #16 (Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions), among others. 

Ready to plant a tree – one of the Tree Planting Ambassadors (and I believe a horse). My screen shot from the launch of the youth program, during which a lot of trees were planted.

“We at CariPhilAlliance believe that the voices of the Caribbean people – especially our youth – must be raised in support of a movement towards truly sustainable development across the region,” said Professor Rosalea Hamilton, Chair, CariPhilAlliance & CEO, LASCO Chin Foundation. 

“The Caribbean contributes less than one percent to global greenhouse emissions, but we are increasingly bearing the burden of the environmental devastation that climate change brings. We are hurting from the significant social and economic impacts over the years, now worsened by the COVID pandemic. We must address this existential crisis collectively, by building strong partnerships across boundaries and taking on the ground action. During the week, we aim to tap into our cultural roots, while exploring ways to protect our precious natural heritage and build resilience for the future.” 

The week will open with an indigenous prayer ceremony on July 5 and a discussion on Protecting Biodiversity and Cultural Heritage in the Caribbean, followed by… (Note times are all EDT, which is one hour ahead of Jamaican time)…more details of times and events to follow.

conversations with elders and indigenous people about trees (Monday, July 5 at 5 p.m.)

a cultural celebration of trees, in collaboration with the Clinton Global Initiative;

a talk on The Journey of the Baobab Tree from Africa to the Caribbean by Professor John Rashford, Economic Botanist, College of Charleston (Tuesday, July 6 at 5 p.m.)

a presentation on climate action with Professor Sieuwnath Naipal in Suriname;

a focus on Empowered Women and Trees with Caribbean Women Entrepreneurs (Thursday July 8 at 11 a.m.)

a fun children’s education event in Trinidad & Tobago (Wednesday, July 7 at 5 p.m.)

a treeside meditation and reasoning with Joan Labinghi, Master Kemetic Yoga Teacher (Sunday, July 11 at 11 a.m.)

and a Musical Evening with Trees organized by the Jamaica Music Museum.

The Closing Ceremony with a Call to Action will take place on Sunday July 11 at 5 p.m. EDT.

A close partner, the Trees That Feed Foundation that contributed 55,316 trees to the CTPP, will also talk about “Breadfruit – the Miracle Fruit” on Thursday, July 8 at 5 p.m.

The young CariPhilAlliance Tree Planting Ambassadors will also be involved in several events, including a training event on composting and the meditation/reasoning event. 

A Taino ceremony in St. Mary, Jamaica during one of the recent tree planting gatherings on Zoom. At left is cultural activist and writer Erna Brodber. Jamaica’s Taino Cacique is blowing the conch shell.

During the week and beyond, national teams – from Haiti to the Bay Islands of Honduras, from the Caymans to the Bahamas – will be busy planting trees (where possible given COVID restrictions) and engaging in related activities. If organizations would like to get involved, they can register their activity here.

Follow the CTPP on Twitter @TreeCaribbean and on Facebook. Find them also on Instagram here.

For further information and for media interviews about CTPP/CTPW, please contact: 

Prof Rosalea Hamilton – Chair, CariPhilAlliance; (876) 833 2545; rosaleahamilton@gmail.com 

Dr Jennie Ward Robinson – Vice Chair, CariPhilAlliance; (312) 259 9696; jwrphd@gmail.com 

Chaz Garraway – CTPP Youth Leader; (902) 809 7050; cajgarraway@gmail.com 

Andrea Molnar – CTPP Project Manager; +45 71 48 27 30; cariphilalliancetrees@gmail.com

 

The Trees That Feed Foundation have already provided thousands of trees to the project.

9 thoughts on “Caribbean Tree Planting Week: A Cultural Celebration of Trees

  1. I have read a lot of tree planting movement in many countries, but its scale and continuity is not as great as the destruction of forests by industry. Consciousness defeated by profit (money). What are you trying to do to overcome this circumstance?

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    1. I know… It may seem as if we are fighting a losing battle, even to protect and/or rescue the old trees. In our part of the world, it is the tourism industry (and to a somewhat lesser extent, housing development and agriculture) that is destroying our forests, in particular in coastal areas. Profit (I call it greed) is the overwhelming motivation for it all, nothing else. It is not easy to overcome. The only way will be a GENUINE change of heart on the part of the corporations and the tourism conglomerates – a true awareness of the impact of their activities; plus, I think, government needs to send the right signals and take serious steps towards a “green economy,” instead of lip service. Small NGOs like this (made up ENTIRELY of volunteers) are unfortunately unable to tackle wholesale deforestation by multinational companies. All we can do is raise awareness, while taking action (not merely symbolic) that one hopes will counteract the negative forces – eventually…

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      1. You are right that government needs to send the right signals and take serious steps. But right now the covid-19 pandemic requires a lot of funds. This is hard for poor countries.

        I thing the more people getting education is a long term solution.

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