The government made good on its promise during summer’s wildfires to plant three saplings in the name of every citizen in the 84 million nation, and on Thursday, the Minister of Agriculture and Forestry concluded the campaign by planting the last of the 252 million saplings…
Turkey ended the year by accomplishing its goal to plant 252 million saplings as part of its Breath For The Future campaign. Minister of Agriculture and Forestry Bekir Pakdemirli planted the last three saplings of the campaign on Thursday in the capital Ankara. It was Pakdemirli, who, during the summer’s wildfires that ravaged forests mainly in the country’s south, pledged to replenish the burned forests and improve forestation by planting three saplings in the name of every Turkish citizen.
The Breath For The Future campaign launched in 2019 by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who declared Nov. 11 National Forestation Day, aims to increase the number of forests in the country facing a climate crisis, which also aggravates wildfires. Turkey ranks first in Europe in terms of its annual net gain in forested areas in the past decade. It ranks sixth in the world, according to a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).
“We had 20.8 million hectares of forests in 2002 and today, this number is 22.9 million hectares. We planted 5.5 billion saplings in 19 years and we are also among the leading countries in the fight against soil erosion,” Pakdemirli told reporters as he planted saplings at Beştepe National Park in the capital. The minister noted that the public mobilized in 2019 and some 2.1 million people had planted 13.8 million saplings in just four hours in the first edition of National Forestation Day two years ago. He said their goal was to increase the number of saplings planted to 630 million next year and reach the ambitious target of 7 billion in 2023, the centenary of the Republic of Turkey.
Amid a construction boom and concerns over the climate crisis, Turkey has stepped up efforts to preserve and further expand its forests. It is also pursuing a campaign to boost the production of saplings and increase revenue from forestry products, namely fruit and honey production, for villagers. Thousands of forests were created in rural areas to generate extra income for farmers.
The mass planting of trees and the improvement of pastures are also among the measures being taken against erosion and desertification, as part of an action plan by the government. Hundreds of thousands of hectares of land turn into deserts every year due to poor irrigation. Officials say Turkey is among the countries most affected by the increase in nonarable lands and climate change, as it sits in a geographically challenging location sandwiched between different climates.
The government also plans to replenish trees that fell victim to forest fires within a year. Forest fires were worst in recent memory, especially for Antalya and Muğla, two Mediterranean provinces home to vast forests near popular touristic destinations. Overall, Turkey has seen more than 2,105 forest fires throughout 2021.