Arnold is the Co-Founder of Eco-Green Consulting, Kenya. He has a Master’s degree in Environmental Science from Egerton University, Kenya; and currently pursuing his second Master’s Degree in Water Policy at the African Union Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Sciences (PAUWES), Algeria.
A few weeks ago, while traveling in Algeria from Tlemcen to Algiers. I couldn’t help but notice the vastness of the lands, beautiful undulating landscapes, plain fields and olive farms along the way. I was particularly intrigued by the resilience of the olive tree in a country whose climate is extremely diverse and changing.
Sophocles, a Greek tragedian, referred to the olive tree as “blessed tree that never dies”. The gray-leafed tree, he wrote, nourishes people; Zeus and Athena guard it with sleepless eyes. He continues to say that the olive tree is, “the tree that feeds the children”.
Olive trees are the oldest and most important fruit trees in history. They are a symbol of peace, fertility, luck, wisdom, prosperity, and victory. They are indigenous to the Mediterranean, as well as through Africa and Asia. The olive tree has adapted to cope with extreme conditions, grows on arid and rocky soils; and survives under drought conditions and strong winds. They also need very little attention and have an average lifespan of approximately 500 years.
Photo of an Olive Farm taken by the author
On my way back, I started a conversation with my friends whom we were driving with, “the people of Algeria especially local communities and farmers are unknowingly contributing to the countries obligation to attain 10 percent minimum forest cover”. “I have been observing the vastness of olive farms in this country with admiration”, I continued. The friend, a local, who was kind enough to drive us around and a colleague at the Pan African University Institute of Water and Energy Sciences also owns an Olive Farm.
In the Greek tradition, an olive tree is planted, when a child is born. The child and the olive tree will grow up together. When the child celebrates their sixth birthday, the olive tree will produce its first fruit. The Olive tree will grow with the child and family, survive through decades, and will be there for future generations.
In 2015, the world agreed to renew their commitments to further pursue a common course and ambitious efforts to combat climate change and adapt to its effects in Paris. This agreement has proceeded to be referred to as the Paris agreement. This agreement also seeks to provide enhanced support to assist developing countries. The central aim of the agreement is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
In conclusion, trees and climate change are intrinsically related. As they grow, trees capture and store carbon that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere. Trees also play a crucial role in the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals in transforming micro-climates; stabilizing soils; recycling nutrients for agriculture, and supporting habitats for wildlife. Just as the Greek tradition, Algerians should continue planting olive trees to feed its present and future generations and before we all know it, this desert country will have transformed its borders to a sustainable green economy; and attained the minimum 10 percent tree cover.