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How many of Pakistan's 15 million Facebook users will plant a tree?

Updated Mar 21, 2016 03:30pm


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Our method is simple. We ask people if they can take the responsibility of a plant, and provide them with a free one. —Photo by author
Our method is simple. We ask people if they can take the responsibility of a plant, and provide them with a free one. —Photo by author

When you are a young university student, every evening spent at the university has a charm, but my evenings at the University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, are unforgettable for a special reason.

I can never forget the way the flowers of Alstonia would fill the air with a magical fragrance. Just as Bano Qudsia’s “Raja Gidh” would go ecstatic on full moon nights, the fragrance of these flowers in the late summers would refresh us everyday.

The university is still there, and the Alstonia plants on its U-Road are there too. In just 2-3 months, the nights will once again be filled with fragrance. The only thing needed now to enjoy these nights is time.

As I read the news of the heat-induced deaths of at least 1000 people in Karachi, I recalled the University’s 'thandi sarrak', a street dubbed so for the cool breeze that was peculiar to it. The thandi sarrak was lined with trees on both sides, and countless bird nests embedded inside.

When, in the summers, our hostel rooms felt like ovens, we would find solace in the refreshing shade of the trees on this street. We’d recount stories from the day, all the while saving ourselves from bird droppings.

People residing near the university, too, would reach out to the gardens here. It was perceptible that the temperature within the university was usually a degree or two lesser than the rest of the city, thanks to the infinite number of trees and shrubs.

Also see: Deforestation a threat to agriculture

We have heard that folklore several times, in which a king asks an elderly man why he's planting trees, and the man responds saying the trees planted by his forefathers benefited him, and the trees planted by him would benefit his offspring.

It was in this same spirit, that two years ago, my friends and I launched a project, “Fruit for Life”, under which we are now planting fruit trees in Pakistan.

Our aim is to bring back these fruit-bearing trees back to their habitat, where they had lived since forever until recently. In Punjab, the fields and farms were lined with trees of mulberry, plum, guava, blackberries, pomegranates and oranges. All of the locals had rights over the fruit of these trees.

One more tree planted. One more tree planted.

And another. And another.

The project will give away these plants for free. The project will give away these plants for free.

I remember, there was a pomegranate tree in our courtyard. And as soon as its season arrived, we would distribute all of the fruit among our friends and family. That memory was the inspiration behind this project.

Our method is simple. We ask people if they can take the responsibility of one plant, and we provide them with a free plant if they are willing. They regularly inform us of its growth, and we try to assist them in whatever way possible.

Take a look: Shortage of funds, saplings hit PTI’s afforestation drive

Under this project, we have planted over 3,000 fruit plants through the students and teachers of the Bahauddin Zakaria University in Multan, the Government College University and the University of Agriculture in Faisalabad. This year in March, I have personally planted 90 orange trees in different schools in my hometown Chicha Watni, Punjab.

The author with school students at a plantation drive. The author with school students at a plantation drive.

Several organisations work for plantation in Pakistan. In Sindh, there is the Rafiq Soomro Trust, and in Punjab, Dr Shahzad Basra’s 'Moringa for Life' projects are both doing great service to the cause. The Forest Department often launches plantation drives too.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Government’s resolve to plant a billion trees is a welcome sign, but, and strictly speaking from personal experience, without public initiative, these projects will not work. For this, we all need to work together.

Just a few days ago, my friend Muhammad Asad Aslam proposed that if the approximately 15 million Facebook users of Pakistan resolved to plant just one tree, we would be able to bring a significant change in the environment.

Ahmed Faraz had said,

Shikwah-e-zulmat-e-shab se to kahin behtar tha,
Apne hissey ki koi shamma jalaate jaate.

[Rather than lamenting the darkness of night,
It’d have been better had you lit a candle yourself.]

Also read: Where have the fruit trees gone?

Today, we blame the timber mafia and the builder mafia for the ruthless deforestation. But are we personally willing to act against the negative effects of tree-cutting?

Are we lighting up candles, or just whining about the darkness? Are we giving something back to the environment?

We may not be able to effect large-scale changes, but taking one small step towards a greater cause is always possible. So get up, come forward, and plant one tree to save countless lives.

Click here to support Fruit for Life.

—Photos by author.

Translated by Bilal Karim Mughal from the original in Urdu here.


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Ramzan Rafique lives in Copenhagen, Denmark and works for AgriHunt.

He blogs at Tehreer say taqreer tak.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (43) Closed

afia Jul 06, 2015 02:16pm

Great initiative. I just hope LOCAL plants are being distributed, and monoculture is being discouraged. In the picture it looks all th plants are of the same type.. I hope I am wrong

sharabi Jul 06, 2015 02:19pm

Thats a spirit man, Yesterday i ate the fruit of my guava tree

Muhammad Arshad Jul 06, 2015 02:21pm

Lets start a campaign, one house one tree or one Pakistani one tree, encourage each Pakistani to plant at least one tree in their lifetime, care for it and make sure they grow into full blown trees.

Every house should have at least one tree planted in front and all the road sides and center space should have trees after every 25 feet.

I am sure if we plant enough trees, like Neem, plan, coconut etc. we would be able to see change in weather in those cities/Areas.

M. Malik Jul 06, 2015 02:32pm

15 million users?!! Maybe Pakistan has more Facebook accounts than trees!?

Certainly, a lot of free time to plant some trees!!!

Aisha Jul 06, 2015 02:36pm

Excellent If I would be in Karachi I am gonna do that

Indian Jul 06, 2015 02:38pm

Good job, keep it up!

Adeel Jul 06, 2015 03:17pm

Sindh wakeup. PPP government is buzy in corruption.. The public has to take the responsibility, otherwise all sindh will become Monjo darho.

IRS Jul 06, 2015 03:54pm

Nicely written piece about a great effort! Long live Pakistan, long live peace!

Rohit Sharma Jul 06, 2015 04:14pm

Very good intiative.

Jamal Jul 06, 2015 04:17pm

Please dont plant eucalyptus trees

Ramzan Rafique Jul 06, 2015 04:50pm

@afia yes we have selected different plants for different areas for more pics visit our facebook page

Euro Jul 06, 2015 04:57pm

I think Pakistan's total Facebook users are higher then the 15 million - when the whole population is 210 million people. Mobile phones has made connections available in the remote corners of the country.

Naghma Jul 06, 2015 05:22pm

Excellent article and initiative. Hope this catches on!!

Ramzan Rafique Jul 06, 2015 05:32pm

@Jamal dont worry , we are planting mostly fruit tree.

K Jul 06, 2015 05:42pm

I am so happy to see your initiative that I cannot explain it in words. God bless you...I always dreamed to start such move but because living overseas didn't give me the opportunity but with whole hardly wish you all the best and will try to support your cause in what ever manner possible.

Ramzan Rafique Jul 06, 2015 06:13pm

@K Thanks ,we need you

Sajid Syed Jul 06, 2015 06:24pm

Shikwah-e-zulmat-e-shab se to kahin behtar tha, Apne hissey ki koi shamma jalaate jaate.

Actions speak louder than words. Children are our future and they shall be involved in all such activities. Keep politicians away from any such noble activities, they divide the community and are waste of valuable resources (security, bureaucrats, vehicles and so much other rigmaroles and useless expenses).

Pakistani Jul 06, 2015 07:23pm

I love trees and I want to plant a tree but I don't know where do I plant one? I live in an apartment and there is no free space near my locality for trees :(

Navers Jul 06, 2015 08:42pm

Ramzan Bhai great initiative. Kindly plant trees that use less water. Also plant trees that fruit multiple times in a year like Guava. There is a nursery near Gujar Khan where the owner spent his entire life finding the best tasting fruit trees in the region and then propagated them using tissue culture.

Sarwar, USA Jul 06, 2015 08:55pm

Well done...Neem trees are one of the best choice too.

John, Canada Jul 06, 2015 09:09pm

No manure no mulch... no proper digging . Hope these trees survive harsh weather.

Ramzan Rafique Jul 06, 2015 09:58pm

@Pakistani , i have 10 plants in my aprtment, you can plant your tree in nearby school, park etc

Pragmatist Jul 07, 2015 12:35am

Planting trees is always good. Otherwise Facebookers have no time except to post their pictures and inane jokes. Pakistanis should stop wasting their time on unproductive activities if they want the country to progress.

Siva D Jul 07, 2015 02:40am

Very nice and inspiring initiative. All the best.

Mustafa Jul 07, 2015 04:04am

Bravo for this nice article. Planting fruit trees is an excellent idea. It will not only be good for the climate but it will serve as sadqa-e-jariah for those who would benefit from its fruit. Causes like these can unite us as a nation.

Juliana Fitzwater Jul 07, 2015 04:39am

More power to you my friend!

Ajay Jul 07, 2015 05:56am

Keep up the good work! Hope Indians, Bangladeshis, Nepalis, Sri Lankans, and Afghans would join Pakistani environmentalists in saving our planet.

Tahir Khan Jul 07, 2015 06:22am

Finally A Positive Note.

Amer RAO Jul 07, 2015 06:49am

Together we can make a Difference.

Asad Shairani Jul 07, 2015 09:02am

Great effort. They say a nation becomes wise when its elders plant trees knowing that they might not benefit from its fruit.

Sheikh Jul 07, 2015 09:05am

Great initiative! I would also suggest that every school kid should plant a tree and take care of it till his or her whole life.

Nasir Khan Jul 07, 2015 09:25am

Hope this idea is carried forward and does not fizzle out as many other good ones in our country. The big question is how many of FB users or non users will not uproot a tree. This sort of attitude is not inculcated in us- out in Denmark it may look strange but here timber mafia comes from the highest echelon of our Pakistani society.

Ramesh Nakhwa Jul 07, 2015 11:24am

Good Initiative. If Indian facebook users are taken into account then we are talking of close to 300 million users and trees. Nice idea.

Hassan Jul 07, 2015 11:50am

Pleased to see such a healthy initiative being seriously rolled out. Hope you guys will continue the great work.

Your suggestion for planting trees is good but then there's the issue of finding available spots to plant trees. You cannot just go and plant one on the green belt or someone's lawn, unless if they agree. The space is a major issue.

I remember, back in 1999, we initiated a plantation campaign at our school, which had a strength of about 2500. One pupil, one plant. We actually had to travel all the way to 'Chaanga Maanga' to plant some 2500 trees, which itself was a huge number and the administration had to be pleaded to allow us to plant.

It would be great if provincial governments allow plantation in acres of barren lands in and around major cities. This would help improve the environment.

shakeel Jul 07, 2015 01:57pm

Good job, make Pakistan a better Pakistan!

Sana Jul 07, 2015 02:07pm

very encouraging article. I am going to buy myself a plant too.

Adil Jul 07, 2015 02:53pm

very good article and a very core area identified to work on

Shahzad Jul 07, 2015 03:06pm

In first, awareness campaigns must be launched with the help of thousands of U.A.F students all across the country because this green project belongs to AGRARIAN first, else later.

atif khan Jul 07, 2015 03:29pm

local bodies, cantt boards should put stalls on multiple locations in cities, and free tree sapling should be giving to people, i am sure people will go and will atleast plant a single tree.

khanmann Jul 07, 2015 03:34pm

i am very fond of tree and a great advocate that trees should be planted but never planted a tree may be once or twice.reason being due to daily routines i cannot go specifically to a nursery and get a tree sapling and plant it. but if somebody showsup at my door every day and give me a tree to plant i will do it. you see what i mean.government should have distirbution points every nook and corner of the country.fruits tree shouldn't be neglected.Help People to Help you Plant a Tree

Ramzan Rafique Jul 07, 2015 05:12pm

@Hassan , we have tried to use space in public institutes , like schools, Universities, and many more , as usually there is somebody to water them. while at free space provided by Govt plantation managment is not easy

Hassan Nasir Jul 07, 2015 08:08pm

@Ramzan Rafique May you be blessed! This is an act of humanity, of selfless service to man and nature alike. Keep up the good job

Bilal Akram Jul 13, 2015 05:39am

well that's an inspirational effort.