The 'Grow 10 Trees' Project has been created to encourage citizens to get pro-active and grow and nurture local trees, bushes and plants at their own home from seeds provided by G10T. These saplings will eventually be used for afforestation projects within the Maltese Archipelago to combat the serious shortage of flora both within the urban context and also in the countryside. G10T uses its social media platform and other means to help increase awareness in favour of the environment.
The ‘Grow 10 Trees’ Project (G10T) is a voluntary environmental group for proactive citizens willing to help make Malta greener. It was founded in May 2017 and has planted more than 3000 saplings over 38 events, organized several clean-ups, removed invasive species, shared 1000s of seeds and held a number of educational sessions. Our main objective is to provide the public with the necessary information to grow saplings at home to be used for our projects. We pride ourselves in collecting native seeds from our countryside and sharing them with individuals, schools, NGOs and workplaces. We have our own nursery where we nurture saplings to be planted in these events together with those brought by members.
G10T places an emphasis on education. For people to take an active interest, they need to have the necessary knowledge. We share this information through our Facebook group, the website, interaction with people at events and educational seminars. With the necessary information, citizens can better help their environment and understand which initiatives need a proactive stance on.
G10T was born out of the necessity of a new wave of environmental and climate awareness. This wave is one of active awareness whereby citizens are no longer satisfied by simply complaining. G10T is unique in this approach. We conduct our work based off the efforts of citizens where anyone can help. We rely on citizens to help find areas for afforestation and we organise tree planting events where trees grown by the members are planted.
Apart from this, G10T encourages sustainable methods. We encourage members to re-use milk cartons bundled in plastic crates which would otherwise be landfilled. We also make use of local sourced reeds in place of imported wooden staves to mark and stabilise trees.
G10T has always based its work on the principle of cooperation, bringing together several institutions for its success. Our members include people from all backgrounds, ages and nationalities.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context
The project is as sustainable as it can possibly get in all its various aspects. The aim of the project is to help make Malta greener by planting trees and other local flora which will help combat climate change through absorption of greenhouse gases. Once mature, they will provide shade which will reduce temperatures while providing a home for native animals, birds, insects and pollinators, thus restoring natural habitats.
G10T encourages sustainable methods through a focus on re-use. Instead of using new plastic pots, we encourage members to re-use milk cartons bundled in unwanted plastic crates which would otherwise be landfilled. When plastic pots are needed, we utilise unwanted pots thus reducing demand for new goods. We also make use of local reeds in place of imported wooden staves to mark saplings. In our nursery we water saplings from harvested rain water thus reducing demand on tap water which is mainly derived through energy consuming R.O. plants.
We collect seeds from species of a local gene pool. These are more adapted for our harsh climate and tend to be more resilient to the effects of climate change. As a group we have also managed to increase the population of rare and threatened plant species. These include Iris foetidissima, Paliurus spina-christi, Anagyris foetida, Pistacia terebinthus and Asphodelus fistulosus among others.
Apart from tree planting events, G10T has carried out a number of clean-ups, collecting large quantities of rubbish as part of habitat restoration. We have also targeted a good number of invasive species in an effort to safeguard the natural environment.
From the educational perspective, both through the hands-on approach and through other formal or informal educational measures, including social media, we have increased environmental awareness among the general public. Once educated, active citizenship will have a cumulative ripple effect in environmental sustainability.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context
Coming to think of it, G10T is all about aesthetics and quality of experience, experience of participating within a movement with green intentions, or simply the relaxing experience of sowing seeds, repotting or planting in the ground.
In G10T’s case, aesthetics does not refer to the architectural, but the aesthetic effect of a green space in an urban setting; which Malta is severely lacking. This could be the greening of a playground, a traffic island along a road, a stretch of land in the countryside or a regenerated site. When planting, we avoid monoculture and straight lines, but do a healthy mix of trees, shrubs and plants in a haphazard manner to mimic a natural ecosystem rather than something manmade. The variation in smell and shape together with the varying shades as the seasons change, give an ever-changing scenario, providing an aesthetically pleasing experience.
With regards the participative public, whether they are at tree planting events, or an educational event, or helping out at the nursery, they always seem to end the sessions with a smile on their face, with an air of intense satisfaction. Although life is rather hectic and seems that no one has any free time, we do get several repeat visits to our events. This shows that what they are participating in is somehow giving them a sense of satisfaction and belonging. This provides a sensation that they are actually doing something to help the environment while feeling fulfilled.
One of the most rewarding experiences is when children see their seeds germinating for the first time. Their facial expressions and satisfaction are something which puts on a smile all around. This sense of elation is not just reserved to children but also to adults who never had the opportunity of growing anything from seeds. To be honest, after germinating 1000s of seeds myself, I still get this intense feeling of satisfaction and achievement with every successful seed.
Please highlight how the concept/idea can be exemplary in this context
As mentioned already above, one of the main aims of G10T is to get people involved and participative in improving the environment around us. Whatever we do is centred on public participation and citizen engagement. In all our activities we have no restrictions as to who can attend. We are open to everyone, irrespective of race, colour or creed, sexual orientation, physical or mental abilities. Anyone can attend to either physically help or else they can simply watch the event unfold, everyone helping out depending on their abilities.
Locally collected seeds are distributed among the general public, within schools and workplaces and other institutions for them to sow and grow at home, school or place of work. We encourage these members to use planting concepts that are very affordable to ensure that anyone can partake in. All material used, normally milk or juice cartons and plastic crates, can easily be obtained for free since they are actually re-using otherwise waste products to grow their saplings. Even when it comes to soil or compost, one can readily find this either for free or at relatively cheap prices.
Once saplings are grown, the public is invited to get their home grown saplings to participate in tree planting events we hold around the island. This gives the public a sense of ownership of the project and the opportunity to put to good use what they have managed to grow in their own homes. This gives them a sense of pride that they have actually participated in an event to help improve the environment.
To address the fact of inclusion further, the new nursery project we currently have in hand is being planned to suit the needs of people with special needs, with a heavy focus on accessibility.
Please highlight how this approach can be exemplary
The ‘Grow 10 Trees’ Project seamlessly combines all these dimensions in its various tasks. Our educational sessions, be it webinars, school sessions, public events, or simply through our website or social media, are open to anyone irrespective of who they are or where they belong. In such sessions, we provide an experience where anyone can get to know what they can do to improve our environment, how they can be better citizens, learning about local flora and how they can participate from their own homes irrespective whether they have a garden or simply a small balcony. They acquire a sense of empowerment where they realise that with their limited space, they can still be part of a bigger movement, everyone within their own limitations.
Growing saplings in one’s home provides the elation of seeing a seed germinate, giving a unique feeling, one that you need to experience to understand. It is not an immediate response as happens on a mobile or computer, but one which you have to wait for, creating suspense for days or even weeks until seeds germinate. This can be experienced by anyone, there are no barriers as to who can take up this task. It is there for anyone who dares and seeds are easily available upon request.
This takes us to the next task, the tree planting events whereby the actual trees and plants lead to environmental sustainability by their own presence and leave a lasting positive effect on fauna habitat including small mammals, insects, pollinators and birds. The events are attended to by the general public, irrespective of their origin or capabilities. They join together in a serene environment, working together, giving them a unique opportunity and experience to create a natural ecosystem. Once developed this will improve the environment and aesthetics of the particular area.
The thing that sets us apart from most, if not all, environmental groups is that we encourage anyone to participate at their own pace, in the comfort of their home, to grow saplings and feel part of the green solution. Once they reap success, they can then attend any of the tree planting events we hold to plant their own personal saplings in a public space, giving them ownership and feel part of a solution against the current trend of deforestation on the island. Over 4 years we have planted more than 3000 saplings, which could be considered negligible in comparison to what a local authority can do. The difference is that in the process of running this scheme, we managed to get people to provide an active approach and actually do something to help solve the growing issue of environmental degradation. We have shown that everyone can do something, however small, to help the environment. Together we can do something much bigger than a single person can. We believe that this is our strongest characteristic.
Another innovative characteristic is that we grow saplings from local seeds, carefully collected from wild stock to make sure that we propagate species from the Maltese genetic pool. We also pride ourselves in propagating the rarest of local species in a bid to increase their numbers. This practice is done by only a couple of small entities like us, who own very limited resources with relatively small nurseries when compared to commercial ones. Most, if not all, of the commercial nurseries do not grow saplings from local seeds but import all the stock from abroad. The same happens with all major projects around the island where the absolute majority of trees and plants utilised are imported. This might cause concern, especially with Malta being an island, as the local species have evolved independently from those found on the mainland which may cause a different genetic makeup, and it is for this that we strive so hard.
Last May we signed a contract with an elderly home for the clergy whereby we have at our disposition 3500 square meters of arable land for G10T to expand operations. We have shifted our nursery here and are currently constructing a greenhouse which will help us in propagating more saplings. After the first year, the saplings will be moved out of the greenhouse and stored outdoors in larger pots to stimulate further growth. In this new site we have ample space for larger quantities of saplings than we previously had.
In conjunction to this we will be constructing a second water reservoir to harvest more run-off rain water. Water is already a pressing issue in Malta, now getting dire with climate change. This water would be used to irrigate all the saplings, for which we will be setting up a drip irrigation for greater efficiency.
Above the reservoir we plan to build an educational room from where we can invite school children and adults alike for informative sessions, both theoretical and hands on. Through this we will be in a better position to give sessions in a setup where attendees can see progress from seed sowing until our saplings are mature enough to be planted in open grounds. The new nursery would also serve as a meeting point for volunteers.
An important aspect of this project is a botanical garden which will house as many local species as is possible in such a limited area. An emphasis will be placed on the rarer species. This garden will act as a showcase of the flora our islands offer. Once trees and plants become mature, the site would act as a seed bank from where seeds can be collected for sharing and propagation, resting assured that they are of local origin. The garden will also be used as a respite area by residents and workers of the home.
Once in an advanced stage, we would be able to offer better services for the benefit of society and environment.
Unfortunately, our funds are very limited, and with the new project we have in hand, the budget is even tighter. We are working hard to get funds towards this project. We have managed to get a few but it is still far from the final target we are aiming for. To make ends meet, we are doing most of the work ourselves with the help of volunteers to keep expenses low. Due to this limitation, the ongoing work is slower than what we would have wished for. In conjunction to setting up of the new nursery and the whole propagation and tree planting process, we have the other tasks related to the normal running of G10T going on in parallel. Most of this work is seasonal, thus it has to be done in its right time, and can’t be postponed. This makes our life more interesting as we need to find ways and means on how to best juggle all the tasks.
If we had to win this award, apart from the honour, the money would be of great help to speed up the project and to reap benefits faster. The work done will surely benefit the wider community.
Another initiative we could take up is a tree planting project involving irregular migrants. Malta has lately seen a surge in arrival of migrants coming from Africa with the hope of a better life. There is a particular migrant centre in the south of Malta, which has a stretch of land close by which could be used for an afforestation project. The idea is to team up with this centre to create a number of tree planting events there and involve the migrants in upkeep of the site. This would involve caring for the saplings and watering for at least the first 2 years. This project would help motivate the residents and provide an added purpose during their free time. It would give them some responsibility and they would also be giving their contributions to society. This project would also help upgrade the site from its current state and provide a recreational area for migrants.
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