Growing a forest in the desert

A trucker is adding colour to the arid desert environment along the B2 route.

27 May 2019 | Local News

Mogamat Salie Saban; Trucker; “Three of my trucking buddies joined the effort and are also watering the growing trees at regular intervals.”

Walvis Bay - Otis Finck

There is much more to truckers than meets the eye.

Mogamat Salie Saban became a long distance trucker in 1988 and has been globetrotting ever since. He travelled over 3.3 million kilometres to date.

“I find what I do very adventurous and rewarding. Truckers are the backbone of the economy, and trucking provides me with an opportunity to visit the whole country and meet new people. I occasionally venture across our borders into other SADC countries.”

He said the idea to create a forest in the arid and beautiful Namib desert came to him about two months ago while he was watching a National Geographic programme on television.

“The programme detailed the story of a person who planted a tree a day over the past 40 years in India. This captured my attention and had me thinking to replicate the idea in Namibia.”

Since 1979, Jadav Payeng has been planting hundreds of trees on an Indian island (the largest river island in the world) threatened by erosion. In the film photographer Jitu Kalita reveals how Payeng turned an eroding desert into an oasis.

Saban started to collect mopani, camelthorn and acacia tree seeds.

“I identified a barren area close to the cross next to the B2 route between Usakos and Arandis, and planted the first seeds two months ago, on 16 March. I initially planted seven different trees in coffee tins and proceeded to Opuwo and Otapi.”

On the return voyage the following Monday he filled a 2 litre container with water and stopped to nourish the seeds.

“Ever since I’ve been stopping at regular intervals to check on the progress. I was overjoyed when I noticed during one of my stops that the soil had started to crack open, as this was a sign that the seeds have germinated.”

He took photos and decided to create awareness via social media about his initiative to grow a forest in Namibia.

“One of my best friends, Andrew Maasdorp, got wind of it. On a trip to Rehoboth he took along a 25 litre container with water and stopped at the site to water the growing trees.”

An Okahandja resident, Pieter Steenkamp, also heard of the move and donated five indigenous trees.

Saban planted these trees 3.3 km from the cross at the 2315 road marker. The number of planted trees now stands at 12.

“Three of my trucking buddies joined the effort and are also watering the growing trees at regular intervals whenever they pass by. They also travel with containers of water intended for the plants.”

Saban urged other Namibians to plant a tree a month.

“Tress have a multitude of benefits. They produce oxygen, and provide shelter and shade for humans and animals. By the way things are going, the location could become a popular resting place for road users.”

The response from fellow Namibians have been positive, with promises of more trees to be donated and more people showing interest to help water the already planted ones.

“My brother Shaheed is currently in conversation with the ministry of environment and tourism as well as mines and energy to possibly kick-start a sustained national tree planting campaign.”

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