1. Day, 17.08.2016 – Arrival
The days you spent travelling are always a little weird. You jump from one world into another and in between lies this moment that is exhausting, dreary and kind of bizarre. I have discovered a scurrility at the airport of Paris Charles de Gaulle: A wall full with plants and a colourful picture made of plants.
When the plane takes off, we have a clear view and are able to see the Eiffel Tower, the Garden of Tuilerie and the Louvre. We cross over the Alps, fly along the cost of Italy, leave the Mediterranean Sea behind us and start to cross over Africa. For hours there is only endless sand below us.
Where are the trees?
I press my nose against the window and start dreaming. A few daring people among the group of experts of agroforestry claim that they could cover the Sahara with greenery with the help of dynamic agroforestry. It is the method that Naturefund wants to introduce in its project in Madagascar and the reason of my journey. My thoughts wander over the yellow sand and the red mountains. From time to time you can see round plantcircles below us in the desert which are just green due to watering. However, after a few year the land is too oversalted and the circles have to be given up. Where are the trees, I ask myself?
When we finally fly over a big artificial lake, the Nasser lake, where the dam of Assuan dams the river Nile, I shake my head: Just water and sand. Not one tree, not one solitary green piece of land. What a waste! In this heat, enormous amounts of water have to evaporate every day. Yes, one could start here, I am thinking, probably it would even be relatively easy to create a green, rich and fertile paradise at the edge of the Nasser lake.
Time to dream
Since 2011 Naturefund tests and supports the method of dynamic agroforestry, short DAF. I am not an expert, but by now I have seen so much, have received so many positive responses from our projects and the principles are so logical that I have turned into a passionate advocate … and into a dreamer.
These days of travelling have their good sides, though, because in this desolation and emptiness, in this long period of inactivity, your thoughts start to wander freely again. More than twenty years ago I visited Burundi and Ruanda, saw the bare hills and dreamed of growing trees in this bleak landscape. And how life goes, I presented DAF at an international conference for sustainable cultivation in 2015. An agent of the Ministry of Environment of Ruanda came up to me afterwards. DAF could be a posibility to link the isolated nature reserves in the densely populated Ruanda.
Or the dream of the forest in the Andes … About four and a half years ago, Noemi Stadler-Kaulich and I dreamed together about regrowing trees in the bleak cordillera in the valley of Cochabamba in Bolivia. With unbridled enthusiasm we designed our pictures of the green mountain slopes and wanted to use DAF already at that time. For the dispassionately observer it appeared as something impossible. However, since then we have realized projects in four regiones of the eastern cordilleras of the Andes with dynamic agroforestry and the results are so good that people approach us from different sides. Currently we are in contact with local departments and the Bolivian department of national parks to spread the method.
And now the dam of Assuan ;-). But, these days it is just a dream.