This series of posts features the winners of grants from the ‘UWC Atlantic College – Go Make A Difference’ initiative sponsored by Jill Longson and Colin Habgood. UWC AC GoMAD has reached it’s 10th Aniversary of Grants. Read other GoMAD 2011 projects here. Julius Bleinroth and Sajjan Kakri’s 1 Tourist = 1 Tree project recieved a £1,000 grant under the UWC AC GoMAD 2011 initiative.
Sajjan Kakri (Nepal, UWC AC 2009-11) and Julius Bleinroth (Germany, UWC AC 2009-11)
I’m not sure what I expected that early morning in the summer of 2010, faced with the constant blast of cold wind ascending from the top of the world. There was definitely an air of difference when, over a cup of tea, I found myself chatting with a tourist from the UK who was visiting the Mount Everest region for a third time and who hoped to continue coming back. He was involved in helping to maintain the “Samuhik Ban” (community forest in Nepalese) of Namche Bazaar along with a few travel agencies. He carried a deep faith in Nepal’s progress in the past, he was particularly pleased with the increasing number of tourists in Namche Bazaar. However, he emphasized that there was a caveat; as the local economy benefited from the increasing number of visiting tourists every year, continued deforestation was spreading rapidly in the Sagarmatha National Park, the world’s highest national park, causing various problems from extinction of animal habits to the systematic destruction of the beautiful landscape.
At the time, I did not give pay any attention to his last point, but one year on, I realized the difference that we can bring to that small community and the ‘1 Tourist = 1 Tree’ project was born. This project will be conducted under our newly created NGO called “Prorsum”, the latin word meaning ‘forward’.
The project is very simple, concise and long lasting.
Initially, we would cooperate with a tourist agency and around 10 hotels in Namche Bazaar that are heavily involved in the tourist business. The fundamental idea is to sell a tree to each tourist for around 10 pounds each that he could then take and plant in a designated area of the Sagarmatha National Park (Mt. Everest region, Nepal).
We would provide the trees and the tools to plant it, the advertising/marketing, cameras and certificates. Every tree would then be engraved with the tourist’s name and number.
Each tourist will then receive a certificate proving that he had planted and adopted a tree in this area.
Afterwards, we will send them a picture of their tree every six months.
The key here is that through this connection with the tree, the tourist has a high likelihood of returning to visit again, thus benefiting the local economy in the long run. We believe that there will be an emotional attachment to the area and to the particular tree, at least on a subconscious level. We are not just asking the tourist to donate money to plant a tree, but rather actively buy the tree, plant the tree and then know for themselves that the money was used effectively.
As the tree grows bigger and bigger, the tourist who planted that tree has a high likelihood of coming back to the same place. In fact, given the love, affection, beauty and hospitality of the locals that the tourist gained on their first visit, plantation of a tree would help add one more extra appealing factor for that tourist to come back.
Although we are planting trees in a national park, the Village Development committee has already given us permission to plant the trees (Oak, Pine, Bamboo).
The profits from selling and planting the trees will go towards the Buddhist monastery “Debuche Monastry”, a two day walk away from Namche. Nevertheless, the tourist who planted a tree would at least feel good with the hope of making small change in the community.
In the event that this pilot project is successful, we would encourage the tourist agency, one of our partners, to continue this project in cooperation with the hotel owners of Namche and then later possibly replicate it elsewhere.
We believe that even the smallest good act is an act that will do good.
“Pick up that piece of garbage, turn off that light, fix that leaky sink, refuse that plastic bag, leave your car in the garage, go for a walk, plant a tree.”