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Hi-ho, Hi-ho…

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the prospect of replanting trees in the hills of St. Andrew; today was planting day at Mount Prospect. A group of some 50 people, IADB staff, family, friends and associated sponsors, travelled by bus to the hillside community, along with staff from the Forestry Department. The start was not too early, and in somewhat typical style for Jamaica, the group set off ‘fashionably late’. Fortunately, with the site preparation done already, the late start was no major issue. On arrival, we had a little drama when one of the Coaster buses came to a dead-end and then was unable to back out as its wheels spun in the mud. Scenes from a thriller film followed, as people put planks under wheels to stop them from slipping and sliding, but to no avail. A truck had to come and help haul out the bus. Drama over, Forestry Department staff gathered everyone together to show us the site and give some preliminary instructions about how to plant. The plan had been to fill holes with about 950 trees; holes had been dug and plants set aside them, together with some dying grasses that would provide mulch covering. Some delay in preparations meant that only about 700 trees could be planted by the IADB group, and contractors would finish off the work later in the day.

Breakfast sandwiches and some juice were welcome before the digging started.

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Forestry Department staff: loving her work. Some really energetic young people.

People were grouped in teams and went off in search of the placements marked by sticks with different coloured ribbons for each group.

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Tree seedling, ready for its new home.

Someone thought that making it competitive would somehow make for more interest, I guess: not sure if that was pandering to type-A personalities, or whatever. Anyway, I got on digging with my hands and trying to fill my tree seedlings into their holes and moving down the hillside.

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A retired economist using both hands to settle his plant on the hillside

It was tricky work. The placement of dried grasses meant that traction was less and the risk of sliding greater. I ski, so it was not too hard for me to figure out what to do as I slid down the hillside a few times–dig in my feet. But, at least once, that was not enough and I had to grab onto a dead tree root; once, I grabbed but it was a piece of rusted barbed wire that my hand felt for.

Yikes! We’d each been given a stick of young bamboo to help dig but also to help manage on the hill.

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Essential services

The sun was up, but under the tree canopy it was not beating on us too hard. My wife and young daughter were on another team and I guess worked feverishly. I built up a good sweat and after about 90 minutes had finished all the trees in the section I had been managing.

I later found out that, despite what one of the Forestry Department staff had said about no more to plant, there was a stretch of about 100 trees that I could have helped with. Well, the sweat of others was as good as mine. All done.

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Island Grill doing its part for environmentalism

We then washed up at the portable washroom and porta-potty breaks were taken. Oranges had been peeled and ice and water were ready to help slake our thirst. We then waited for lunch.

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‘Service’ team working, working, working

My wife’s driver had been sent off to a designated Island Grill store near Stony Hill to get our pre-ordered lunch: jerk and barbecued chicken, rice and peas, callaloo rice, festival, steamed vegetables and salad. Nuff! Everyone ate well, including Forestry Department staff, who had appetites like rugby players–they deserved to savour every mouthful.

Some dogs came by to pay their respects, and wait to see what scraps were thrown their way.

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Reuse, recycle, remove

My daughter got into a dominoes game. Where did she learn to play? People ate heartily, and then made sure to sort their garbage into recyclable sets–plastics, styrofoam boxes, paper, glass, trash, etc. We all thought about protecting the environment. My wife told her troops that no more styrofoam boxes for such events.

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Official signage

I don’t know if she heard my idea that we go back to old-style Jamaica with ‘shut pans’. Lunch done, there was a quiz to determine which team had won. The idea had been to count how many trees each had planted but that got messed up. The quiz was a bit chaotic, and in the end the winners were in dispute as they did not convince a very critical audience that they had really described the planting process well.

This will be taken to some international court of arbitration, or a rum bar. Tired and weary, we set off home. I need a nap, but am writing this first 🙂 Enjoy the pictures.

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