Around 15 volunteers joined us in our tree planting event in Chinai, a municipality located on Jabal er Rouss just off the main pass from Beirut to Chtoura in the Beqaa. The planting site is an area that is now being preserved as a municipal reserve at the hilltop overlooking the village of Bhamdoun and down into the Metn/Beirut. The municipality received seedlings the year before for planting in the same site, an area with extremely compact and rocky soils.
Fortunately for our crew, the municipality took the initiated to have over 200 holes dug mechanically. Hence, all our volunteers had to do was to simply remove some of the loose soil and plant the seedlings. Given the proximity of the village to Beirut, we arrived there at approximately 8:15, were introduced to the local authorities and municipal council members (who also joined us in the planting), assembled the tools (namely spades), and got to work. There were a handful of local residents that joined us, including a member of the Ministry of Interiors and Municipalities who showed his willingness to assist us in our program on an administrative level.
The most unsettling experience that we shared collectively was upon reaching the site on the seha (hilltop). Along the dirt road leading there were lined over a dozen cars, evenly spaced out, with hunters waiting for the first bird that flew by. I recall from previous trips to the site noticing hundreds of shotgun shells littering the road at the entrance of the site, but this was the first time I saw hunters. The majority appeared to be from nearby villages and this particular area seemed ideal for hunting given that one has a clear view of the horizon from just about every direction. Our main concern was for the safety of the volunteers that was clearly felt by our municipal partners who reminded the hunters to steer clear of the site and move as far away as possible from it (albeit these instructions had to be given about half a dozen times).
On the other hand, we had volunteers from the village join us in the planting that were initially coming out to hunt birds. When they noticed us gathering to plant trees, their agenda changed and they happily joined us. Altogether we were over 20 participants and we accomplished planting all 200 seedlings Khaled brought with him.
Amongst the species planted were Montpellier maples (Acer monspessulanum L. ssp. microphyllum), Amara wild almonds (Prunus dulcis ssp. amara), and a handful of Lebanese cedars. Volunteers paired up and planted on both sides of the dirt road circling around the hilltop. The municipality ordered a water truck and had workers haul buckets to where seedlings were planted that were easily identified by the stones mulched around them.
Within 3 hours all 200 seedlings were planted. The only time I can recall witnessing the participants taking a break was during lunchtime over lahme b3jeen and sodas. It was truly one of the easiest planting trips by far and mostly due to the fact that the municipality dug holes with a backhoe the days leading up to our arrival. Thank you AUB volunteers and the municipality of Chinai!