Goitom Haile is an activist for nature and pioneer of green clubs. He takes his greening activities very seriously and encourages others to follow suit. Over the years, Goitom has worked with people of all ages and from all walks of life planting trees, terracing, and other conservation-related activities. So far, under his watch, over 100,000 trees have been planted in Asmara and its surrounding regions.
- Thank you for making time, Goitom. Could you tell us a little about how it all started?
Well, my passion for the environment and trees began when I was very young. I have deep respect for nature and my natural surroundings. Quite simply, I love plants. Wherever I go, I try to do something that can help the environment. I want to protect it and conserve it for future generations.
The attachment with nature is an innate feeling that most people have. However, they don’t pay much attention to it. Being an environmental activist has helped me feel accomplished. Therefore, I feel like my afforestation activities define me the most.
- Tell us a bit about your activities and the beginnings of your achievements.
In 1997, I was assigned as a teacher in Serejeka junior school. It was there that I began my first green club. I established the club with students and together we worked on greening their athletic field. We planted trees in the school yard and maintained them. That is how it all started.
After that, my aim was to establish a green club wherever I went. In 2007, I met Ms. Almaz Habtemariam, the Assistant Director of the PTA in the Ministry of Education. She was impressed by my initiatives and she agreed to help me expand my activities in an effective way. Together we worked on drafting a plan to raise public awareness through the links that schools have with parents. It was very important for us to include students and their families in the project.
The greening activities conducted in the school in Itaro had positive results. We covered a total of 5 hectares in and around the school. Generally speaking, these were the beginnings of my greening endeavors. It was very fruitful and encouraging. At that time alone some 55,000 seedlings were planted in several schools of the Central Region.
- What came afterwards? Your activities also extended to institutions of higher institutions, right? And beyond that you have also conducted greening campaigns that involved athletes, artists, and other individuals?
In EIT, our initiative was joined by about 5,000 college students. They strongly believed in the cause and contributed to greening a large area of semi-arid land. Moreover, speaking to government offices, I was able to organize greening activities to take place on different occasions. For example, in 2011, in collaboration with the Culture and Sports Federation, we organized a day for planting trees. The day was highlighted by the participation of renowned cyclists. The motto of the day was “For nature, beyond pedaling.” Professionals and amateur cyclists gathered in Bahti Meskerem, the large public square, and rode together to the area where we would plant tree. We worked for the whole day. In fact, some people even came back in the following days to plant more seedlings and care for the young trees.
Involving athletes, artists, and other distinguished individuals helps to gain publicity and spread our important message. It also serves to encourage others to participate. When people see artists or athletes get involved in environmental and greening activities, they become motivated and feel an urge to also get involved.
- Tell me about your project “Green Sahara”. It sure seems ambitious.
It certainly is ambitious. But I believe in it and think that in the long run it is possible. For example, I have planted almost 100,000 seedlings so far. These plants are vital to the nature and the environment. If possible, I plan to do even more in the future. Moreover, if more countries, organizations, or individuals follow suit, we may be able to effectively combat desertification and develop more green lands in the arid areas of Africa.
- Your activities have been recognized widely. Could you tell us a bit about that?
Recognition is positive. Many people have provided great assistance. I am not rich or anything. Sometimes I need help and, in that case, the volunteers are countless. They see the outcome of my passion. In terms of government offices, they have been very helpful and provided a considerable amount of encouragement. The Ministry of Agriculture provides seedlings and while the Ministry of Education assists me with engaging students and their families. The Ministry of Education also has been a great asset in raising awareness within schools.
- What are your aims in terms of personal growth?
I have no monetary interest or anything of the sort. What I really would love to do is expand my knowledge and understanding of specific environmentally-related issues so that I can be better at what I do. I would like to learn more and improve my performance. So far, I have been working based on passion, dedication, and personal experience. However, this is a broad issue that requires one to have extensive knowledge.
- Do you have any final messages, Mr. Goitom?
I want to thank all the individuals and institutions that have supported my cause and assisted me over the years. My achievements are a reflection of the significant support and backing I have received from others. Additionally, we should all remember that afforestation and the safeguarding of nature are not things that can be left to a few people. Earth is a shared space and we should all do our part.
- Thank you and best of luck!