The end of the International Year of the Forest was marked at Arboretum in Marbella on 29th December 2011 with a tree planting by the area’s oldest woman, Antonia Aranda Fernandez. 98 year old Antonia planted her favourite tree, the almond, surrounded by friends and family and recounted stories from her long and varied life.
Antonia has 5 children, 11 grandchildren, 15 great-grandsons and one great-granddaughter. Born on 3rd February 1913, the third of 14 children in a farming family, Antonia has had a hard but rewarding life living in close contact with the land and in her own words “fighting like a lioness” to provide for her family. From the age of 12 she worked in the fields and then from 14 carried sacks of flour in return for bread and oil, becoming a cleaner in later life.
Her memories of Marbella are of a very different place than we see today, with the whole area covered in trees and full of bird song. She’s sad to see how few trees are now left and how little contact younger generations are having with the countryside. “My great-grandchildren don’t have a relationship with the earth and that’s not good. Having a connection with nature is important, you have to understand it and know what it can give us. To us as children trees were everything, our playground and our larder. The disrespect that the younger generations show for nature is harmful for everyone and for the future.”
When Antonia was told that Arboretum is creating a forest made for and by the people with nearly 18,000 trees native to the area she was impressed. She said “Wow, that’s a lot of trees! But I like the idea and I’d like to take part. I can’t dig many holes any more but I can still take care of the trees and plants.”
She planted her favourite tree, the almond, with the help of her family and friends and was presented with an olive wood sculpture of a turtle and an acorn to represent longevity, wisdom, strength and nobility. This tree planting event marked the end of the International Year of the Forest and was a fitting tribute to Marbella’s oldest woman and a symbol of the importance of nature for our futures.
2012 will be an important year for Arboretum as they work to create a people’s forest in Marbella and they are looking for people young and old to take part. There are many ways to get involved, by either donating 5€ per month, becoming a volunteer, or getting your hands dirty and enjoying the countryside at one of their “lend a hand events” the second Saturday of each month.
Arboretum Marbella is a charity which is creating a people’s forest in Marbella made up of native species to the region of Malaga including trees, shrubs, grasses and vines. This forest is being planted using the concept of permaculture and will be sustainable and organic. It will also play an important role in protecting some of the native species of the region which are being endangered such as the Andalusian Cork Oak. As well as creating a beautiful public park on deserted scrub land, an important part of the project is to educate people on the environment, trees and sustainable land management.
Arboretum has a number of goals:
1. To create a green space in Marbella which will benefit the environment, promote citizenship and boost tourism.
2. To educate the local population about the environment through workshops, classes and regular open days where kids and adults can get involved whilst learning all about trees, the environment and sustainable land management.
3. Preserve local species with over 130 native species planted in this area
4. Generate green jobs by training the unemployed to become skilled in this area
5. Add another dimension to the tourist offering of Marbella, promoting eco tourism.
6. Educate the community about organic food and enjoying seasonal, native produce
This post is also available in: Spanish