Yes We Plant – an ambitious project funded by the Walloon government – was launched last April to protect biodiversity and make the region more resistant to climate changes.
Already, pledges for over 1000km of hedges and 500,000 trees have been made with 300km of hedgerows already planted, Environment Minister Céline Tellier announced in a press release on Tuesday.
The scheme, which aims to plant 4000km of hedges and/or 1 million trees in Wallonia before the end of 2024, boosted commitments from local actors with the creation of a ledger where commitments can be viewed. “In one weekend, farmers and the public announced their intention to plant a further 257km of hedges,” the minister said.
The Walloon government offers practical support to all who wish to participate in the project, as well as subsidies on the saplings themselves. Currently, citizens’ collectives, environmental organisations, and individuals have pledged to plant over 800km of hedgerows and 339,000 trees.
Already 333km of hedgerows and 189,030 trees have been planted. Project organisers label these green corridors ‘motorways for birds and insects’ and emphasise the multiplicity of benefits these microcosms will bring to the environment.
Indeed, these smaller ecosystems are exceptionally biodiverse and, it is hoped, will be refuge for much of Belgium’s 7725 indigenous species of flora and fauna, quite apart from the role they will play in helping Wallonia cut greenhouse gas emissions by 55% of current levels by 2030.
“The planting season has yet to begin so these brilliant figures confirm the general commitment to the project and the public desire to combat the biodiversity crisis following the recent floods in Wallonia,” Tellier added.
“Extreme weather could become a more regular occurrence which is why we have to adapt. Projects such as these are essential in making our environment more resilient.”
The Yes We Plant project has a budget of over €10 million and seeks specifically to engage the agriculture industry, although the wider engagement is also encouraging. Responding to some concerns already raised by farmers, Tuesday’s press release states that “The Public Water Management Agency (SPGE) has been asked to finance planting schemes on farmland that neighbours waterways.”
Furthermore, Tellier explains that government support for the maintenance of hedgerows and plants will also be provided, with the concomitant advantage that this will create 25% more jobs in the sector.