Saudi government signs up to 100m tree-planting scheme to tackle desertification

  • Al-Abdulqader said the center was keen to work with partners in the government sector to plant trees

RIYADH: The Saudi government has committed to an ambitious scheme aimed at planting 100 million trees in the Kingdom to help tackle desertification.

As part of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed between the Saudi Ministry of Industry and Mineral Resources and the National Center for the Development of Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification, the initiative will see the fast-tracking of the planting of 500,000 trees with renewable resources.

The two bodies will also cooperate on developing a long-term strategic plan to address the issue.

The MoU was inked in the presence of deputy minister for mining affairs, Khalid Al-Mudaifer, the ministry’s undersecretary for mining control, Ahmed Faqih, and center CEO, Dr. Khaled Al-Abdulqader.

Faqih said the agreement formed part of a framework of joint cooperation programs with a number of government agencies related to the environment, adding that the mining industry had invested in a range of initiatives and projects to ensure sustainable development.

He noted the common goals of both parties in relation to the MoU, and in collaborating on afforestation, the development, preservation, and sustainability of vegetation, restoring natural vegetation cover, combating desertification, and raising environmental awareness among all sections of society.

The work would also contribute to increasing the efficiency of optimal and sustainable utilization of renewable natural and water resources, and contribute toward achieving Vision 2030 targets, Faqih said.

Al-Abdulqader said the center was keen to work with partners in the government sector to plant trees and encourage investors in the mining industry to participate in afforestation campaigns and associated national projects.

Yamama Cement Co., one of the firms to obtain a mining license, recently signed a deal to plant 300,000 trees.

Meanwhile, the accelerated short-term cooperation track of the MoU will see the planting of 500,000 native trees using renewable water sources while rehabilitating and developing natural vegetation cover and supporting biodiversity.

The ministry would also be contributing to the activities of the annual Environment Week through environmental awareness initiatives.

Under the terms of the MoU’s long-term strategic cooperation agreement, ministry and center officials will set up a joint team to conduct studies at sites in the Kingdom targeted for afforestation to determine renewable water sources, the number of trees to be planted, costings, and timelines for achieving the scheme’s goals.

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.