When it comes to love for nature, Ali and Kazım Özkan prove age is no obstacle.
81-year-old Ali and his brother 76-year-old Kazım are dubbed “Tree Grandfathers” by locals in a rural neighborhood in Çifteler, a district of the central Turkish province of Eskişehir. They earned this nickname by planting more than 1,000 saplings in the past decade around their neighborhood.
The Osmaniye neighborhood is greener thanks to their efforts. The Özkan brothers, despite their advanced age, never neglect taking care of the trees they have planted. At a time of raging forest fires, tree planting bears importance for the brothers. “I cried when I saw trees burning,” Ali Özkan says, referring to the wide-spread fires in Antalya’s Manavgat and other towns. “Thousands of acres were burned. It is such a pity,” he says.
The brothers set out to make their arid neighborhood greener when they found empty spaces suitable for planting some ten years ago. Soon their drive expanded to roadsides, around a cemetery, empty plots and wherever they could find. Now, pine and acacia trees cover once deserted areas. Every day, they visit their budding forests, tending to the saplings old and new.
“I trim the grass between them against possible fires. I clean their perimeter. It takes all my day. I do it out of my love for trees. Trees are everything for me. The only thing I ask from people for planting the trees is to remember me in their prayers when they find shade under a tree I planted. I will care for these trees as long as I can be able to do so,” he told Demirören News Agency (DHA) on Monday. Their planting drive helped the neighborhood to have more precipitation.
Kazım Özkan says their love for trees was something their father, who worked at a sapling production facility, instilled in them. “I used to accompany him to work and started planting trees since then. Today, we have more trees here in our neighborhood. I planted 250 trees on the streets near my house. I can plant more trees, but I can’t do much without someone helping me. The trees have changed the weather here. We have more rainfall than other places in Çifteler,” he says.
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