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Putting down roots: French departments plant tree for each child born

The project helps cool urban areas during heatwaves and bonds families to the locality

Bergerac in Dordogne runs 'Une naissance, un arbre' (One birth, one tree) programme Pic: EBASCOL / Shutterstock

A number of towns and departments are now giving a tree to families each time a child is born.

Officials in Dordogne recently distributed 1,364 trees to delighted new parents of children born last year. 

The department spends roughly 40,000€ on the Une naissance, un arbre (One birth, one tree) programme, now in its fourth year.

In Seine-Saint-Denis, near Paris, the tree planting initiative is part of a wider effort to plant 30,000 trees by 2030 along streets, in parks and in school playgrounds.

Since its launch, around 5,000 trees have been offered to families, says Belaïde Bedreddine, vice-president of the department in charge of urban ecology.

‘Idea is to create link between tree and child’

“The department is often seen as a place that people simply pass through – they come, then they leave. 

“The idea is to create a link between the child and the tree, and for families to feel like they are putting down roots.”

Families are given a sapling to grow in their garden if they have one, or else they can sponsor a tree and help to plant it in a public space.

They can pick from a number of species, many of which naturally grow in the department, including oak, beech, hazel and plum trees.

Other trees from more southern parts of France were also chosen as they are more likely to resist climate change and heatwaves.

Read more: My tips for successfully growing lemons in France

Ecology is at the heart of the project

“In Seine-Saint-Denis, during the first serious heatwave in 2003, lots of elderly people died,” Mr Bedreddine said. 

“The department is too concrete, with not enough tree canopies.

“They cover just 16% of our towns, compared to the national average of over 20%. 

Read more: How will weather be in my French town in 2050? New tool helps find out

“When we plant trees, temperatures fall by three or four degrees, and a difference of up to 10 degrees can be felt due to the shade provided.”

Similar programmes exist or have existed in Pays de la Loire, Alsace and Poitiers, among others.

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