“Mountains are barren…
Remove the garbage,
Sow a seed,
Mend the fences.
Don’t just walk past by it!”
“Trees that I have planted exceeds one million now. Some grew so big and strong so much so that I can even sit on their branches. It gives me absolute happiness. I wish everyone to taste that happiness. If everyone plants one tree every year everywhere will go green. I cannot get on with it by myself alone. I cannot even cover Kayseri by myself alone. I dedicated my whole life to it. This passion of mine will last a lifetime until the day I die.”
He is a retired technician born in 1950, in Sivas’ Şarkışla. He has been working to let the seeds find their way to the soil. He knows that a seed means a tree and a tree is a great source of goodness.
Mustafa Göçer, who is a nature lover, made planting trees a lifestyle and doing that in vacant fields, by roadsides, memorial forests over the past 40 years. The retired technician voluntarily organizes group trips for trekking the nature with an agenda to encourage participants planting trees and has no intention to stop his efforts before the dies. He is living in Kayseri. He has so far planted over a million trees in various towns letting the seeds find their way into the Mother Nature. Göçer has planted five trees in the courtyard of Süleymaniye Mosque too. “I would like to turn all Turkey green. I will plant the trees I picked up from a town until I reach the next town. So I will keep doing that while traveling across the country. Either Ministry of Forestry is going to subsidize my initiative or I will find a sponsor” he explains.
A Family Legacy Love of Nature
Mustafa Göçer does not forget about animals either as he leaves bread on the tree branches while walking around the valleys. “Animals often cannot find food. So when I go off to distant valleys to plant trees I leave bread on the tree branches for them. Sometimes I spend the night out in the nature. They ask me if I ever get afraid. Why should I get afraid? I have my tree-children that grew up tall and strong there, he answers.
Mustafa Göçer tells the story of how this preoccupation became a lifelong passion. “When I was a child we were living in a place called Kumyeri in Sivas. My dad worked as a bailiff. He loved gardening and tending to plants. We had beautiful trees and roses in our garden. He is the one who got me into it. Because we were hardly making the ends meet my aunt who was living in town would make cheese and I would go pick it up. I would walk 13 km to her house and plant trees alog my way; willow and cypress trees. That is how love of nature took root in me.”
Mustafa Göçer, who started planting trees as a ten-year-old boy with his dad in 1960, had to take care of his siblings when his parents died soon. After finishing high school he got admitted to Aegean University Faculty of Fine Arts but he had to quit college before he could even start classes due to family commitments. He returned to Şarkışla and started working as a blacksmith apprentice. He also worked in the farms to provide a living for his siblings
After his brother graduated from military academy he was appointed for duty in Bolu. So all siblings moved in together with him. Meanwhile Mustafa Göçer started working in the Forest management When his elder brother got married they shared the care of their siblings. He worked in Kayseri for many long years to send his siblings to school and finally marry them off… Having had a hard life he dedicated himself to nature. He reminisces the things he learnt from his father when he was alive. “We planted around three thousand tree around Kumyeri, our neighbourhood. When he has retired next year we could not take care of the young trees. Once we walked there with mum we saw a shepherd leading his bullocks there. When we cried out “where are you doing” he shooed us away. We returned home crying with mum. All that effort was gone out of the window. When all those young trees died I promised myself to keep planting young trees. I was around 10-12 years old at that time. That is how I grew fond of trees. I owe my love for nature to my late father.”
Planting Trees is Akin to Worshipping God
An ambitious nature lover, Mustafa Göçer improves himself by self study and research:
“I came to know that deforestation is one of the primary causes of the pollution, problems with ozone layer, and global warming. 40% of the world’s forests are destroyed by human beings.
We have already begun ruining next generation’s right to live in a normal world. It infringes their rights. Therefore I see it as a kind of worshipping God. It is not just mine but everyone’s duty. At this rate, not long but in 40 years’ time the human population will suffer an overall lack of water, food and face death. The gravity of the situation grows bigger everyday.
I engage with lots of activities. Since 1982 I organize group trips for trekking in the nature, which involves planting, trees at the end. I give physical training to the staff at various institutions for free provided that they buy trees to plant. On top of that I have initiated school trips for trekking in nature. If we can raise awareness in the next generation they would not make the mistakes we made and compensate the past faults” he explains with so much passion and love for trees.
Meanwhile Mustafa Göçer teaches courses on nature at four schools in Kayseri. He takes his students out to the nature and they plant trees together. Despite his zealous efforts Kayseri is still not green nature lover, Mustafa Göçer laments. “Mountains are barren. A single Mustafa Göçer is not enough for this goal. There are other people who are putting in efforts. But it is not enough. Trekking in nature does not mean love for nature. If you go out to the nature you should as well contribute to her.
Remove the rubbish,
Plant a seed,
Mend the fences.
Don’t just walk past by!”
He argues that there is no virtue in traveling and discovering beautiful places of Turkey. The virtue lies in making the mountains that one drives past by greener. Hence he advocates eco-trekking to the trekking groups. He also goes trekking all by himself if there is no one to join him. He goes to memorial forests and uproots dried up trees, mends thier fences, plants new seeds.
Mustafa Göçer wishes that humans do not take the nature for granted and keep living ignorant.
In the early stages of his planting efforts when Göçer saw the trees that did not take root he realized that something was not quite right. Then he started comparing his planting method in the trees that took root and those that did not. So he figured out which seed is compatible with which soil by trial and error. Well verse in flora and fauna of central Anatolia and of Kayseri in particular, Göçer is eager to share his practical knowledge of trees that grow in that region “Growing trees has a lot to do with altitude. The average altitute in central Anatolia is 1.200 metres which is suitable for growing pinus nigra, cedar, acorn, walnut, and almond. The altitude a little higher than that is suitable for scoth pine. Indeed planting seeds is pretty easy. You should plant the seed at deep as its diameter. After digging the soil with your hands a bit place the seed and press it with the soil. If you plant the seed too deep into the soil the seed is unable to pop up from the soil and goes rotten” he explains.
“I pick up seeds from graveyards…”
Mustafa Göçer plants a thousand seeds in his every trekking in the nature. He tells that collecting seeds got difficult as his efforts grew bigger thus he sought help from Department of Forestry. “I went to the graveyards to pick up seeds. Acorn trees grow atop family graveyards and seeds keep falling off from those trees. So in each family graveyard there is acorn seedling of 200-300. The graveyard management uproots them because these trees harm the graves. So I went up to them and asked if I can tag along when they go to uproot the trees off the graveyards. “Do not just throw them away, let me come with you and do the job together. I will later plant them elsewhere,” I told them. I return with 3.000 seedlings in my every trip the forestry department teams. Afterwards I with my students plant them on the mountains” he says.
Once being convinced that it is a man’s duty to the earth Mustafa Göçer took planting trees even more seriously. He has around 60.000 students Kayseri. He used to go on trekking to the nature by himself to plant trees since 1967. However nature lovers in trekking groups he had initiated since 1982 accompany him now. Mustafa Göçer who has been working in Kayseri for 35 years now is a widely loved and respected public figure for his efforts to save the nature.
He is particularly keen on teaching the love of nature to kindergarten children. He takes them to trips where they plant trees together so that they can be bonded with nature at a young age. The children mark their trees. Some paints its branch, some pins a bone or tie a rope. When asked about the name of their trees, most say that they named it after their mothers. Later on they visit to check on their trees with their mothers and water their growing trees together.
Mustafa Göçer would like to pass down his love and passion for nature especially to children and young generation. He believes that awareness of the beauty of the planet God has blessed us with should start from young age. Inded love for nature starts with loving all the blessings we have.
Retired technician would like to continue this movement of kindness until the day he dies. He bears in mind the rights of both the current and future generations when he is planting trees whereever he goes in an effort to make Turkey greener.
“Our Prophet has advised us to plant a tree even on the doomsday. It is more than a hobby, a good deed. While it gives spiritual gratification you also get to have your imprint in the nature. It is a man’s duty to each other…”