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Despite snags, Ethiopia scales up massive tree-planting campaign



Braving a heavy downpour, hundreds of farmers spent a full day planting 20,000 acacia seedlings on a barren hillside outside the town of Buee in southern Ethiopia last year.

They were responding to a call last July from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who wanted his countrymen to plant 200 million trees in a single day, shattering the world record.

But while the farmers had “great expectations”, they say that nearly a year later — as Ethiopia gears up to celebrate World Environment Day on Friday — the results in Buee are a disappointment.

Rainfall immediately washed away more than one-third of the seedlings, and those that remain have struggled to grow out of hastily-dug holes filled with poor soil, said Ewnatu Kornen, a local environment official.

The farmers’ ordeal points to the potential pitfalls of mass-planting drives, which are central to Abiy’s “Green Legacy” campaign to promote ecotourism and transform Ethiopia into an environmentally-friendly economy.

Some 353 million seedlings — 153 million more than the initial goal — went into the ground nationwide during last year’s daylong mass-planting, according to official figures.

That’s a mere fraction of the four billion trees reportedly planted during the entire 2019 rainy season, which in Ethiopia runs from June to September.

Experts have emphasised that communities need to be invested in the process for the trees to thrive. PHOTO: AFP / Michael Tewelde

This year’s mass-planting has yet to be scheduled, but Abiy has declared Friday to be the launch of a push for five billion new trees to be planted this rainy season.

Outside Ethiopia, debate has swirled over the credibility of these eye-popping figures.

Yet local experts say there are more important questions: Has the planting been properly organised, and has there been enough follow-up to keep the trees alive?

“It’s not really about the numbers,” said Negash Teklu, head of a group of NGOs known as the Population Health & Environment Ethiopia Consortium.

“It’s about the effectiveness of the tree-planting scheme.”

A year-round approach

Last month Abiy announced that 84 percent of the four billion trees planted in 2019 had survived, crediting “extensive care-taking work” throughout the year.

No known independent studies have been conducted.

But Negash, who stressed that he broadly supports Abiy’s tree-planting agenda, suspects the survival rate is “highly exaggerated”.

“They were not considering how the community can be owners of the process. It was more random — ‘Oh, we will plant,'” Negash said of last year’s effort.

This was apparent in the capital, Addis Ababa, where some residents planted ornamental trees in wild forests outside the city centre, while others placed large trees in the medians of busy streets — where they had no chance of survival.

A thriving nursery in Buee in southern Ethiopia. PHOTO: AFP / Michael Tewelde

Going forward, officials must do a better job on seedling placement as well as explaining to citizens how afforestation will improve their lives, Negash said.

“It shouldn’t be a one-day campaign that happens every year. It should be an approach that really engages every citizen wherever they are” year-round, he added.

Winning communities over

Belaynesh Zewdie, a forestry expert with the UN Development Programme in Buee, has seen firsthand how projects that lack community buy-in can go awry.

In the late 1980s, under the communist Derg regime, she was involved in a scheme to plant one million acacia trees in the northern Amhara region.

But the scheme was top-down and “forced”, she recalls, and once the regime fell in 1991 angry residents cleared the trees to plough the land.

In recent years, Belaynesh has worked on a plantation and rehabilitation project in Buee that tries to deliver immediate and concrete benefits to those living nearby.

Part of the project’s protected area lies in a watershed, so she has constructed ponds that offer herders an alternative water source for their cattle.

She has also given residents eucalyptus seedlings to plant near their homes so they’re not tempted to cut down the project’s acacia and silky oak trees.

The project’s nursery, meanwhile, employs 17 local women who earn roughly $50 per month — a tidy sum for the region.

Despite imposing a coronavirus state of emergency, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is determined to plant five billion trees this year. PHOTO: AFP / Michael Tewelde

The result — hectares upon hectares of green, thriving trees — illustrates what can be achieved “if you discuss with the community, if the community accepts you,” Belaynesh said.

“Within this very short period of time, you can make a lot of difference,” she said. “I myself, I am impressed still every time I come here and I see it. It’s unbelievable.”

‘We don’t expect perfection

Despite imposing a state of emergency in April because of the coronavirus, Abiy remains determined to meet this year’s goal of planting five billion trees.

“Last year, we each committed to the national call and met our set target,” he said Wednesday on Twitter, urging Ethiopians to aim for a repeat performance “in a physically distanced manner”.

As the country looks ahead to a yet-to-be-scheduled general election, officials hope the initiative can help bridge ethnic and political divides and “unite our people”, said Sileshi Degefa, director of the Gullele Botanical Garden in Addis Ababa.

At the same time, they’re determined to improve on last year’s planting effort so more trees stay standing, Sileshi said.

“This year we’ve got enough lessons from the previous one, so I hope we will plant the right species in the right place,” he said.

He added, though, that “with such big programmes, we don’t expect perfection”.

Reporting and photos: AFP


Emirates undertakes largest known fleet retrofit project



Emirates has kick-started its plans to upgrade the entire interior cabins of 120 Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft – two of the largest commercial aircraft types in service today.

This ambitious project, representing a multi-billion dollar investment to ensure Emirates’ customers “fly better” for the coming years, officially commences in November and is managed entirely by Emirates’ Engineering team.

The target is to completely retrofit four Emirates aircraft from start to finish every month, continuously for over 2 years. Once the 67 earmarked A380s are refreshed and back in service, 53 777s will undergo their facelift. This will see nearly 4,000 brand new Premium Economy seats installed, 728 First Class suites refurbished and over 5,000 Business Class seats upgraded to a new style and design when the project is complete in April 2025.

In addition, carpets and stairs will be upgraded, and cabin interior panels refreshed with new tones and design motifs including the iconic ghaf trees which are native to the UAE.

No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking. Therefore Emirates Engineering teams have been planning and testing extensively, to establish and streamline processes, and identify and address any possible snags.

Trials began on an A380 in July, where experienced engineers literally took each cabin apart piece-by-piece and logged every step. From removing seats and panelling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out. Potential impediments to completing the installation of Emirates’ new Premium Economy Class or the retrofit of the remaining three cabins in just 16 days were flagged and documented for expert teams to review and address.

As part of the programme, new purpose-built workshops will be set up at Emirates Engineering to repaint, re-trim and re-upholster Business and Economy Class seats with new covers and cushioning. First Class suites will be carefully disassembled and sent to a specialised company to replace the leather, arm rests and other materials.

From the trials, Engineers discovered several unexpected solutions for instance: that existing food catering trucks could be easily repurposed to move parts destined for refurbishment from the aircraft to the workshop for their refresh, as these vehicles had doors of the right width and offer sufficient space.

Until the retrofit programme starts in earnest in November, a cross-disciplinary team has been assembled to regularly review the planning process, address any issues, and track updates on various aspects of the project such as procurement, staffing, and training.

Emirates’ new Premium Economy cabin class, which offers luxurious seats, more legroom, and a service to rival many airlines’ business offering, is currently available to Emirates customers travelling on popular A380 routes to London, Paris, Sydney. More customers will be able to experience the airline’s new Premium Economy cabins starting from year end, as the retrofit programme picks up momentum.

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Eleanor helps over 30 Maldives hotels elevate guest services



Eleanor has been named as one of the top 10 concierge software providers globally.

Based on accurate, timely reviews from real users, the HotelTechAwards rank the world’s best hotel software firms and products and it also provides hoteliers direct access to a growing network of hotel technology professionals and decision-makers.

“The guest experience is the cornerstone of our platform. Our unified resort wide solution, Eleanor, has been built for resorts off the back of many years working in the industry and addresses the needs of both Sales and Marketing departments and perhaps just as importantly, the operational requirements of the team on the ground at the property. The days of resorts working with disjointed systems are now behind us,” says Darren Caple, co-founder and CEO.

“We are on a mission to make the guest’s resort experience as easy and as frictionless as possible. Whereas traditional providers in the market have come at this purely from a guest communication perspective, our background in resorts has allowed us to combine this basic requirement with the streamlining of operational processes. The result is truly a resort wide solution that removes the need for countless different systems to be deployed.

Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. More than 30 properties in the Maldives use our Eleanor platform to help butlers and guest services elevate the guest experience. These properties are seeing an increase in incremental revenue by over 30% and operational efficiencies of 600+ man hours per month. We are also beginning to roll out the platform in some Caribbean properties!”

Eleanor is making waves in the hospitality industry by pushing the conventional limits of what a resort guest app can achieve through its unique ability to facilitate direct bookings for services and activities. The traditional ‘request to book’ feature that is common amongst almost all other hotel apps is removed by a power booking and operational platform sitting at the heart of the solution that covers all the resorts’ departments. It’s this module which realises enormous operational benefits and insights for the resort.

“We, at Eleanor, are humbled and honoured that our clients have provided such positive reviews. Feedback from our clients, partners and hoteliers are incredibly valuable for us and we will continue to improve our offering and services”, said Caple.

To celebrate this success, Eleanor is currently offering resorts a free one month trial, together with free setup and training and discounted monthly fees.

Eleanor, founded in 2018 and has its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Created from over 15 years of hands-on expertise, Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to its guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. Eleanor also helps to unlock operational efficiencies and boost incremental revenue and guest loyalty.

Hotel Tech Report’s Best Concierge Software 2022 Runner Up, reviewed as a preferred and reliable hotel software product by the global hotelier community.

For more information, visit

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Emirates’ recruiters scour the world for cabin crew talent with 30 city stops



Emirates, the world’s most global airline, is seeking talented people with a passion for service to join its award-winning cabin crew team.

As air travel returns with a vengeance, the airline’s recruiters are busy meeting and hiring candidates in 30 cities from now until the end of June. In this latest drive, Emirates’ teams will travel from Australia to the UK, and dozens of European cities in between, as well as Cairo, Algiers, Tunis and Bahrain.

Abdulaziz Al Ali, Emirates Group’s Executive Vice President for Human Resources said: “There’s no more exciting airline than Emirates for anyone interested in a flying career, and we’ve received tremendous interest since we began our recruitment drive for cabin crew in November.”

“While parts of the application process are done online, we always make the effort to meet our candidates in person whenever we can, and that is why our Talent Acquisition team is doing a whirlwind 30-city tour over the next 6 weeks to assess prospective candidates.”

Emirates’ truly global cabin crew team represent 160 nationalities, reflecting its customer mix and international operations in over 130 cities on six continents.

All Emirates crew are based in the exciting cosmopolitan city of Dubai, with company-provided accommodation, tax-free salary and more benefits.

Interested candidates can read more about the Emirates cabin crew role, and apply online at:

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