Man turns dumpsite into forest over 25 years

Sehmus Erginoglu of Turkey began clearing a waste site in the historic southern city 26 years ago. Today it is home to thousands of trees.

Around 26 years ago, Sehmus Erginoglu now 72, decided to do something about an area of wasteland in his home city of Mardin in southern Turkey. He began by clearing out rubbish from the site, then he installed water pipes and eventually started to plant saplings. Today the site is home to a small forest of around 11,000 trees, with thousands more planted in areas nearby.

Erginoglu works on growing the trees in his own time without pay. He says that he tends to the trees every day the sun is out but avoids working when it rains. Over the years, he has also made around 50 wells from natural springs in the area. He uses these to water the forest he has created. "I don't make any money from this, but it gives me happiness. When the trees bear fruit, the people come here. They eat fruit and sit under the trees and become happy," he says.

The former truck driver says that he has planted 20,000 trees in Mardin, with 11,000 forming one single forest and others clustered around different areas of the city. He has also planted trees in neighbouring villages and estimates the total number he's grown at more than 30,000. While he says he prefers the company of the trees over the company of people, Erginoglu enjoys the fact that he brings joy to others. "When people die, they cannot take their money into the afterlife, but the good they do comes with them."

As a young man, Erginoglu worked as a truck driver, travelling across Turkey and further afield to countries such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern states. He uses the money he has saved to look after the trees with some help from the Turkish authorities, which has provided him with saplings for pine trees.

Mardin's ancient castle watches over the city below. Situated close to Turkey's border with Syria, the city enjoys very hot summers with highs of 100 degrees and mild winters that include frequent rain and snow showers.

Erginoglu has been a bachelor his entire life, as he did not want anyone else 'entering his life' after his parents passed away. He instead prefers to leave a legacy to all people through the trees he plants. "Thousands of people come to eat fruit from the trees in the summer," he says. "Of course, we will all die one day. But until then I want to be happy, to make others happy, and to leave something permanent behind me."

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