Dreaming of Tripoli

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By Eve Fairbanks, The New Republic

Somewhere amid the burning oil pipelines and wrecked tanks, among the wounded filling the hospitals and the homeless winding out of their ruined cities, lies another potential casualty of the Libyan war: five and a half million olive trees the Italians planted in the desert in the 1930s. Few worldwide may be thinking of these trees as they watch the latest news. But, in South Africa, some people are praying for them. In late 2009, during happier days, Muammar Qaddafi’s regime invited a group of prominent South African farmers to the country to consider helping to revive Libya’s moribund agricultural sector. The Libyans had many abandoned farms to offer, but the old olive estate at Khadra was the most incredible. The trees were “in beautiful condition,” remembers Theo de Jager, one of the farmers who saw them. “There was massive potential.”

But Khadra is south of Beida, in the hotly contested east. What must the trees look like today, de Jager wonders? Have bombs broken their little, gnarled heads? Read more ...