March 24, 2020 5 min read
80,000 Trees Planted in Africa to Support Local Farmers and Restore Degraded Land
One of the greatest things about reforestation is seeing the positive results that directly impact local communities. Sometimes we only think of a tree as something that produces oxygen or a pretty green plant in our forests. But trees can provide so much to an area that is struggling environmentally, socially, or economically. Reforestation puts life back into a community!
This was the case for our Rwanda and Kenya projects which resulted in 60,000 trees planted in Rwanda and 20,000 trees planted in Kenya! We are thrilled to share these stories with you.
The primary goal of this project was to empower local farmers through planting coffee seedlings which in turn will increase harvest and income. The locations of the newly planted trees are in the eastern and northern provinces (Kayonza and Gakenke Districts) and conducted in partnership with Kula Project. The project provided local farmers with the necessary supplies and training to create and maintain sustainable livelihoods. The production of coffee and tea have been some of the key agricultural strategies in creating opportunities for local communities, so this effort is aligned with a multitude of restoration efforts throughout Rwanda.
And as a country part of the AFR100 - the African Forest Landscape Restoration Initiative, a country-led effort to bring 100 million hectares of land in Africa into restoration by 2030 - Rwanda's environmental policies will help to support the long-term health of these incredible landscapes and people.
The coffee seedlings (coffee arabica tree of the bourbon variety) that were planted will be grown and maintained by the farmers who are part of a special training program. Once these trees mature, they will provide a sustainable income for up to 30 years. Throughout the time it takes the coffee seedlings to grow and mature, farmers will receive comprehensive agronomy training so that they have the technical skills and information to maintain their trees.
With the extra income that continues to be generated, farmers will be able to afford health care for themselves and their families, as well as education through secondary school for their children. The increase in healthy, educated people with a sustainable source of income in the community will help to improve the livelihoods and sustainability of the community as a whole. This will create informed, empowered community members and leaders who will continue to push for change in their community.
Furthermore, such agroforestry projects have an additional benefit of reducing deforestation of primary forests in the surrounding areas.
Rwanda Leading the Way in Restoration
Considering the devastating past Rwanda has endured, it is astonishing the efforts they have made towards restoration of their land. They have really been ahead of the curve by being one of the first to take on the Bonn Challenge which is a "global effort to bring 150 million hectares of deforested and degraded land into restoration by 2020 and 350 million hectares by 2030". For a small country, their pledge to restore two million hectares of land by 2020 is impressive! What's even more impressive is that they have the progress and data to prove their commitment. They currently have a 30.5% forest coverage which is made up of 48.8% of plantations.
We are so proud to be a part of these forward thinking initiatives. The resilience this country shows is inspiring and also gives us hope that restoration is possible everywhere!
The aim of this project was to restore areas of the Kijabe forest that were previously degraded from fires, overgrazing, and illegal harvesting. The Kijabe Forest is a highland mosaic forest, known as Afro-alpine, and was once dominated by trees such as East African pencil-cedar (Juniperus procera) and African olive (Olea europea africana and Olea capensis hochstetterii). But massive logging and charcoal burning have done significant damage over the years, resulting in soil erosion that lead to fears of damaging mudslides.
The forest is only about 12,400 acres but almost 200,000 people in the surrounding areas depend on it for water, as well as many other ecosystem goods and services such as fuelwood and grazing. It is also home to a variety of local wildlife, including wild dogs, leopards, dik-diks, bush bucks, monkeys, suni, forest hogs, and buffalo!
This is in part of an ongoing project which is actively restoring areas of the forest through avoided deforestation, enrichment planting, and assisted natural regeneration. What does that mean?
Avoided deforestation is a concept in which countries receive funding in exchange for literally avoiding and preventing deforestation. The way it works is that industrialized countries provide the funding in order to meet emissions commitments. These commitments generally fall under international agreements. Policymakers and activists alike find this type of program ideal as it helps fight climate change as well as supporting local populations economically.
Enrichment planting is a technique used in forest rehabilitation. According to Forest Ecology and Management, "enrichment planting as the introduction of valuable species to degraded forests without the elimination of valuable individuals which already existed at that particular site".
Last, but certainly not least, is assisted natural regeneration. When Mother Nature is operating exactly as she should without factors such as climate change or severe forest fires, life recovers all on its own and plants simply grow back. But sometimes conditions become too severe for nature to regenerate on its own, and that is when tree planting comes in. When trees go into the ground they help add nutrients back into the soil and in turn give nature the little boost it needs in order to begin the natural regeneration process on its own.
Planting trees here will help protect this vital ecosystem, promote environmental education, and foster sustainable livelihoods through seed collection and ecotourism.
So many of our projects, particularly projects in Africa like the ones in Rwanda and Kenya could not happen without the hard work and effort put forth by the amazing communities involved. Furthermore, the amazing on the ground partners who facilitate in growing of the many seedlings in nurseries beforehand and provide the training that will last a lifetime for the local people involved. If you are looking to support a project that directly affects communities, Africa is a wonderful place to start but we have many reforestation projects with many objectives such a restoration, biodiversity, and wildlife.
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