In this post Pieta, our Programmes Development Manager, reflects upon the importance of planting trees and maintaining our forests.
Visiting projects and meeting beneficiaries gives a face to the challenges that people are struggling with on a daily basis – and to the solutions that are changing their lives. During my recent field visit to Malawi, many people I met referred to the climate change training that Temwa has conducted in the communities over the recent months. The training has targeted lead farmers, participants in our forestry activities, chiefs and village headmen, but also ordinary community members. It has helped them better understand the changes happening in their surroundings, including the causes of climate change and possible solutions.
Drivers of climate change and Deforestation
In Malawi, climate change is a reality that no one questions. However, many were sadly blaming themselves for it. They said that all the trees that Malawians have chopped down have eroded the soil and brought about droughts, floods and irregular rains. The huge scale of deforestation in Malawi has undoubtedly contributed to all these problems, but of course global warming is primarily triggered and accelerated by the developed and industrialised nations of the world.
In Finland, my country of origin, people always replant forests after cutting them down. Whether or not they traditionally cared about conservational and environmental values, people soon realised that tree planting is an economic investment for generations to come. Nowadays, replanting of cleared forest areas is also a legal requirement.
In many African countries, most people do not own the land they farm and there is less sense of ownership of the natural resources. In Zambia, where I worked for the last three years before joining Temwa, tree coverage is still pretty impressive. But these resources are depleting at an alarmingly fast rate, as trees are felled for charcoal burning, firewood, and clearing farmland.
When I visit Malawi, it hits me how deforested the country is in comparison to Zambia. The northern region of Malawi, where Temwa works, has larger pockets of forest. But there too, in a desperate search for firewood, the locals travel longer distances and encroach on more resources. And you cannot blame them, as they need it for their survival.
Protecting the Forests
Through Temwa’s sensitisation activities, the communities increasingly see the urgency of and need for local mitigation and adaptation actions. During the last growing season, our agricultural and forestry projects planted over 91,000 trees.
In the community of Chilawa, for example, the Village Natural Resource Management Committee members planted 5,000 trees in January 2016. Almost all of them have survived, thanks to the hard work of the community and timely out-planting of seedlings.
Like some other traditional authorities, the local village headman in Chilawa has even enforced a rule preventing deforestation. Anyone caught cutting trees in a protected forest area will have to plant two trees as a punishment. While the communities continue to cut trees to satisfy their everyday needs, many are starting to see the benefits of re-establishing the depleted communal resources.
If you would like to find out more about Temwa’s work with forest preservation, check out our agriculture and forestry page. Also, if you would like to support our work in protecting forests, please consider either donating or fundraising with us.