Planting a million trees for Malawi

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Planting a million trees for Malawi

By Sabine Joukes


© Christian Aid/Nicky Milne

Sabine Joukes writes about a project to stop deforestation in Malawi.

When I drove into Kauma (one of the main villages outside Malawi’s capital city, Linlongwe) with colleagues, I saw all the simple brick houses with tin roofs. I also saw a new sewer system outside the village. But all the trees around Kauma had gone.

Malawi is famous for being green and fertile. But in Kauma there was only one old Kachere tree.

The Kachere (fig) trees give a lot of shade so they were very good places for village chiefs to talk and for mission schools to teach. So Kachere trees are a symbol of unity and are very important in Malawi. People must not cut them down. But the tree in Kauma had only a few branches left.

This is happening in many parts of Malawi – there is more deforestation in Malawi than nearly every other country in the world. The forests were rich. But they are slowly disappearing: between 1.6 and 2.8 per cent of forest is going every year.

People are cutting trees for fuel wood, to make space for farmland and for business eg. for the tobacco industry. But a lot of deforestation is illegal: making and selling charcoal from wood. Only nine per cent of people have electricity, so wood is very important.

When the trees go, there is nothing to stop the water when rains come. In 2015, they had the worst floods in twenty years. More than 500,000 people lost their homes. The floods washed away homes, farm animals, crops and roads. Now Malawi has food shortages – because of the floods and the not enough rain.

And deforestation means higher temperatures – there are not so many trees to take in carbon dioxide. The soil becomes loose and releases more CO2 into the atmosphere, so soil can run down the hills in heavy rains.

This is very serious for Malawians. And it is why I went to the village of Kauma.

I went there with Malawian colleagues from international development charity Christian Aid and our Enhancing Community Resilience Programme (ECRP). This is a five-year plan with money from the British government, Irish Aid and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

At ECRP, we work to increase food security, stop extreme hunger and poverty, and make Malawi’s communities stronger to resist natural disasters and climate problems. But stopping the deforestation is one of the most important things to help all the people.

So we planted more than 4,000 trees with a team of people from the village.

These 4,000 trees are the first step in our new project to plant a million trees in Malawi.

People in Malawi have planted a lot of trees before, but not many of them survive. That’s why we have promised to plant a million trees, and also to protect them in the future.

ECRP is working with partners in Act Alliance, the Youth Network for Climate Change and Peace Corps volunteers from the US. We will continue to plant the trees together with Malawi’s communities, and we are all responsible for them. If they grow well, they will one day give shade and stop water erosion. This will help Malawi’s women, children and men.

Projects like this are not only for local problems. They can also help with global efforts to slow the rate of climate change.

I hope we have a greener future.

Sabine Joukes is Christian Aid Malawi’s leader for the Enhancing Community Resilience Programme.

See the April 2016 issue of New Internationalist: Last stand – saving the world’s forests.

NOW READ THE ORIGINAL: (This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed).