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Oct 26, 2016

Community meeting to plan the planting of trees

Engaging local people in decision making
Engaging local people in decision making

People often ask WeForest: how do you guarantee the trees will grow? This is an excellent question. The answer is: only when trees are important for the local people they will take care of them and make sure the trees grow to their full potential. Engaging local communities in our reforestation activities is crucial for success and we take this very serious.

On Saturday 22 October 2016 in the Tigray region of Ethiopia, WeForest held an on-site consultative meeting and discussion with local government officials, foresters from the local Mekele University, community leaders and community representatives to discuss and plan the next stages of the reforestation project in Central Tigray.  The new forests are planned for heavily degraded areas, called exclosures (because they are not accessible for grazing cattle).

On the agenda to discuss were; the exclosures by-laws, that is, the regulations and rights regarding current and future use of the exclosure and site management to optimize ecosystem services, how best to involve the vulnerable members of the society (poor families and women) and how to manage the tree nurseries.

We heard what indigenous species community members would prefer to plant (e.g Olea europaea, Acacia abyssinica, and Juniperus procera) and which additional income generating activities they are most interested in. Honey production is the most promising options and ranked first by community representatives. It was also decided that the community will provide free labour to make soil and water conservation structures in the planting area. In kind contributions, like free labour, are crucial for creating long-term community support for the new forests.

With the decision-making out of the way, we will be setting up the community-based nurseries and growing our first batch of seedlings next month.

Oct 19, 2016

The Upside and Downside of Water in Ethiopia

Without trees topsoils are not protected
Without trees topsoils are not protected

While I am writing this report, the people involved in the project in East-Gojjam Province in Amhara are working on setting up the new tree nurseries. This is an exciting first step towards bringing back the trees in the area. Trees have many important benefits, and one of them is regulating the water cycle and protecting top soils. Let me explain:

When we think of Ethiopia, we picture a hot, dry country. But is this a fair assumption? The answer depends on the region. Some areas have greater rainfall, and receive rainfall more frequently, than others. In East-Gojjam it is hot and dry for nine months of the year. These months are called the 'dusty season', because the wind blows the dry sand from the fields and roads into the air. But in June of each year dark clouds form above the highlands, announcing the start of the 'muddy season', when heavy rains transform the landscape into mud-covered countryside. 

Although rainfall is often erratic and unreliable, the East-Gojjam zone has more than 1500mm (59 inches) of rain per year on average. That is a lot!

'Kiremt' rains, the long rainy season are of crucial importance to local farmers. It is these rains that will kick-start the growth of their produce that must feed their families over the year to come. But the heavy rains have a downside. They wash away unprotected topsoil from the land, which can become less fertile and cause farmers to grow less food per hectare. 

This is why reforestation is so important. Trees prevent further soil erosion because the roots hold the soil together and improve drainage of the rainwater. By bringing back trees WeForest brings back life to the landscape.  

Seedlings
Seedlings
Oct 19, 2016

Bees for Trees

Beehive on smallholders farmland in the Copperbelt
Beehive on smallholders farmland in the Copperbelt

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about bees. This isn’t surprising, given that they are declining at an alarming rate worldwide and their disappearance would leave us without almost 70% of fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts. It’s not just bees either. The annual global food production driven by the earth’s pollinator species amounts to between $235 billion and $577 billion yet, a growing number of these species, approximately 16%, are being driven towards extinction. 

Due to the role of bees in promoting forest restoration and providing food and income opportunities, beehives are becoming an increasingly popular sight across environmental restoration areas as a means to encourage the conservation and restoration of forests. Through the harvest and sale of honey, rural families can earn a living from healthy flourishing forests - an incentive for local engagement in forest restoration. Moreover, bee pollination itself helps the forest regenerate. It can also increase agricultural yields in nearby farms, providing additional benefits to farming communities.

That’s why, in Zambia, as part of our efforts to restore the native Miombo woodland, we are engaging local families in beekeeping and honey production. One beehive can easily produce $20 revenue in one years’ time so with enough space for around 4 beehives per hectare of woodland, each family can earn an estimated $80 a year per hectare. This represents a substantial increase to their current income, which averages at around $300 per year.

With the right training and in cooperation with local enterprises, families are being transformed into bee stewards. They are seeing their incomes grow and their forests restored thanks to your support.

 
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