Dec 23, 2019

The link between Refugees and the Climate

Recently I was reading an article that sent a multiplicity of neurons in my brain firing off in several directions, making connections between seemingly disparate global and local issues. Toward the end of my thought process, I trailed back around to our system of planting moringa trees and fast-growing timber trees with South Sudanese refugees in northern Uganda.

The article stated that for perhaps the first time in recently recorded history, natural disasters provoked the majority of new internal displacement cases in 2018, surpassing conflict as the primary factor for driving people from their homes worldwide. 

Let's put some numbers to that. According to the Global Report on Internal Displacement, an annual assessment carried out by the Norwegian Refugee Council and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre, over 17 million people were newly displaced as a redult of weather and geophysical changes in 2018, compared to a roughly 10.8 million displaced by conflict. That means 61% of those forced from their homes within their country of origin were climate related, opposed to human-driven reasons such as war and conflict. 

This is big news, news that you probably won't see on CNN or even BBC. This puts climate-related migration on the map: not as a prediction of what will occur in coming years, but as reality today, and, according to this report, even last year. 

With the climate crisis only projected to get worse, than we can assume that these numbers will only grow in the coming years. Which means, that even if we manage to stabilize geopolitical tensions, the rate of global displacement will continue to rise. 

Now, we realize that the majority of South Sudanese refugees in Uganda–whom we work with–were primarily driven from their homes due to a protracted conflict rather than climate insecurities. However, these new statistics are still relevant to our work with South Sudanese refugees. You see, our system aims to innovate the refugee service delivery system by building in sustainable and regenerative design into the very structure of refugee settlements and camps themselves. The system we designed is meant to be scalable and replicable in nearly all areas of the tropics–meaning that as global displacement continues with fervor, there are strategies in place to accomodate such an influx of displaced persons in a way that is also accounting for the need to address pressing climate issues, making sure that our strategies to deal with the effects of the climate crisis aren't contributing to the exacerbation of these issues. 

This is why we believe in tree-based and bio-mimicry-based solutions. We can look to nature to reveal patterns that we can apply to the problems we face in this day and age, and that can help us not only manage those problems but to fix them at their roots, not just their surface-level symptoms. 

Join us today to continue to supplement refugees' food rations with sustainable sources of nutrition, while also deterring further deforestation surrounding the camps–ensuring the longevity and fertility of the lands they inhabit. 

Sep 25, 2019

The Future of Native Seeds

Our farmers with their growing trees
Our farmers with their growing trees

Climate week is this week, and it couldn't have come at a more auspicious time. We've seen our Earth up in flames over the past few months, as if the Earth is speaking to us the only way she knows how, urging us to take action to protect our planet if we want to continue to inhabit it. It started with the ferocious fires in the Amazon, but happening congruently are the fires in the Congo Basin in central Africa. 

Greta Thunberg, the 16 year-old climate crisis activist, has taken the world by storm by saying unapologetically what most people are shy at admitting: what we face is not just climate change, it is climate crisis. We are living amidst the fifth mass extinction occuring on the planet we inhabit. The last mass extinction was during the reign of dinosaurs, and the extinction was largely caused by an asteroid. This time, the asteroid is us: our species has taken for granted the delicate balance of ecosystems that keeps us, and everything around us, living. 

But, Greta Thunberg, as well as many climate scientists, and the thousands of people that are doing small-in-scope but massive-in-impact eco-restoration projects, are firm in the conviction that while yes, what we are facing is a crisis and we must stop sugar-coating that fact, we also have a chance to save what we have. 

That's where our work comes in. Study after study shows that our best weapon in the fight against the climate crisis is not some high-tech technology. Rather, it is the support of advancing what nature does best: growing and regenerating itself. One way we can do this is the planting of trees in a way that mimics the natural growth of ecosystems. 

For us, this is not new. In northern Uganda, we have been at the forefront of planting trees to mimic the natural Ugandan landscape: giving the ecosystem a little boost to restore itself. We were planting native trees at a time when it wasn't yet 'cool,' and before it was common knowledge that native tree species has more of an impact in guaranteeing crop harvests and soil restoration and the creation of microclimates that ensure rain fall. We're happy that this low-tech, high-impact solution is consider 'cool' now, and that farmers and organizations and governments alike are all hopping on board to utilize agroforestry, biomimicry and 'smart reforestation' to give our earth a chance. 

And as for us? We will never stop in our mission to spread the ecosystem-saving solutions that agroforestry, agroecology and tree planting provides to landcspes across the globe. 

Our team on the ground in Uganda continues to conduct climate change adaptation programs to the people affected the most by the climate crisis: small scale farmers that depend on the land they till for their livelihood and the wellbeing of their villages. Our team on the ground continues to distribute important tree seedlings to farmers throughout the region, while providing important follow-up to ensure those trees are growing happily and healthily in their new homes. Our team on the ground continues to preach what we believe is a worthy gospel: our Earth is the only home we have, and we must restore it to ensure that the millions of species, including our own, can continue to exist. 

So, this climate week, we encourage you to do everything in your power to take the climate crisis seriously, and to take the necessary steps to live a sustainable and regenerative life. 

Agroforestry and tree planting in the tropics is our most powerful tool to mitigate the climate crisis. Support us, and small organizations like us, to make croplands more resilient, and give the power back to the smallscale farmers that are doing the gruntwork of keeping our planet healthy. 

With love from Northern Uganda to you,

The Native Seeds Project

Agroforestry in Action - African Mahogany
Agroforestry in Action - African Mahogany
Farmers cropland with 2-yearold trees
Farmers cropland with 2-yearold trees
Adding local trees to the landscape
Adding local trees to the landscape
Sep 23, 2019

Why Moringa? Why there?

Our Native Seeds team harvests Moringa stenopetala
Our Native Seeds team harvests Moringa stenopetala

Hi friends,

For those of you who already know this project, you know that it's about planting trees in refugee settlements in Uganda.  It's about bringing the multiple benefits of trees to people and landcape in a precarious situation caused by the intensification of violence in South Sudan.  Our past project reports by Project Manager Georgia Beasley have highlighted amazing stories of impact from on the ground in Palorinya.  

This time around, we want to put the trees in the spotlight.  We plant moringa.  But why moringa?  Why there?

Frank Martin states in Survival and Subsistence in the Tropics that “among the leafy vegetables, one stands out as particularly good, the horseradish tree.  The leaves are outstanding as a source of vitamin A and, when raw, vitamin C.  They are a good source of B vitamins and among the best plant sources of minerals.  The calcium content is very high for a plant.  Phosphorous is low, as it should be.  The content of iron is very good (it is reportedly prescribed for anemia in the Philippines). They are an excellent source of protein and a very low source of fat and carbohydrates.  Thus the leaves are one of the best plant foods that can be found.”

It's nothing short of a miracle – and some people call moringa "the miracle tree" – that this tree is also drought hardy, fast-growing, and tolerant of a wide variety of poor tropical soils.  

But maybe it didn't sink in fully just how nutritious moringa is. Lakshmipriya Gopalakrishnan and co. in Food Science and Human Wellness, put it in more captivating terms:

"Moringa is rich in nutrition owing to the presence of a variety of essential phytochemicals present in its leaves, pods and seeds. In fact, moringa is said to provide 7 times more vitamin C than oranges, 10 times more vitamin A than carrots, 17 times more calcium than milk, 9 times more protein than yoghurt, 15 times more potassium than bananas and 25 times more iron than spinach. The fact that moringa is easily cultivable makes it a sustainable remedy for malnutrition."

It's worth saying that this is a singular, unique nutritional profile for any plant.  Its green fruit pods and its flowers are also nutritious and edible.  And of course the root provides a horseradish-like condiment.  

If we're sold on moringa by now, it's also worthwhile to note that our work doesn't put all the eggs in one basket. Other species as well as moringa enter into our planting program.  For this report, we will limit ourselves to a description to one of them, a tree known as Mosisi.  

The tree known to botanists as Maesopsis eminii shares at least one thing with moringa.  They are both incredibly fast growing.  But unlike the corky, low-density vegetative tissue that makes up moringa's trunk, mosisi – or musizi, depending on who's asking – is made up of hardwood that eventually becomes quite fine in quality.  The hardness is significant for other reasons too – fallen branches of this species make perfectly adequate firewood, an important commodity in Palorinya.  Firewood is particularly important in the sense that it often comes from the forests and savannahs that surround the refugee settlements, putting additional pressure on the landscape's trees. 

Between moringa and mosisi we have a kind of cooking technological package – nutrition and fuel maximized by the ideal species for the local climate and soil.  It's perhaps some minor source of positivity within what is clearly a deeply challenging situation.  For Wild Forests and Fauna it is an honor to participate in some kind of solution, even as we ask other institutions to do their part in creating strategies for the ongoing improvement of refugee settlements. 

To date we have planted hundreds of thousands of trees in refugee settlements in northern Uganda with only tens of thousands in funding.  The efficiency of implementation of this solution is one of its many virtues.  We look forward to planting many trees more.  Thank you for your support.   

One of our moringa nurseries in northern Uganda
One of our moringa nurseries in northern Uganda
A fast-growing Moringa oleifera tree
A fast-growing Moringa oleifera tree
Taking moringa out to Palorinya
Taking moringa out to Palorinya
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