| Feb 18, 2021
Why trees matter
Dona Cecilia in front of her badly damaged house
To be honest, a combination of the festive season, COVID-19 restrictions, and the fact that the principal activities of this 'project' were completed last year, mean that there is little 'new' to report for the last three months......
Well, nothing new that is except for a severe tropical storm AND another cyclone.
Tropical Storm Chalane swept across central Mozambique on the 30th of December. It caused serious flooding and, in some specific communities, the impact was really bad. But Chalane was nothing compared with Eloise. When Cyclone Eloise made landfall on the morning of 23rd of January, its most violent heart narrowly missed the city of Beira (that had been devastated by Idai), but the rural hinterland of the city was not spared. The storm swept across towards the southern part of Chimanimani, where Micaia works. Eloise took the lives of 11 Mozambican people, and destroyed 12,000 homes and more than 200,000 hectares of crops.
Across the five communities in which the forest restoration work is taking place, the story of Eloise's impact is mixed. By the time the storm reached the communities, the winds had died down a little, and only isolated trees were lost. The rivers flooded again, and many people suffered damaged houses and crops. People such as Dona Cecilia, a widow; she suffered the loss of all her maize crop and also partial destruction of her house. She will rebuild, and replant. She will also continue with her beekeeping (she inherited her husband's beehives when he died three years ago). And this is where we pick up the thread with the trees....
Dona Ceclila and other beekeepers in Chimanimani are telling us that the honey yield has still not recovered from Cyclone Idai. Why? The reason is that in some areas, especially those where there is quite extensive farming, the most important trees for the bees were along the river banks (where the people never opened fields). The destructive floods that came with Idai completely changed the rivers, destroying much of the forest that had lined the rivers and formed a buffer with the fields.
Trees in communities such as Chimanimani provide food, medicine, firewood, and food for bees. They also, of course, help the earth breathe. Forest restoration is critical, not only in the wake of storms, but also as a response to deforestation. This project, that started as a response to Cyclone Idai, now links with much wider efforts to fight back in Chimanimani against deforestation and the impact of storms such as Idai and Eloise.
Micaia is starting new work with communities across the buffer zone of the Chimanimani National Park, expanding beekeeping and other natural product livelihoods, and helping people and communities manage their land and natural resources sustainably. Forest restoration, including expansion of planting of native species of trees with livelihoood benefits, is an important part of the work.
Dona Cecilia and hundreds of other people face the risks of an ever more volatile climate with immense strength and dignity. By helping communities restore forest areas, we are all together in the fight for a resilient future.