A Reforestation Project in Zambia

Synopsis

The African Community Project in Zambia is creating community forests and giving the people a chance to take back their forests.

The African Community Project in Zambia is creating community forests and giving the people a chance to take back their forests. It is a long, hard task, using volunteers to teach the communities about deforestation and the effect it has on their lives, and in particular generations to come. The use of community schools as the hub of reforestation education makes it easy to get the word out about desertification and environmental concerns. In one month workshops were conducted in 10 community schools and 1 million tree seeds were given out.

It will not be long before the Zambian countryside will be stripped of trees and open for all the elements to take their toll. Water erosion in the rainy season strips the land of growing soil and plugs waterways into silt-filled expanses. Water reservoirs have no time to recover any of this water as it quickly flows away. As a result there is increased flooding along the Zambezi River, Livingstone, and the lower reaches of the Zambezi in Mozambique. Wind erosion dries what moisture there is and fans the wildfires into destructive monsters, burning juvenile trees and saplings beyond recovery.

Volunteers work directly with communities and traditional leaders, educating them on the need to reforest and also teaching them about climate change and global warming. This has had a good response, with communities requesting to participate all across Zambia to start their reforestation projects.

In order to see quick results, we have been concentrating on three fast-growing trees: Moringa oleifera, Leucaena leucocephala, and Jatropha curas. All three are well adapted to degraded soils, and are excellent species for health products, firewood, and oil extraction for biofuel. Indigenous species and fruit trees like mangos and African mahogany are also grown, but some indigenous trees will prosper on their own once we have firewood plantations in production to alleviate overcutting of food trees. Pine and eucalyptus will be grown next, once the locals see what effect growing trees will have on their livelihoods and how easy it is to grow a tree.

Like all reforestation projects, funding is a major problem for the program, but the cost of growing trees is not that great at the village level. Seedlings are grown in recycled cardboard beer containers where possible; even poly grow bags are too expensive but are needed for transporting the seedlings any great distance. Seeds are also harvested from mother trees across Zambia and can now be harvested from the trees planted in individual villages. Livestock grazing, particularly by the village goats, takes the greatest toll on seedlings. The project website is www. africancommunityproject.com

Garry Brooks was self-employed in the forest industry in BC for 38 years. In 2001, he retired and started volunteering in Africa. He was awarded the Canadian Institute of Forestry, International Achievement Award in 2008 for his work in Zambia. He can be reached at africancommunityproject@gmail.com.
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