An article in the Guardian today highlights the work of several tree planting charities including International Tree Foundation. Asking the question ‘Can planting billions of trees save the planet?’, it goes on to profile some of the organisations working through a community-centred approach to restore trees to our planet.
ITF’s 20 Million Trees Campaign is showcased in the article, as one of the projects supported by the charity TreeSisters. TreeSisters are a grassroots network of women planting over two million trees a year. Some of those trees are being planted by communities supported by ITF, in both Kenya and Cameroon.
We argue that working with local communities is the only sustainable tree planting strategy, and that the connect between people and forests is essential.
“One of the very clear learnings we’ve had is that the more you can work with local organisations that are women-led or driven by women, the better your results,” says Paul Laird, our Programmes Manager.
ITF’s 20 Million Trees Campaign is restoring forests across Kenya which are key resources for wildlife, and for humans too. Kenya has only 7% tree cover, and relies on forests for fresh water, hydro electricity and tourism. Forests are important for local communities too, who rely on them for firewood and fodder, alongside medicinal plants.
Teresa Gitonga, 20 Million Trees Manager based in Kenya emphasises why local communities, and especially women, are motivated to restore their forests.
“Women are the primary caretakers of the household and know their reliance on a healthy forest. They are the people who look for firewood, they are the people who cook so they also look for water. Women are change agents. The only thing they need is to unlock their potential and know that planting trees will make their lives better.”
The 20 Million Trees campaign is encouraging farmers to increase tree cover on their own land, to reduce their reliance on the forest. In this way, the millions of trees planted can grow and the forest can reach a stage where it regenerates naturally. And communities livelihoods are improved through growing timber trees, fruit and nuts which will increase nutrition and household income.
Since ITF was founded 95 years ago, engaging communities to protect and restore their natural resources has remained central to our approach. Our strategy, ‘Growing Together‘, aims to build on this vision. We hope to support and build capacity of 80 community based organisations and to work together to plant trees 10 million trees to improve livelihoods around important African forests.