“16 new projects across 7 different countries”
The International Tree Foundation is very pleased to announce the launch of a raft of new tree-planting projects in its Sustainable Community Forestry (SCF) programme. In 2019, ITF was granted funding from The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund to support a number of small-scale grassroots community forestry projects in sub-Saharan Commonwealth countries. The idea was simple: 16 two-year projects, with a maximum funding of £3000 per year. To most this sounds like a very small amount of money to run a two-year project. However we know that even small amounts of money, if used wisely, can create lasting opportunities for local communities in Africa.
After a brief Call for Proposals in the Autumn 2019, ITF were happy – if not a little overwhelmed (!) – to receive almost 600 applications for this opportunity. While it is very encouraging that there is such appetite for planting trees nowadays, this presented the ITF Programmes team with the mammoth task of reading each application and whittling these down. After 6 weeks, and with the help of many dedicated office volunteers – a huge thank you to all involved here! – we were finally able to present our favourite 35 projects to our independent panel of judges who convened in London in December. Amongst these were Dr Roger Leakey, former Director or the World Agroforestry Centre and Dr Kate Schrekenberg, King’s College London.
Our final selection was for 16 projects, across 7 different countries – Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Zambia, and Malawi.
Our final selection was for 16 projects, across 7 different countries – Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Ghana, Zambia, and Malawi. Our new partners are a wide variety of groups, from those who are established community organisations, to brand new grassroots groups, for whom we are their first major donor. Through our new partners we will support a range of projects, from growing orchards in schools, farmland agroforestry projects, montane forest restoration, urban planting in two capital cities (Kigali and Accra), as well as projects focused on reducing desertification, soil erosion, and food insecurity. All are run by local non-profit organisations for the benefit of local people.
The Forest of Hope Association: a Rwandan organisation aiming to reduce pressure on the Gishwati Forest
One such project is with our partner, Forest of Hope Association (FHA), in western Rwanda, who plan to plant trees on farmland to reduce pressure on the much-afflicted Gishwati Forest. This forest has lost a staggering 97% of its cover in the last 40 years, being reduced from 28,000 to just 600 hectares. This forest remnant is critical primate habitat, containing many IUCN Red-list species, such as the endangered Golden Monkey (Cercopithecus mitis kandti) or the East African Chimpanzee (Pan troglodytes schweinfurthii). With such a small area remaining, it is essential that it is protected for future generations of animals and people alike. However, given the lack of trees in the surrounding farming landscapes, the forest is used by local people as a source of wood for cooking and building. This is having a destructive effect on the tiny remnant forest that remains.
To counter this, FHA plans to plant and regenerate 18,000 trees in the local landscape and on the edge of the forest. These trees will be for local people’s use. The creation of a ‘buffer zone’ between the farms and the forest will help ensure that local people can meet their demands for wood and forest products without exploiting the forest areas that remain. This will not only help local communities support themselves, but allow the remaining forest areas to recover from decades of abuse and uphold the fragile ecosystems it contains.
The Centre for Research Uptake: an Ugandan project focusing on supporting a marginalized native community
Another such project is in the far south of Uganda, with the Centre for Research Uptake in Africa (CRU-Africa) in southern Uganda. This organisation is focused on supporting the marginalized native Batwa people who live at the edge of Bwindi Impenetrable National Park. Since the establishment of the park in 1991, the regional government have prioritized the preservation of nature and the booming tourist industry over the welfare of the Batwa. They were summarily evicted from their forest home, and forced to live on the margins of the park where are they are subject to prejudice and marginalization from existing communities in these areas. What is more, they are often criminalized by the Park Authorities for going back into the forest to collect the local medicines and forest foods that they need. With this project, CRU-Africa aims to alleviate this project by planting 20,000 forest trees on Batwa-owned land. The idea to create mini-forest plots outside the national park will help the Batwa regain access to the plants and trees that they use and need, as well as reducing conservation-livelihood conflict in the national park.
This has been a fantastic process from which we have all learned a lot. I should say a big thank you to all our volunteers who have helped here, as well as the generous funding from The Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund.
Click here for more information about the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Fund: www.pwcf.org.uk