Landslides challenge Welsh tree project in Africa

Sarah Jenkinson reports on the progress being made by the Size of Wales project despite natural disasters

Sarah Jenkinson is Communications Director for Size of Wales. The Size of Wales project hopes the whole nation will Go Green for one day on 19 October 2012 to help raise funds towards the £2 million target. It is literally £1 per hectare – or rather for an area the size of one rugby pitch. To find out how you and your organisation can get involved visit www.sizeofwales.org.uk Follow us: @sizeofwales Join us: facebook.com/sizeofwales

I have just woken to the heart breaking news that landslides triggered by torrential rain have destroyed villages, killing at least 100 people, in the mountainous district of Bududa in Uganda. This is a stunningly beautiful and fertile landscape, where rainforest charity Size of Wales is funding a tree planting scheme. We are working  with small scale coffee farmers as part of a national climate change initiative to help sustain an area of tropical forest the size of Wales.

Environment Minister, John Griffiths and I received a warm welcome from no doubt some of these very families in October 2010, while visiting nurseries growing trees specifically to help restore tree cover in a deforested area vulnerable to landslides. To hear that in the rainy season, yet again, there have been more deaths and villages buried under mud, is very sad and worrying news indeed. In March 2010, thousands were forced to flee after a landslide killed more than 350 people in the same area.

I have just spoken with Pro Vice Chancellor, Professor Tim Wess from Cardiff University who happened to be in Bududa the morning after the landslide struck. He was actually scheduled to be shown progress made on the ‘One Million Trees’ initiative. I think to also find himself an eyewitness to the immediate aftermath, as people dug with hoes searching for their family members, was a very unreal and difficult experience.

It is when the harsh realities facing many of the world’s poorest people living on deforested land reach the media headlines, that the importance of raising funds for tree planting projects hits home. Although the ‘One Million Tree’ project in Uganda is now fully funded thanks to our partners, we are also raising money for reforestation projects in Kenya; Mali and Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is one of the poorest countries in the world and has a high incidence of poverty, to which food insecurity is a major contributor. The poorest people are heavily dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, but have problems with land degradation, overgrazing, loss of soil fertility and disruption to the water cycle.

This particular project will assist in the planting of 12,000 fruit trees in Addis Ababa over a period of three years. As well as providing much needed food and income to people in the area, the trees will have a large number of environmental benefits including: provision of shade, helping to regulate the micro-climate, soil stabilisation, wildlife habitats, biodiversity enhancement, and water and soil conservation. The project will also provide education and training to communities which traditionally have limited access to such resources. Craig Owen from Wales Africa Community Links has recently returned from Ethiopia and was able to squeeze in a day visit to this fruit tree project on the edges of the city. You can read his blog here.

Helping to plant fruit trees in an African capital city is just one example of the forest projects in Size of Wales’ portfolio. We are also helping protect vast areas of intact rainforest in Congo Brazzaville for example, where 1000 elephants, 8,000 great apes, and many other rare species live. Brand new forest projects include Christian Aid and Oxfam Cymru whose work with communities in Brazil and Nicaragua have now been fully screened by the University of Bangor and accepted by Size of Wales.

We are also excited that our bee loving supporters can now help protect honey bees in the Cameroon rainforest by supporting bee keepers in communities there. This new project is supported by Monmouthshire based Bees for Development and Tropical Forest Products in Aberystwyth. A key objective for Size of Wales is that we are able to match-make partners with one of these forest projects, with the aim of developing a long lasting relationship between the two. Do please get in touch if any of these inspire you to be involved in some way. Or simply make a one off individual donation to one of the projects on our website. Do remember, we can double every gift we receive via our match fund.

The support we have received so far from partners and supporting charities has been fantastic, with forest projects in Uganda; Guyana and Cameroon now fully funded thanks to the donations both secured and pledged. The positive impacts on these particular communities are already being shared with us, which is always heart-warming and rewarding news for everyone involved.

For the biggest news on progress to date, I can also confirm that we have reached our half way milestone! £1 million towards the £2 million target has now been secured which means together the people of Wales have both helped conserve and reforest a combined area of tropical forest half the size of Wales. There have been some fantastic fundraising initiatives across Wales from car booters and half marathon events, rugby raffles and comedy gigs. All money raised for Size of Wales has also been doubled by our match fund.

Supporters and partners including: Deloitte; CCW; University of Cardiff; Specsavers; Good Energy; RSPB; McLays Printers; WWF Cymru and Aneurin Bevan Healthcare Board are working creatively with staff, supporters and customers to engage as many people as possible to help protect 2 million hectares of tropical forest in Africa and South America – our final target. The money raised will be spent on a range of actions that will help protect the forests – from buying tree seedlings to funding rangers, supporting local people and lobbying for land ownership and management rights.

The world’s rainforests absorb almost a fifth of the world’s man-made carbon dioxide emissions. Size of Wales aims to help protect an area of rainforest equivalent to Wales, and in turn, inspire other countries to do the same.

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