The Importance of Trees

As the original objectives of The Tumaini Trust have been met, we are now promoting sustainable development both in the UK and Tanzania. In Tanzania our aim is to provide small scale sustainable participatory development schemes in the Kilimanjaro region. This area is extremely beautiful and fertile, although there are few jobs and families struggle to pay school fees (which was why the Trust was originally set up). Many villagers leave to find jobs in the cities. If some work can be provided locally, villagers could then have a choice of whether to stay or seek employment elsewhere. Families should also be able to afford their children’s school fees.  

Our first initiative is a tree planting project. We are supporting  villagers in Mshiri, Kilimanjaro in collecting seeds from indigenous trees and then growing saplings which are planted on common land. When the saplings are ready to be planted, The Tumaini Trust pays the growers the market value of the sapling, which, on average is about 70 pence each. The project had been delayed due to recent travel restrictions, but we are delighted to report that over 1,000 seeds have been planted by villagers to be cultivated into saplings. So far, 350 saplings have been planted in the Kilimanjaro area.

The following photos are of Joyce preparing the ground for our trees, which will grow in the area around Mshiri Primary School where Kath used to teach. Whilst we have been unable to help due to current travel restrictions, Joyce has many other enthusiastic helpers as shown in the photos.

So, why are trees important?

Not only are trees beautiful to look at, but they are also essential to life on Earth. They provide shade on a hot day, fruit to eat and habitat for wildlife. Trees are “The lungs of the Earth” and are vitally important in the fight against climate change. As well as absorbing carbon from the atmosphere, trees act as a carbon sink, which means that carbon is stored within their trunks, branches, roots and leaves throughout their lifetime.

It is now widely accepted that we are facing a climate crisis which has led to extreme weather events. Humans have contributed to this ongoing and worsening situation by burning greenhouse gases. Carbon dioxide is one of these gases which then traps heat in the atmosphere. Planting trees can help remove some carbon from the atmosphere as each new tree will absorb carbon throughout its lifetime.

Did you know that an area the size of the UK is reportedly deforested every year?

In the UK, only 2.5% of our ancient woodland remains. Further afield, many tropical rainforests are being destroyed to make way for huge plantations to grow soya, for animal feed; cacao, to make chocolate and palm oil, used in many supermarket goods from biscuits to soap.

The Kilimanjaro area has also suffered deforestation, not to enable huge plantations to grow luxury goods for European markets, but to meet basic, essential needs. Villagers do not have mains gas or electricity and wood has been used to build fires for cooking. However, felling trees for firewood is now prohibited in the area around Mshiri (the above photo was taken 10 years ago). 

Forbidding the destruction of forests in this way is crucial for many reasons. Environmentally, trees absorb and store carbon, create habitats and promote biodiversity. Forests also play a vital role in reducing the chances of zoonotic diseases, such as COVID-19, making the leap from animals to humans. Trees act as a buffer between primates and humans, thereby lessening the likelihood of them coming into contact with each other.  

Our vision is to grow trees from seed and plant them in the Kilimanjaro region to reforest areas which have been destroyed, rejuvenate habitats and help in the fight against climate change.