For many of us, the only time we appreciate or even notice trees is when we take shelter under the shade of a leafy tree on a hot sunny day. Trees however, are rather more important and play a number of important roles. Forests help maintain ecological balance and biodiversity. They limit erosion in watersheds and influence variations in weather and climate. Trees also support rural communities through wood, food, fuel, feed, fibre or organic fertilizers.
Unfortunately, Zambia is one of the top ten countries in the world with the highest deforestation rates. Zambia is losing approximately 8,000 hectares of forest a year. Tipped off by the Trees for Zambia project, we ask what is deforestation, why is it such a serious problem and what is being done about it?
What is deforestation?Deforestation refers to the loss or destruction of naturally occurring forests, primarily due to human activity such as logging, the cutting of trees for fuel, slash-and-burn agriculture, land clearing for livestock grazing, mining operations, oil extraction, dam building, and urban sprawl or other types of development and population expansion.
Despite the important role of trees, deforestation is a growing global problem with far-reaching environmental and economic consequences. Forests still cover about 30% of the earth’s surface, but each year about 13 million hectares of forest (approximately 78,000 square miles) are converted to agricultural land or cleared for other purposes. At the current rate of deforestation the world’s rain forests could completely vanish in a hundred years.
The effects of deforestationDeforestation has many negative effects on the environment. The most dramatic impact is a loss of habitat for millions of species. 70% of the earth’s land animals and plants live in forests, and many cannot survive the deforestation that destroys their homes. Deforestation also drives climate change. Forest soils are moist, but without the protection from sun-blocking tree cover, they quickly dry out. Trees also help perpetuate the water cycle by returning water vapour back into the atmosphere. Without trees to fill these roles, many forest areas can quickly become barren deserts.
Stopping local deforestation with the help of GreenpopZambia is recognised as one of the top ten countries with the highest deforestation rates in the world. With this in mind, planting trees to replace the trees lost is an excellent responses to this crisis. For three weeks in July 2012, an organisation known as Greenpop is hosting a reforestation project in Livingstone, Zambia. The project has been dubbed as “Trees for Zambia” and up to 5,000 to 10,000 indigenous and fruit trees will be planted. The projects mission is to make tangible change and get everybody excited about trees.
Greenpop will also host valuable educational sessions for children and subsistence farmers. This will be the start of an ongoing campaign to tackle deforestation in Zambia through the planting of trees and changing attitudes towards the value of living trees. Volunteers from all over the world will join local volunteers and school children to make this project a success.
What is Greenpop?Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Greenpop is a social enterprise that runs urban greening and reforestation projects in sub-Saharan Africa. Volunteers help to plant trees in schools, communities, and deforested areas with the aim of spreading environmental awareness, uplift under-greened communities, make greening enjoyable and combat climate change.
What are the objectives of the Trees for Zambia project?
Why July?The trees will be planted a few months before the rainy season to allow time for school children and community members to actively care for the trees and nurse them. A large part of this project is about education and making sure that local people are actively involved in the trees’ life and can thus reap all the benefits. If the trees are planted in the rainy season and initially watered by the rains the initial and most vital period of care and learning is lost and the trees can potentially be forgotten. Greenpop has carried out research which has proved that with the right amount of tree care in mid dry season, the trees will be in good health by the time rainy season arrives.
Where will the trees be planted?The trees will be planted within the Victoria Falls World Heritage site, Dambwa Forest and subsistence farming communities. Fruit trees will also be planted at various schools around Livingstone. In addition, Greenpop will host workshops for subsistence farmers to promote conservation farming methods, since traditional farming methods contribute significantly to land degradation and deforestation.
How can you help?Greenpop is looking for media partners to help spread awareness about the Trees for Zambia project. You can also help by donating trees to be planted in July or by volunteering to take part in this exciting project. You can buy little tree-shaped key rings from selected lodges around Livingstone. These represent a tree and after their tree is planted, they will receive a certificate with GPS coordinates of the tree.
With that in mind, we leave you with food for thought from an anonymous writer, “It’s easy to take trees for granted. After all, it looks like they stand around and do nothing. But, in reality, they’re very busy doing many jobs that are very essential.”