1 million trees for Tanzania: the report of our mission on the field

The offices of our partner Friends of Usambara are anchored at the entrance of the main nursery.
20/02/2020 – Anne-Lise de Reforest’Action Catégorie: Usambara Tanzania – reforestation – Agroforestry – audit – trees – forests

In mid-February, a Reforest’Action team went to Tanzania to carry out an audit of our reforestation project. The objective of this mission? To exchange with our local partner Friends of Usambara, to monitor the trees already planted in the field, to record environmental, economic and social indicators, and to meet the local communities to continue to develop our project alongside them.

Meet our partner in the field

Lushoto. After the overwhelming heat of the Maasai plains crossed on our way from Dar Es Salaam, it is a breath of fresh air that welcomes us, in the hollow of a green valley, at 1200 meters of altitude. Caroline, in charge of our international projects, and myself, in charge of reporting on the field, are welcomed by the team of our local partner, Friends of Usambara. This NGO, founded in Lushoto, specializes in reforestation, sustainable tourism and school environmental education programs – a young and generous team, experienced in setting up and deploying reforestation programs in the heart of the Usambara Mountains. Since their creation in 2008, they have already planted 22 million trees. This achievement makes them the main contributor to the massive effort to conserve the region’s plant and animal biodiversity.

At the edge of the mother nursery that supplies the NGO with seedlings throughout the year, the 11 members of Friends of Usambara are gathered to welcome us in the coolness of their offices. Every day, during the rainy season, they roam the Magamba Reserve from one planting site to another, coordinating tree planting and identifying new areas for reforestation. Protected by the Tanzanian government since March 2016, the reserve covers 9,283 hectares, but signs of deforestation are still clearly visible in the landscape. These include the expansion of agricultural and grazing land at the expense of forests, and cutting for charcoal and fuelwood production.

Here, soil erosion is a tragedy for the environment and for the people. Under the pressure of rainwater, the soil disintegrates and becomes sterile, creating landslides and making cultivation impossible. Roads are lined with gigantic rocks that have fallen from the mountains. “We are planting on the mountainside to hold the soil and prevent the rocks from falling,” says Madawa, the technical advisor of the reforestation programme at Friends of Usambara.

This hill bears the marks of erosion caused by deforestation.

Thanks to funding from our corporate partners and our community of Reforest’Actors, 1 million more trees will take root this year in the heart of the Usambara Mountains. Since September 2019 and the initiation of our partnership, nearly 630,000 trees have already been planted. The remaining 370,000 seedlings will be planted by July and the end of the rainy season.

Nurseries as far as the eye can see

After a time of exchange with Yassin, the founder of the NGO, we follow Issa, the tree nurseries coordinator, through the maze of the mother nursery. The fresh morning air rustles with the music of butterfly wings and the flow of the stream that meanders through the open-air nursery. A veritable Garden of Eden opens up to us, populated by a multitude of tree species, 90% of which are of indigenous origin. Erythrina abycinia, Markhamia lutea, Podocapus usambarensis, Cedrela odorata... So many species whose Latin and Swahili names, inscribed on signs, serve as landmarks in this ocean of greenery, where we move from one deck to another, crossing the stream, amidst the trumpets of the Ipomea and Bougainvillea.


Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.