Trees are good
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Date: 15 May, 2007
To celebrate its 50th anniversary, and to honour the work of partners like the Senegalese Union pour la Solidarité et l’Entraide (Union for Solidarity and Mutual Support), Christian Aid Week 2007 is focusing on tree planting. Suzanne Elvidge finds out more
Trees are historically very significant – there are thirty or more different kinds of trees mentioned in the bible, from the tree of knowledge in Genesis at the beginning to the tree with leaves for the healing of the nations in Revelations at the end.
Ecologically, trees (quite literally) hold our world together. The loss of trees by slash and burn agriculture to create grazing land has helped speed the process of erosion and desertification.
What difference does a tree make?
The northern region of Senegal is gripped by a 30-year ongoing drought, affecting the local population’s ability to produce sufficient food.
The drought is exacerbated by deforestation by charcoal makers and the warming global climate The simple act of getting water can take an entire day. USE, a long-standing NGO, is working with community groups and associations in the Senegal River Valley, and in the groundnut basin.
So what can just planting a tree achieve? Trees planted in communities help the local people in so many ways. Trees create microclimates by reducing evaporation and increasing humidity in the area around the tree, and attract beneficial insects, animals and birds.
Tree roots prevent erosion, the leaf litter replaces lost soil, and the canopy creates shade for people and domestic animals, and protects crops from the sun.
Trees also provide fuel, food and medicines, as well as building materials for the village and crops for sale. Trees like mango grow very quickly, providing fruit after only ten years.
The people and the trees
Mairam Djiby Diallo is a Fulani woman who lives in Meljam in the Dieri area of Senegal. In Mairam’s village, all the trees have been cut down.
She attended a tree-planting seminar run by USE, and hopes to persuade people in her community to plant and care for trees.
“Mangoes would be great because you can sell them, and eat them too!” Mairam is also keen to plant trees for construction materials, to feed the animals, and for medicines, and believes trees will help the environment too. “Trees have been cut. Drought has come. Hearsay says, where there are trees, there is rain.“
Abdoulaye Diack is the Chief of Seroume. He used to cut wood to make charcoal but now plants trees instead. “I realised that cutting trees would bring desertification and drought, and that we needed to find alternatives.”
He started by buying mango seeds and creating a nursery – the mango trees in his village now all come from the first tree he planted in 1970.
And how did he persuade his neighbours to plant trees? “I offered them some mangoes. Once they’d eaten them, I gave them some more and told them that they too could grow their own fruits. Then I gave them some seeds for free.”.
How to help?
By organising a tree planting you can improve your local community, commemorate the 50th anniversary of Christian Aid Week and help publicise Christian Aid as well.
You could plant a tree in the grounds of a school or old people’s home, create a green space in a deprived local area, or revamp a church garden.
A donation of only 65p could buy a fruit tree sapling in Senegal, so why not ask everyone at your tree planting to ‘buy’ a tree each, or to match the cost of the tree you have planted.
Or you could ‘buy’ 2,000 saplings for £35 through Christian Aid’s virtual gift catalogue, Present Aid.
By planting a tree and supporting Christian Aid Week, you are supporting and improving your community and communities in the developing word.
Give to Christian Aid Week