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TREE AID striving to improve life in poverty stricken communities

In Ethiopia, 11.9% or approximately 13 million hectares of land is forested. Between 1990 and 2005, the country lost 14.0% of its forest cover. This, coupled with frequent droughts, has seen the agricultural sector in Ethiopia suffer over recent years; having devastating effects on the communities living there who rely on the land for survival. TREE AID works with communities across Ethiopia and the African drylands (Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Ghana) to help lift them out of poverty – through the power of trees. Tackling poverty and protecting the environment are inseparable.

One area where TREE AID has been working to improve the lives of communities living in poverty is Wof Washa in Ethiopia. Wof Washa is Ethiopia’s oldest state forest and one of the very few remaining natural forests in the country. It spans 6604.56 hectares and is home to the Juniperus procera, also commonly known as the African Pencil Cedar or East African Pencil Cedar. This indigenous tree is essential to local people. Larger fallen trucks are used for construction timber and make vital elements when building homes, including door frames and structural supports.

Tragically, deforestation as a result of overgrazing and clearing the land for agriculture has resulted in juniper seedlings being destroyed and more and more of the forest being lost. Nearly 2,000 hectares of natural forest has disappeared over the last 20 years and in Wof Washa over 14,000 families directly depend on the land and the forest’s resources for basic survival.

But, with the support of TREE AID and local partner SUNARMA the landscape of Wof Washa is changing – and so are the lives of the families living there. TREE AID began working with the local communities to protect the forest and the Juniperus procera trees by helping them to form forest management co-operatives. These co-operatives were given training and guidance on how to sustainably use and protect the trees in the forest; and now collectively work as forest guards to preserve Wof Washa and its valuable land.

Before, during the most desperate times, people would also cut down trees for firewood or crop planting. But now communities are being supported to set up ‘tree businesses’ and are becoming entrepreneurs selling fruits and nuts from other trees in the forest. With TREE Aid’s support 500 apple tree seedlings were distributed between 50 fruit producers; providing families with an income to buy vital resources like food and medicine. For some people living in Wof Washa this was the first time they had even tasted an apple. To date, 83 tree enterprise groups have been successfully established and this continues to grow; those that received seedlings and training have gone on to train other members of the community. Passing on the knowledge they have gained.

TREE AID’s work with local communities to regenerate land changes lives; it provides people with a sustainable way to lift themselves out of poverty for generations to come.

Established in 1987 by a small group of British foresters, TREE AID works with local communities in West Africa and Ethiopia to help them protect and grow trees, for themselves and for the future. On 11 June 2018, the charity has reached 1.2 million of the world’s poorest people and helped them grow almost 17 million trees. And over the next five years plans to plant nearly six million trees; that’s one tree every 30 seconds.

To find out more and support TREE AID’s vital work visit www.treeaid.org.

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