Barry Childs of West Linn is the founder of Africa Bridge (www.africabridge.org), a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering African people to find solutions to difficult problems. Africa Bridge is helping improve the lives of people living in small villages in Tanzania, particularly children, who are affected by HIV/AIDS. They are focused on helping these children, especially the orphans, by providing better access to education, basic health care, and other services to improve the quality of their lives.
In 2005 Barry approached members of the nonprofit organization ReTree International with a proposal to develop a tree planting program in conjunction with schools in rural Tanzania. It is the mission of ReTree International to plant trees on idle lands around the world by involving people, especially youth, in planting projects and by educating them on the importance of trees and forests. ReTree International and Africa Bridge implemented the first planting projects in an area in southwest Tanzania, the Isongole Ward of the Rungwe District. There are eight villages and nine schools in the Isongole Ward. There are approximately 3,200 children in the area, 730 of which are orphans. Africa Bridge opened a children’s center in one of the villages.
The first installment of this project took place in Isongole Ward in January, 2006. The Rungwe District Council provided the seedlings but everyone involved believed the ideal situation would be to have a nursery in one of the local villages to provide seedlings for future projects. The first nursery, as planned, was situated near the Godfrey’s Children’s Center in the village of Idweli to allow children to learn about forests while participating in the cultivation of seedlings. For the 2007 plantings, 5,000 seedlings were grown at the nursery and were available for planting. In January of 2007 over 3,000 of the seedlings were planted in eight villages with children from seven schools. Another 2,000 seedlings were distributed in the villages for later planting. The species planted were all native with the exception of some eucalyptus, and consisted of larger forest trees as well as fruit and nut trees. The nursery is managed by the Rungwe District forester, Peter Chibwaye, with help from staff and students. Africa Bridge closed Godfrey's in 2007 so Mr. Chibwaye moved the nursery to Isongole school and began growing the trees for 2008. Over 5,000 seedlings were once again produced and planted in January of 2008.
In late 2007 Africa Bridge announced plans to expand its work into another ward, Masoko. They began their work there and ReTree followed. Mr. Chibwaye grew about 7,500 seedlings for planting in both Isongole and Masoko Wards in January, 2009. By now he had moved the nursery to Tukuyu, where the district offices are and which is more centrally located. ReTree's Ed Buursma and his son Zach traveled to Tanzania again to participate in plantings in both wards. The inaugural plantings in Masoko Ward went well and ReTree once again returned in January of 2010 to complete another tree planting project, this time with over 9,000 seedlings planted and distributed in both wards.
ReTree and Africa Bridge partnered again in 2011 the 6th annual Trees for Tanzania tree plant during the last week of January and the beginning of February. Almost 8,000 seedlings were planted or distributed to villagers in SW Tanzania. Another 1,000 trees were also planted later in February. Late last year, our partner, Africa Bridge announced its plans to move into its next ward, Mpombo, and to establish programs similar to those in Isongole, where we had our first plants in 2006, and Masoko wards. This year we planted trees in both Masoko and Mpombo. Click here Tanzania Pictures to see pictures from the project area and the 2009 tree plant.
An important component of this project will be to address the issue of use of wood for cooking and heating. Africa Bridge is working with other organizations to find other sources of energy for the villages in the two wards to reduce reliance on wood. A grant from the Lion's Club International helped provide resources for the tree planting project and also provided funds to develop a biogas energy system at the Isongole School. This system, put in place in 2008, uses waste products as fuel and provides enough electricity to run the entire center, including cooking and refrigeration. It should help take some of the pressure off local woodlots to provide wood for cooking and heating fuel. This will improve the chances that the trees planted by the children will grow into healthy forests.
We gave this project the name “Trees for Tanzania”. There were two goals of the Trees for Tanzania project-
Currently both goals are being met.
Future Prospects for Project Expansion
With the success of the first five planting projects and the establishment of the nursery, the best outcome would be that the schools in the two wards will be able to conduct their own projects in future years. This would allow establishment of tree planting projects in other wards of the Rungwe District. Africa Bridge has announced plans to move into other wards and they would like ReTree to join them. ReTree International and Africa Bridge are committed to making this a multi-year program with a goal that eventually all of the schools in the Rungwe District would have tree planting projects each year. This program could be a model that would be easy to implement in other areas of Tanzania and other countries in Africa.
Funding the Project
ReTree International is a small organization with limited financial resources. We plan to be able to raise the funds to pay the costs associated with organizing and running the tree planting projects each year. We are looking for partner organizations to fund the nursery establishment. It is possible that nursery costs will be lower in future years once the nursery supervisor is trained and if children can help to plant and maintain the seedlings.