The home of Gladness Pallangyo—also known as Mama Gladness—is green and dense with trees and banana plants.
While much of this part of northern Tanzania is losing tree cover, private organizations are stepping up in the face of a changing climate and planting trees to protect their environment. Tengeru Cultural Tourism, located outside of Arusha, is one organization that has made a big effort in this regard.
Mrs. Pallangyo is the founder of Tengeru Cultural Tourism. She has been planting trees for 19 years. In that time, she has planted 70,000 trees in her area. Because of the beauty of her home, tourists to Tanzania often visit to get a picture of local life.
To increase her impact, she has recruited local students to her cause. She explains, “I have requested a permit from Meru district to visit all schools and give a tree to each student to plant and look after it.”
Many people in the Mt. Meru area have been cutting trees to burn for charcoal, which has resulted in deforestation. Mrs. Pallangyo’s efforts are helping to reforest the area.
She plants a variety of trees, some collected from the forest and others purchased from suppliers.
Leoni Mbui is a weather and climate expert from Dodoma, in central Tanzania. He says planting trees will help protect the environment, and help create more rain. He says it is important to find different techniques to encourage more people to plant trees.
One technique Mrs. Pallangyo uses is competition. Primary and secondary schools in her area compete to plant the most trees. Laki Tatu Primary School recently won first place among 20 schools in the area for planting the most new trees. Juma Msengi is the headmaster at the winning school. He says that all the trees are growing well, and that the school is producing more trees to plant in the area.
He adds: “We have been taking care of the trees which have given us victory in the tree planting competition, which was started by Mama Gladness. The trees have grown now and we are continuing to plant other trees and encourage students to plant more trees, [and we are] giving them trees to plant in their homes.”
But Mrs. Pallangyo’s work isn’t without challenges. Once, 5,000 trees died from a lack of water. Mrs. Pallangyo says that she tried to water the trees herself, but it wasn’t possible to get enough water. She got tired of searching and carrying water to the plants, so decided to dig a well to look for a more reliable water source.
She says she has faced resistance to her work. Some local leaders thought she was doing it for political reasons. She says, “When I was planting trees, ward leaders were uprooting planted trees because they thought I was planting trees so that when I came to contest for a position, I would easily win.”
But Mrs. Pallangyo’s political interest is simply to see the ward take more action to protect the forest. She has asked the government to reserve areas in each ward for planting trees, to help combat drought.
Cultural tourism enterprises like the Tengeru Cultural Tourism Program receive support from the Tanzania Tourist Board, a Uniterra Tanzania partner. Uniterra Tanzania works with local partners in the fruit and vegetable and tourism sub-sectors to help young people and women access better economic opportunities. Uniterra provided funding for this story. Uniterra receives financial support from the Government of Canada, provided through Global Affairs Canada, www.international.gc.ca . Learn more and follow Uniterra Tanzania on Facebook at: facebook.com/wusctanzania