Rebuilding the land I—restoring forest landscapes

| April 18, 2016

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As mentioned in this week’s Resource, we celebrate International Mother Earth Day on April 22. The theme of this year’s Earth Day is “Trees for the Earth.”

Our Script of the week focuses on the benefits of trees for farmers.

In 2011, an international NGO started a campaign to restore a forest landscape in eastern Uganda that had been completely destroyed by years of burning bushes and cutting trees. The project encouraged farmers to plant trees to help retain water in the soil, reduce the effects of drought, and increase crop yields.

In this area, droughts were prolonged because there were no trees to help create rain. Winds were severe because there were no trees to act as windbreaks, and rainfall simply evaporated from the ground because of the lack of vegetation cover, leaving clouds of dust in the air. Crop yields were low because the soil was no longer fertile.

The project not only encouraged people to plant trees, but provided tree seedlings for free, provided water for the seedlings, and gave financial incentives to people who looked after their trees. It also trained farmers in good, sustainable farming practices and rewarded those that followed these practices. After a few years, people are beginning to see the importance of trees to the life of the soil, and they are planting more trees on their own.

Planting trees on farmland has many benefits for farmers. Trees provide many types of products, including wood for construction and fuel, medicinal products, and fruit for sale and home consumption. They also provide shade for shade-loving crops, and store carbon, potentially decreasing greenhouse gas emissions. Some types of trees add atmospheric nitrogen to the soil, fertilizing the crops near them directly through their roots and when their leaves fall to the ground.