Plant a Tree — Make a Difference

450,000 ordinary and fruit trees were planted for household and communal use through local community structures in Malawi

BMZ through the Global Programme on Food and Nutrition Security, Enhanced Resilience, under the ‘ONE WORLD – No Hunger’ Special Initiative embarked on supporting the communities of Dedza and Salima districts to replant ordinary and fruit trees.

The Malawi Food and Nutrition Security Programme (FNSP) of the global programme has been implementing district nutrition response programs in the two districts that are still suffering from the after-effects of the 2015/2016 ‘El Nino’. As part of the response, the FNSP with the government district forestry offices identified the tree types suited for replanting, using the site matching approach.

Ambassador of Germany Juergen Borsch taking part in the tree planting in Dedzament

Subsequently, a total of 450,000 ordinary and fruit trees were planted for household and communal use through local community structures including primary schools. Different types of trees were planted for different purposes:

  • Albezia lebeck, senna spectabilis, glycidia Sepium, faihidherbi albidia and acacia polycantha to help fix nutrients in the soil
  • Khaya anthontheca, albezia lebeck and afzeliaquanzensis to assist with water retention
  • Senna siamea and moringa orerifera to provide vegetative cover
  • Oranges, mangoes, guavas, pawpaws and peaches to serve as windbreakers and body nourishment

Deforestation in Malawi

All over Africa, deforestation is a notorious and serious problem. Malawi has not been spared. Its 8.4 million acres of forest are being depleted at a rate of 2.6% annually. Malawians are feeling the pinch as this deforestation causes the local climate to change, with adverse effects, especially in recent years. The country has been experiencing serious dry spells, seasonal droughts, intense rainfall, land riverine floods and flash floods. The cutting-down of trees has rendered the soil helpless from the water run-off.

Most Malawians in rural areas have been left homeless and many lost their lives. In addition, the effects of dry spells and floods are visible in most Malawians, especially among women and children who became food insecure and eventually undernourished as their fields were either washed away or produced little or no harvest. In these periods, Malawi registered an average increase of 65% of undernourished cases to be treated at nutrition rehabilitation centres, as the Malawi Community Management of Acute Malnutrition Database reported. These adverse climatic hazards can partially be attributed to deforestation hence creating demand for deliberate efforts to protect and plant more trees.

Trees are important for human livelihoods

Trees help with stormwater management and improve air and water quality. They have been grown for human consumption since the beginnings of the agricultural revolution 12,000 years ago. Their fruits not only sustain human lives directly in form of food, they are also known to have health benefits and are used for treating ailments such as fever and dysentery for even longer times.

Nowadays we know, trees enrich the soils and minimize the negative impacts of global climate change such as the rise of sea level rise, hurricanes, floods and wildfires. It is imperative to note that the earth will be affected seriously if we don’t take immediate measures to mitigate or adapt to climate change. Planting trees and tackling the mismanagement of forests are effective measures to counteract exacerbating conditions.

Some of the trees planted in Salima

There is more to it than planting trees

FNSP support did not end with planting as it is the aim to see these grow and be used for the intended purposes. Through the forestry department, the program renders additional continuous support:

  • To the communities
  • To the development of forest management plans
  • To the promotion of applying indigenous techniques to control and manage pests
  • To tree management awareness campaigns
  • To institutional strengthening of local forest organisations and supportive monitoring.

All of which was done with an aim to strengthen the sense of ownership. It seems to be a successful approach. Both districts reported a plant survival rate of 85%.

Much is growing, good relations too

In addition to the good survival rate, the planting initiative reported success in collaborating with the forestry department — who in turn built prospering relationships with the communities leading to increased community ownership of the intervention.

Jointly overcoming challenges is a great foundation to build relationships, and when they challenges arose due to floods washing away some of the trees or unwillingness to plant trees because of lacking knowledge on the positive impact of trees, local leaders stepped in. With their involvement and FNSP’s support to the forestry department, the communities understood the importance of planting trees. They are now demanding for more seedlings, especially for their fields as they have learned about their capacities to fix nutrients in the soil.

For the trees that were washed away, FNSP started on replanting in the affected communities so that they can also benefit. In addition, FNSP works in a multisectoral context and as a result, the bringing on board of the forestry department entails its continued support to the tree management cause. It will ensure that this initiative is sustained through monitoring and capacity building.

More reforestation is needed

Demand for reforestation in Malawi is still increasing. FNSP is proud of its contribution as these efforts will have long-term positive effects. The team, including the German Embassy which has been involved in the entire process of replanting and planting, will be glad to witness the communities benefitting from the initiative. More joy will be felt when the children in these communities shall be able to pluck a fruit from a tree within their compound at no cost for their body nourishment. This is the main goal of FNSP, to improve the nutritional status of women and children in Dedza and Salima districts!

About the post

The article was written by Vitowe Batch, FNSP Malawi