Tanzania is home to one of the largest tree covers in the world, covering more than 118 million acres of land—larger than the entire state of California—and covering more than half of the country’s rugged landscape.  Forests help fuel the national economy and provide sanctuary for the country’s abundant wildlife, but these forests are at risk. The country has an annual deforestation rate of about 1 percent which is twice the world rate of .5 percent per year.

Wood remains the main source of fuel for Tanzanians, even in urban areas. Trees are felled for firewood or turned into charcoal. With a steady population growth rate over 3 percent, community forests designated to supply wood for fuel are unable to support the growing demand.

As trees grow, they help stop climate change by removing carbon dioxide from the air, storing carbon in the trees and soil, and releasing oxygen into the atmosphere.

Grand Circle Foundation has worked with the schools we support in Tanzania to plant trees at every school and provide education about the importance of trees. In areas like Karatu, where many of the schools are located, there is mass clearance of trees to make way for arable crop farming and the forest is heavily logged. Since we began planting the trees, countless have been planted.

The first year we planted trees, we combined the planting with a two day seminar with an environmentalist at all the schools. The students were taught the importance of protecting and planting trees; how to avoid using charcoal as fuel; compost making; how to cope with drought conditions; and growing plants from seed. The lessons had an impact beyond the schools, helping to lead the community forward in conservation projects.

The trees help reduce carbon emissions, and provide food and shade for the students. Schools  have harvested papayas, lemons, oranges and avocados.

Tarangire Primary and Eluway Primary have no fences around their schools, making it easy for goats, sheep, and cows to eat the seedlings. Under village bylaws, and with the village leader’s agreement, the schools can fine herders 50,000 Tanzanian shillings ($25) if any seedling is eaten, and we haven’t lost any yet!

The students and teachers at Eluway Primary planted more than 400 trees in 2018 alone. 200 trees were funded by GCF, and the remaining 200 were provided by the community.

This year, Rhotia, Ayalabe, Endoro, Njia Panda and Changarawe Primary Schools were the lucky recipients of more than 800 trees donated by Rotary Club Arusha. Grand Circle Foundation funded the transportation and coordinated the plantings at each of the schools. The students unloaded the trees, planted and watered them, and will continue to water them to ensure they grow and remain healthy—which is also what we hope for all the students—that they will continue to grow and remain healthy.

Submitted by Sandra Vaughan, Grand Circle Foundation Project Manager, East Africa