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World Environment Day: Growing Hope for the Future

05th June 2024

Across Africa’s drylands, communities on the frontline of the climate crisis are already experiencing the effects of land degradation. Land degradation is characterised by the deterioration of land quality and productivity and is the result of human activity such as intensive farming and deforestation, and a changing climate. Building resilience into these communities, supporting sustainable livelihoods, and restoring degraded land and ecosystems are essential to empowering future generations living in the drylands to adapt and have hope in the face of devastating change.  

Today is World Environment Day 2024 and this year the campaign focuses on land degradation, desertification, and drought. We’re shining a light on the ways African dryland communities are coming together to tackle desertification, restore degraded land, and build resilience for future generations.  

Memories of the land as it once was 

Ndarkli standing beside tree seedlings

Many older people living in African dryland communities have memories of once fertile farmland that provided a plentiful supply of food and water and a rich habitat for animals, becoming depleted and barren over the course of their lifetime. For them, climate change and land degradation are not just lines on a graph or statistics debated by scientists, but real lived change of the land they love and their lives where they once thrived. It is here climate change is having the biggest impact on people that contribute the least. 

Ndarkli Mpaambu is 50 and lives in Lakaldo, Ghana. We recently met her at a tree nursery where she has been working with Tree Aid to restore deforested land. She reflected on the changes she’s noticed to her environment.

When we were young there used to be a lot of trees around, but now the number of trees has reduced drastically... Even [in] those days, we were able to pick the shea two times. The shea tree can fruit two times in a year, but now it fruits only once, and the rains were more than now.” 

Navigating changes in weather patterns, reliability of crops, and restoring degraded land are just some of the challenges the people Tree Aid works with are tackling. Descriptions of the environment as it once was by local people document the small changes, imperceptible to most of us, and show us the drip, drip effect that is adding up to huge environmental and humanitarian challenges. 

Community-led restoration 

Ndarkli Mpaambu looking at tree seedlings in bags

People like Ndarkli have no choice but to adapt to a changing environment. Degraded land has led to a cascade of problems for people in Africa's drylands, such as hunger, poverty, forced migration, and a collapse of ecosystems.  

To address these issues, community-led projects are key to providing the right support for the people who are living along the frontlines of climate change. Typically, the interrelated causes of land degradation and ecosystem collapse requires a multifaceted approach, and it is this approach that is crucial to the success of restoration projects such as ours. Offering immediate solutions but also looking ahead is vital for empowering future generations to thrive. 

How does Tree Aid help? 

Tree Aid addresses land degradation by working with communities to adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, whilst also looking at how human activity such as intensive farming and deforestation are affecting the environment. So, what techniques do we use? 

A small tree seedling growing in degraded land

Agroforestry 

By using agroforestry techniques, Tree Aid integrates trees into farmland to providing multiple benefits for the environment and communities. Tree integration means there is less reliance on annual crops and a diversification of produce that can be grown and sold, for example from indigenous nut and fruit trees. Providing multiple and sustainable streams of income builds climate resilience. Trees also help encourage soil fertility and prevent erosion. 

Water preservation 

Water is vital to bring life back to degraded land and ecosystems.  Tree Aid uses local tried and tested techniques to capture and store any rainfall so that it is used in the most effective way possible. Boulis are just one technique we use to do this. A boulis is a large pit dug deep into the ground, usually measuring about 30 metres across and three metres deep, and can hold about the same amount of water as an Olympic swimming pool. Being able to store water provides a year-round supply, improving soil fertility and making communities more resilient to drought. 

Reforestation and afforestation 

Projects such as Tond Tenga offer an innovative model that will form part of the Great Green Wall. The project aims to regreen degraded lands with indigenous trees, capturing carbon and ensuring communities benefit from income generated from carbon credits. This holistic approach provides a long-term solution to alleviating poverty, growing livelihoods, and protecting ecosystems.

 

Tools and training 

We provide communities with tools and training in sustainable land management practices enabling them to care for trees and their land long after a Tree Aid has finished. This participatory method means that the longevity of our work is ensured. 

Looking to the future 

A group of women moving tree seedlings, one with a baby on her back

Without healthy ecosystems, the survival of the planet is in jeopardy. Trees provide so many benefits ranging from storing carbon, providing shade, food, livelihoods, and preventing soil erosion. People in African dryland communities have seen first-hand the results of their land becoming unusable and now can see the benefits of restoring it for themselves, their children, and for future generations. 

Ndarkli says: “The trees that we will plant, from this nursery, those trees will benefit us, and benefit our children and our grandchildren because shea is part of the trees that we have nursed here. And if we plant them, our children and our grandchildren will get more shea nuts to pick for their own benefits.”   

Make a difference for women in Africa's drylands

single donation

A donation of £10 today could grow one tree in Africa’s drylands, so people can live from them for years to come.

£20 could buy seeds to help women grow trees on their land so they can produce fruit and nuts to eat and sell

A donation of £30 today could grow three trees in Africa’s drylands, so people can live from them for years to come.

£40 today could grow four trees in Africa’s drylands, so people can live from them for years to come.

A donation of £50 today could provide tree skills training that will help women learn sustainable tree techniques.