The project, a partnership between Raleigh Tanzania and the Tanzania Forestry Conservation Group (TFCG) – and funded by UK sports and teamwear firm Chadwick Textiles – has seen Tanzanian and international volunteers work alongside the community to plant 150,000 new seedlings and promote alternative sustainable businesses. In addition, community awareness events and school lessons have been organised to educate and raise awareness of how important trees are for managing the climate and maintaining the livelihoods of people in the village.
Medson has been working alongside Raleigh volunteers in Mpanga over the last three months. Medson will play a vital role in involving more youth and ensuring young people benefit from the project in the future.
Working with other members of the Natural Resource Management committee, who also recognise the importance of involving youth in managing the local environment, Medson will be responsible for organising regular awareness and educational sessions and focus group meetings to make sure that the project is led and maintained by local young people.
‘As a committee we will try very hard to make sure more and more young people start being involved in this project,’ Medson said.
‘Young people are the future, and if we want sustainability they have to be involved from the beginning,’ added Victor Luvena, another committee member.
In Mpanga, deforestation of the natural forest has reduced significantly since Raleigh’s project partner, the Tanzanian Forestry Conservation Group (TFCG) began working in the area more than 15 years ago, setting up tree nurseries and promoting sustainable alternative businesses to timber, such as beekeeping.
While this reduction is positive, it means that young people in the area have less awareness of how deforestation can affect the local environment and community.
‘The older people in the community are more aware of how deforestation can affect the weather because they have lived through the changes,’ said Gerald Elias, a Deputy Operations Manager from Raleigh Tanzania.
‘The people I have spoken to here have said that they there is much less rain now than when they were young because of deforestation. This obviously affects the ability to grow crops and people’s ability to make a living. But to young people, the weather now is what they are used to. Therefore, they see less of a need to protect it.’
The joint Raleigh-TFCG project aimed to tackle this challenge through involving all sectors of the community and particularly youth, through lessons in schools, community awareness events, and focus group meetings.
Medson has a good understanding of the effects of climate change and on the importance of protecting the forests surrounding Mpanga. ‘Trees are a vital part of regulating our air quality and our climate and are involved in the storage and cycle of rain water to and from the atmosphere. They provide crucial shade from the harsh sun, which some of our crops are dependent on. We also use certain types of trees for medicinal purposes, making them very valuable to our community.’
Medson continued: ‘If we all plant trees, we will be able to reduce pollutants into the air. For example, the carbon dioxide coming from the paper factory on the other side of the hill used to come straight to the village, especially when the tank broke back in the day. Nowadays the trees that have grown on the hill could filter the air that comes to our village. Lastly, we depend on trees for our livelihoods,’ he said.
Not only is it important to create an economic incentive for protecting the environment, but to educate youth on the effects of deforestation so that they understand the importance of sustaining the project in the future. The volunteers, alongside TFCG, organised lessons at the local school to teach young children about climate change and deforestation.
Medson recognises the importance of educating children about these issues and is determined to continue these activities within schools – as well as wider awareness throughout the community – after Raleigh volunteers have left. ‘There needs to be more education on climate change and how it affects our community and the wider world. More education and awareness will foster more change in the right direction. We also need to create a bigger presence as the environmental committee to motivate everyone to plant more trees,’ he said.
The project in Mpanga has seen the community come together to support Raleigh volunteers in planting new trees, with the volunteers and villagers working side-by-side at the project site for several weeks. This has helped to mobilise the community to act on an issue, according to Medson: ‘The project has brought more unity among us villagers. At this moment we are working together to plant these trees, and hopefully we can use this unity for future projects as well,’ he noted.
Marcella Christophersen, a Raleigh Tanzania project manager, added: ‘In Tanzania there is a saying “Tuko Pamoja”, meaning “we are one”. That has never been truer than when it comes to our planet and the children in this world. Having seen the villagers help us in planting trees, it really shows that this mentality is rife among the villagers here. If they are so invested, so should all of us, individuals and businesses alike.’ At home in London, Marci works for RB, a global health, hygiene and home company, and is volunteering as part of Raleigh’s corporate volunteering programme.
To ensure that the maintenance of the project site continues after the volunteers leave, Medson and the NRM committee have given out various responsibilities to the community, to create a sense of ownership and ensure that people stay engaged with the growth of the trees.
‘We have split the whole community into groups, and the leaders of these groups are very invested in the project and will keep the project going. It also helps that there is a bit of healthy competition in these groups,’ he noted.
‘Of course, also the presence of young people is helping us make sure this project remains sustainable. The project will help to improve our standard of living and provide for a brighter future for us and our kids.’
In addition to targeting youth through education, during Raleigh’s time in the community, young people in Mpanga were taken on a field trip to see the a previous Raleigh Tanzania-TFCG project site in a neighbouring village. Here, the trees are around a year old.
‘The young people were surprised at how quickly the trees had grown in a small space of time,’ said Jane Attard, a Volunteer Manager working in Mpanga. ‘It also helped them to understand the importance of seeing a project through to the end. When you’re planting trees from a seed, the end result seems so far into the future. But, this gave them a real-life look at what can be possible if they work together to maintain the tree nurseries and create new ones in the near future.’
Words by Jessica Rowbury (Communications officer)