Africa: Trees changing attitudes and lives


2009 is a critical year for forests and efforts to mitigate climate change could be strengthened if nations agree to protect the world's forests.

Hope still springs eternal and Africa is benefiting from these changing perceptions. The UN announced recently that, "ten million new green jobs can be created by investing in sustainable forest management". Trees are being recognised globally as more than just carbon sinks. Investing in people, trees and tree products can provide a solution to poverty, food insecurity, and economic uncertainty.

In Ghana trees are changing attitudes and lives. In ten communities 45 groups are creating green jobs through developing businesses based on the sustainable management of trees and products. Through support and training from Tree Aid's Growing Tree Businesses project, villagers will continue to develop the skills to manage their trees as a key resource for future generations.

Ama Yahaya (below), of Kanato village in Northern Ghana, said: "through observing our activities, children can appreciate trees and natural resources and learn to cultivate a sense of personal responsibility."





Abiba Alhassan, of Limo in Ghana, with her shea butter processed from the nuts of the shea tree (Vitellaria paradoxa)






It's estimated Ghana has lost 80 per cent of its forest in the past 50 years so stabilising the forestry situation is fundamental to the country's sustainability. Meanwhile ArborCarb, a British firm, has begun work on a plan to plant 24 million trees in the country to soak up carbon and restore the forest. Critics have warned that schemes like this can exclude local people and fuel corruption, but ArborCarb director Mike Packer told the BBC the scheme would work with local people and offer them a share of the carbon credits.

In Burkina Faso the Ministries for Environment and Agriculture have recently announced that non-wood forest products are to form a critical element of the economy. This will mean vital markets for villagers and a nationwide incentive to change attitudes towards the management of forest land.


Hamade Belem of Sima in Burkina Faso, with his sack of kapok sepals (Bombax costatum) for sale

"Through continued investment in forest management, business development, and awareness raising, the villagers of rural Africa can lead the way in seeing trees as the key to self reliance. Supported by policy change at national level, the potential is enormous and sustainable," said Tree Aid's Chief Executive Miranda Spitteler.