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Tending to Tanzania


Written by Plant With Purpose on October 25, 2010 in General

by Kaytee McDaniel, Grant Writing Intern

What’s the fuss with Tanzania??

A new hot topic that seems to be catching the attention of environmentalists, reporters and the general public around the globe is a topic that we at Plant With Purpose focus greatly on.

The topic: The detrimental effects of deforestation in Tanzania, Africa.

To put the extremity of the situation into scale, let’s make a few comparisons. To start, the total forest cover in Tanzania has decreased by 8,067,000 hectares from 1990 to 2010. This is equal to just under 20,000,000 acres. Twenty million acres is about the size of twenty-six million football fields. Take a second to think about that, in one country a total area the size of twenty-six million football fields has been stripped from its natural resources. It seems unfathomable doesn’t it?

With numbers as significant as these, it only makes sense that negative outcomes have arisen. A destructive cycle has been created that increasingly digs local Tanzanians into a deeper and deeper hole of desperation. The cycle is sparked by deforestation. With trees eliminated, soil loses its fertility and the land is unable to retain water, causing floods and droughts.

So how do farmers continue working with agriculture (which provides employment to nearly 80% of the Tanzanian population) with such degraded land? The answer is they haven’t. The farmers of the Kilimanjaro region have been forced to take desperate measures. Because of these impossible farming conditions, farmers are ditching their agricultural work and instead are resorting to gaining profit through the only way available, which means cutting down even more trees in order to sell firewood and charcoal. Sure, this gives the farmers a temporary profit, but it also contributes to the process of deforestation which is continuing to worsen their situation in the long run through this destructive cycle.

Clearly there is a problem here, and this is where your loving nonprofit, Plant With Purpose, fits into the puzzle. To throw a few stats your way, Plant With Purpose is working in 33 communities in areas surrounding Mount Kilimanjaro, creating alternatives to deforestation and sharing tools to replenish the land. Since 2004, 938,576 trees have been planted, reversing deforestation; 1,800 families have created vegetable gardens, creating a food and profit source; 42 communities have built rainwater-harvesting cisterns, providing farmers with access to water; and 2,520 stoves have been provided to households, reducing local wood consumption. Not too bad, eh?    

At Plant With Purpose, striving to establish self-sustaining communities is the name of our game. So while we feel the environmental side is vital, we also find it necessary to supplement the agriculture restoration with financial backing, allowing communities to economically develop. How do we do this, you may ask? This is done by providing loans and access to credit to community members, so that they can establish themselves for the long-term. Tanzania’s community banking groups currently include 1,766 members who have collected a total of $264,953 that members are using to improve their farms, send their children to school, and start small businesses.

The effects of deforestation bring about an ongoing battle, but through hard work, educational training, and business loans, Plant With Purpose is making a meaningful impact in the lives of many Tanzanians.

If you are interested in checking out more information on the problems facing farmers in the Kilimanjaro area, here are two of the many articles from various sources that address the subject:

http://allafrica.com/stories/201010200065.html

http://www.starafrica.com/en/news/press-releases/article/norwegian-climate-change-director-to-lea-115380.html

Info about deforestation acres:

http://rainforests.mongabay.com/deforestation/2000/Tanzania.htm


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