News from the frontlines: Grassroots climate action in East Africa

The Crestone Eagle • March, 2020

by Lee Temple & Kimbowa Margaret

Along with recent climate catastrophes such as the Australian fires that have claimed over a billion animals’ lives, many of humanity’s own climate-destructive behaviors still boggle the mind. Take today’s global deforestation figures for example: in 2020, a football-field-sized portion of the Amazon rainforest (already 20% deforested) is denuded of trees and wildlife every single minute; and in the past five years, an area the size of the United Kingdom has been deforested worldwide, every year. So in spite of 2014’s global commitments to halve deforestation by 2020 and halt it by 2030, we’re still failing miserably.

Kimbowa Margaret.

Why do we care about this? According to the climate change experts, if we want to avoid the worst effects of climate change (think multiple Australian catastrophes, etc.), we need to start reducing global greenhouse gas emissions (which are still rising) by 2025, and cut them in half by 2030.

Hard evidence from a recent Science report shows that, in addition to all other carbon-mitigating and fossil-fuel-reducing efforts, tree-planting and re-foresting is by far the most effective, best way to combat climate change, and that planting half a trillion trees in available areas could remove a quarter of existing CO2, or 2/3s our total CO2 contribution during the last 300 years. Planting trees is easy, available to all, and cheap, compared with every other climate solution. And more and more areas around the world are also seeing not only human-caused deforestation, but significant climate-caused tree die-off and destruction too (looked at our mountains recently?). So planting trees by everyone from individuals to nations has effectively become a new planetary moral imperative in our time.

Charcoal (dead, burned trees) being transported to market.

As many of you know, I founded and still run the global climate action website primamundi.com, where we often get many interesting and inspiring climate-focused communications from around the world. Here’s a recent email from Ugandan climate champion Kimbowa Margaret. The earnestness of her message, titled “A Big Call For Help!”, perfectly underscores the urgency and relevance of all grassroots action, and tree-planting in particular:

“Hi and warm greetings, on behalf of Mother Earth. Thanks for the great climate-conscious work you’re doing. I’m writing to share my plans for implementing a bold action against deforestation.

“My name is Margaret, a mother of five. With your support, I’m starting the business of saving trees. Here’s my proposition to positively impact the fight against climate change in the world, in my home country Uganda, and in the neighboring five countries in East Africa.

“Country-wide in Uganda, homes currently rely on burning charcoal for cooking. This has led to deforestation at an alarming 200,000 hectares (nearly 500,000 acres)/year.

Mangoes like these (or jackfruit) would be some of the fruits harvested in the project. photo by Dulalkarmakar / CC BY-SA

“As a result, countless viable fruit trees are killed and processed into charcoal every day. This saddens my heart, but strengthens my determination to stop it.

“I asked myself: ‘What if one could make it unprofitable to cut down these fruits trees? What if it could be profitable for the average citizen to plant more of these majestic tall trees? What a wonderful world that would be!’

“Since fruit rots and perishes in a few days, tree-owners can only sell small amounts at market. High supply at local markets reduces prices and profits, and leaves wasted, rotting unbought fruit. Tree-owners are therefore powerfully motivated to sell trees for quick cash for emergency expenses like medical bills, or purchasing food during droughts.

“However, if all the harvested fruit is fairly bought from the tree-owner and dried for export to the sizeable markets of Europe, the Middle East, Japan and USA, the smallholder will earn sufficient, ongoing money during both yearly harvest seasons, more than s/he would get from single-payout charcoal burning. This would encourage more tree-planting and greater deforestation mitigation.

“My proposal relies upon a new, efficient, fruit dryer. Costly electric food dryers require electricity that’s usually not available in rural areas. High-maintenance commercial polythene solar fruit dryers suffer intense internal heat build-up, cause fruit rot during rainy seasons, and dry fruits slowly, often taking two days per batch.

Tree-cutting in Kenya.

“A group of local graduates engineered a new low-energy dryer, affectionately named ‘Sparky,’ that employs a solar-powered battery on sunny days and recycled agricultural-waste briquettes on rainy ones. It dries five times faster than the sun, and the renewably-sourced briquettes save even more trees from the axe.

“Sparky enables me to purchase much fruit from tree-owners, which thus creates a reliable market that will convince/encourage poor, smallholder villagers to plant more trees. Additional advantages include steady job-creation, connecting healthy local fruit to the global food supply chain, decimating local food waste, lifting small farmers out of poverty, enhancing nutrition and food security via dried fruits’ two-year shelf-life, providing stable income and food for farmers/dependents, and employing clean, low-energy-footprint power.

“It’s my dream to implement this much-needed, proven solution to save our living planet from the horrible climate effects of ever-increasing deforestation. I’m not going to rest. I’ll work harder every day until I’ve expanded to cover all regions in the six countries. Right now, with your assistance, I’m raising seed capital of $5500, to buy two medium-sized 50kg/day food dryers, and to purchase fruits from tree-owners.

“In appreciation, I’ll distribute our 100% organic, 100% non-GMO dried fruits to everyone who contributes seed money, and who will also be eligible to purchase future fruit at a 10% discount for a two-year period. Future prices will also be approximately 50% lower than now, due to re-use of the equipment you’ll help me buy today. When I get a minimum of $100 from campaign backers, I’ll be featured on GoGetFunding’s public page, making my endeavor more visible worldwide.

“I’d like to invite you and your friends to help or advise me in any way possible. Even a small contribution will make a big difference, because every $1.20 saves a fully-grown fruit tree. Preserve today—Feed tomorrow.

“Thank you for your support and your prayers. May God bless you abundantly!

“Mrs. Kimbowa Margaret

“Nairobi, Kenya”

Learn more/contribute to her project by visiting: https://gogetfunding.com/support-me-save-10000-grown-up-trees-from-deforestation.

Many organizations actively support tree-planting by individuals and organizations, communities and nations. One of the oldest and biggest, the Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org), makes it easy for anyone, red or blue, to get involved in this critical effort. You can learn more about other grassroots efforts on our Allies page (https://primamundi.com/step-up/allies), and you can read more about deforestation in Chapter 18 of my award-winning book, Awakening Into Unity.

Long-time Crestonian Lee Temple has authored the award-winning Global Awakening series, founded highly-regarded climate website primamundi.com, and received the 2019-20 Albert Nelson Marquis (Who’s Who) Lifetime Achievement and Global Humanitarian Awards.