Every year in April, the world comes together to mark Earth Day – birthed from the early environmental movements of the 1970s. Taking action to protect our climate does not have to be difficult or complicated. Everyone has a role they can play in reducing their environmental impact and protecting our Earth. That is why the 2021 theme for Earth Day is “Restore our Earth” – it places our actions at the center. We have damaged our Earth, now it is up to us to restore it.
MEDA has been an active participant in championing the restoration of our Earth through reforestation efforts. Forests are one of the most powerful tools we have to combat climate change and provide food and habitat for the many different species of plants, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. Our planet is currently losing forests at a staggering rate: According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization, we are losing more than 18 million acres of forests every year — that is about 27 soccer fields of forest lost every minute and roughly half of Earth’s tropical forests have already been cleared. Since the beginning of the 20th century, the world’s forests have lost about 20% of their coverage.
Planting trees is one of the easiest and cheapest ways of taking CO2 out of the atmosphere to tackle the climate crisis. Not only do forests act as carbon sinks, but they also provide vital habitat for animals and ecological services for humans, such as purifying the air we breathe and regulating local temperatures. Earthday.org has operated its reforestation campaign, The Canopy Project, for over a decade and has planted millions of trees on every continent except Antarctica.
In an effort to promote climate collaboration and environmental stewardship in the northern state of Bauchi, Nigeria, the youth entrepreneurship and women empowerment (WAY) project in 2018 created the Bauchi State Environmental Stakeholders Forum; a committee of officials from state and federal government agencies, NGOs, media organizations, private companies, and market actors. The aim of the committee is to gather like-minded organizations to identify and address environmental issues within the Bauchi state. In 2019, the committee sought to identify the challenges with drought and desertification and promoted ways to fight against it.
With the state receiving only 4 months of rainfall a year, plans were made to capitalize on the onset of the 2021 rainfall season in June to conduct a tree-planting project to combat the spread of desertification spearheaded by the committee. In preparation, the forum spearheaded by MEDA and the Great Green Wall initiative launched campaigns in the media and local radio stations on the importance of trees to sustaining livelihoods for both women and youth in Bauchi. These sensitizations are aimed at building the capacity of women and youth towards becoming environmental stewards.
The Great Green Wall initiative was conceived in 2007 by the African Union as a 7,000km (4,350-mile) cross-continental tree barrier stretching from Senegal to Djibouti that would hold back the deserts of the Sahara and Sahel. The initiative is meant to capture carbon dioxide and reduce conflict, terrorism, and migration. The world’s most ambitious reforestation project, the Great Green Wall of Africa, has covered only 4% of its target area but is more than halfway towards its 2030 completion date.
MEDA’s project in Kenya looked at the extractive sector and what can be done to foster environmental sustainability in the sector. As you may assume, the extractive sector is associated with massive land degradation ranging from air pollution to loss of biodiversity. While the project looks to improve the value chain and incomes of clients in the extractive sector, and environmental lens has been applied to ensure all land quarried is reclaimed as part of the site exit environment management plan. The project has applied this approach by filling back open quarries and planting trees that have the ability to adapt to harsh climatic conditions and increase the percentage of vegetation cover. According to Trees for Life, it calculates 6 trees offset 1 ton of CO2. As part of the project, one of our project clients has already planted 1,000 casuarina tree seedlings and is planning to plant 1,000 more. Through the reforestation efforts by the project, at least 166 tons of CO2 is already expected to be offset.
Those are just a few examples within our MEDA projects that are looking at reforestation as a very real and positive solution in the fight against desertification, stormwater damage, and of course the changing climate.