Self Help Africa is playing its part in an ambitious plan to plant four billion trees in Ethiopia this year.
The Northern Ireland charity, which merged with War On Want NI last year and has a dozen retail shops in Northern Ireland, will complete the planting of 300,000 tree seedlings in the east African country this weekend.
An agricultural development charity, Self Help Africa is planting trees in the Lake Ziway region of Ethiopia, where the organisation carried out its very first development project in Africa 35 years ago.
It is carrying out the work in association with local farmers’ groups, and is providing training and support to farmers in the maintenance and management of the new forestry.
Self Help Africa’s head of Northern Ireland operations, Denny Elliott, said that the organisation had invested an initial £20,000 in the work.
“Self Help Africa’s tree planting work is being carried out to rehabilitate land damaged by drought, to improve soil quality and combat climate change by absorbing carbon dioxide. A fully mature tree can absorb 48 pounds of carbon dioxide per year,” Mr Elliott added.
Self Help Africa’s country director for Ethiopia, Dr Wubshet Berhanu, said that the organisation was undertaking the project as a part of a nationwide ‘Green Legacy Initiative’ that was launched by prime minister Abiy Ahmed earlier this year.
In total, Ethiopia is hoping to reforest the country with approximately four billion tree seedlings in 2019.
Dr Berhanu said that Self Help Africa’s commitment wasn’t just financial, as it had allocated a team of advisors to provide training to farmers’ groups so that the planted trees would be protected to grow to maturity.
“We have planted mixed tree varieties, including fruit trees and trees that can provide fodder for farming livestock. In that way the landowners and local community will have several direct benefits from the project.”
Self Help Africa’s Northern Ireland head said that tree planting was an important component of the organisation’s work, as trees provided food, fodder, fertiliser and also provided shade and shelter in rural Africa.
“As we watch the terrible fires blazing in the Amazon at the moment it is more important than ever that we recognise too the vital role that trees play in drawing carbon from the atmosphere and protecting the air that we all need to breathe,” Denny said.
Ethiopia set a world record last month when it planted an incredible 350 million tree seedlings in a single day. Self Help Africa’s effort contributed tens of thousands to that tally.
Self Help Africa shops are located in Ballynahinch, Banbridge, Bangor, Belfast, Downpatrick, Dunmurry, Holywood and Lisburn.