(June 14)
Larry Johnson and the Manhattan Beach Rotary Club, in collaboration with District 5280 and World Vision, are planning a $1 million environmental tree planting project in Niger, one of the poorest countries in Africa. (Larry and his Club have previously worked with a clean-water project there.) Niger (not Nigeria) is a landlocked country in West Africa with 24 million people, more than 10 million in extreme poverty. The encroaching Sahel (Sahara Desert) is moving farther south every year due to climate change. Wind, sand, dust, soil degradation, water scarcity, and drought make it hard for farmers to provide for their families. The situation is worsening due to food insecurity and COVID-19.
In their agriculture-dominated economy, farming is practically impossible without trees. Trees slow the wind, which otherwise dries and removes the topsoil. They cool the ground, and provide for shade for animals who “fertilize” the ground through their droppings. Trees provide habitat for birds that eat insects, and for bees that pollinate crops. Trees slow the precious rain when it comes, allowing water to soak deeply into the soil and hopefully restore critical aquifers which are becoming depleted by well-pumping. Getting more trees into the landscape is critical for slowing desert expansion.
One way to get trees back into the landscape is to manage trees that have been cut down to regenerate themselves, which works well, but takes time. The fastest way to get trees growing is by planting appropriate tree varieties, which can work, but only if they are cared for in the first 1 or 2 years after planting, until their roots are established. Most tree planting projects fail because of the assumption that trees can simply be left alone after planting. Tree planting succeeds when people are incentivized to care for the trees, especially by watering them while they are vulnerable.
This project will be managed by the host Rotary Club of Niamey Gaweye with the professional local World Vision staff. World Vision will match Rotary funds up to $500,000. World Vision works in nearly 100 countries with over 34,000 staff, in the world's poorest and most vulnerable countries. Rotary Clubs and World Vision have been collaborating on projects since 2005 and invested $25 million in project funding, for 3 million people worldwide.
The project area is in the Commune of Chadacori, which is semi-arid and seriously affected by land degradation and deforestation (cutting trees for cooking fuel and building materials). Rotarians and World Vision staff plan to restore 7,413 acres of land by planting at least 650,000 trees, which can transform the lives of 18,000 people. We can help by supporting Manhattan Beach Rotary’s contribution of $500,000. Contact Larry Johnson at ljohnsonmb@outlook.com or 310-200-2091.