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International Tree Foundation: supporting communities in Africa at the frontline of climate change

  • Environment
  • Social Inclusion

In 2019, PWCF awarded a multi-year grant to the International Tree Foundation’s (ITF) Sustainable Community Forestry Programme. This aimed to support communities at the front line of climate and ecological breakdown to implement their own solutions by planting trees, restoring healthy landscapes, and improving livelihoods.

Over the last four years, the project has supported 17 community-based organisations in Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Ghana and Malawi. More than 15,000 people have been engaged through this community led forest and landscape restoration programme – both through tree growing and training (it is crucial that the right saplings are planted in the right places), and establishing income generating nature-based enterprises such as bee-keeping amongst newly created orchards. Over 500,000 diverse tree species have been planted, and more than 5,000 hectares of land have been restored – surpassing the original targets for this project.

James Whitehead, CEO of the International Tree Foundation, said:

This grant has allowed the International Tree Foundation to support amazing local organisations in seven countries in Africa to restore and protect their forest ecosystems and transform degraded landscapes. Those community organisations now have stronger capacities; we have seen tangible benefits for farmers and an improvement in local ecosystems. Looking ahead we want to build on all we’ve learned through this project, deepening partnerships with local civil society in Africa and achieving greater impact for livelihoods and landscapes.’

Working amongst saplings

In Rwanda, ITF worked to promote reforestation and tree domestication in Gishwati forest as well as support local members of the indigenous Batwa community to plant fruit trees that improve their livelihoods.

The Foundation’s partners also supported more than 20 smallholder farmers to increase their income and yields and facilitated 3 conservation agreements between the Batwa community, traditional healers, and the IMBONI, a cooperative that is assisting local mining companies to support tree conservation in Gishwati area. Ellie Bagirwanimana, of Kavumu-Ruhango, Rutsiro District said:

I am a traditional healer and received some seedlings of medicinal tree seedlings to be planted in my plot. I feel great because I received seedlings of medicinal plants that we no longer find outside protected areas. I planted them and once grown I will be finding all the medicine I need.’

As a result of The Sustainable Community Forestry Programme ITF has also improved its impact monitoring practices. Their new Vision for Africa will be led by Africans, helping ITF to better understand the needs of communities and the help local partners can provide.

The project has not been without its challenges; in particular, the unpredictable weather patterns caused by climate change have resulted in floods in some areas and droughts in others. A new Tree Survival and Sustainability Fund has been established to help communities to replace saplings lost to these extreme weather events.

PWCF is delighted to have been able to support this project as part of our mission to transform lives and build sustainable communities. You can learn more about the International Tree Foundation by visiting their website here.