FOR A GREENER FUTURE
Laura Mukwhana, Emma Jones-Pilipson, Sunday Jofrey, Steve Makungwa, Emem Umoh.
More than a third of humanity lives in drylands, which are particularly vulnerable to climate change and affected by ongoing land degradation. The Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) is building local chapters around the world that are restoring degraded landscapes, networking with each other, and sharing knowledge and experience. We asked activists from five African initiatives what drives them – and what they love about nature.
“People need to feel that they are making their own land fertile.”
Steve Makungwa: “Malawi’s entire economy is based on agriculture. But of our 9.4 million hectares of land, 8 million hectares are already degraded. Many forests have been cut down to create new land for farming or to get wood for cooking and heating. This is worsening the situation of the land more and more. In our GLF project, we bring together different actors to make the soil more fertile again. I see our task in building connections and bridges. For example, we offer training for young people or talk to representatives from churches and mosques so that knowledge can be spread among people.”
Steve Makungwa and the Mulanje cedar
Name: Steve Makungwa (52), GLF Lilongwe, Malawi
Job: Lecturer in Forestry at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources
Favorite plant: Mulanje cedar (Widdringtonia whytei)
“In addition to communication, the issue of private land ownership is also important. Until now, a lot of land has not belonged to individual farmers, but to tribal leaders. The government is now introducing legislation to change this. People need to feel that they can make their own land fertile.
Malawi has set a goal of restoring 4.5 million hectares of land by 2030. That is very ambitious. Global politics also influences our project. For anything to grow at all, farmers need fertilizer, and the prices for it have risen a lot due to the war in Ukraine. The situation in the world has a direct impact on our food supply.”
“If the forest lives, the animals will come back”.
Emem Umoh: “Our community project in Nigeria has been running for eight years. We have already planted thousands of seedlings and are far from finished. In the next five years, we want to plant one million trees. Since we started working with GLF, everything has improved again. We have brought so many people on board. Key tribal leaders are now on board and supporting the project, and we’re working closely with them. That’s the local level. At the national level, the GLF has empowered me to network in order to get the issue of reforestation on the agenda of the Nigerian people.”
Emem Umho and the prickly pear
Name: Emem Umoh (47), GLF Uyo, Nigeria
Job: Initiator of various nature protection projects
Favorite plant: Prickly pear (Annona muricata)
“Currently, I am in our capital Abuja for this purpose and want to gain even more important supporters. We want to ensure that Nigeria’s large forest reserves are restored in ten years. We are starting with Stubbs Creek in the Eket Offiong community, where we want to replant many of the illegally logged native tree species. Then the animals will also return – the elephants, turtles, and all the others. That is my dream. My favorite tree is the prickly pear. Its leaves have an anti-inflammatory effect – plus it’s beautiful.”
“Climate change is unfortunately not a policy priority”
Sunday Geofrey: “For the past four years, we have been facing a political crisis in Cameroon, which means climate change has not been a priority. The biggest challenge for us, therefore, is to mobilize resources for our young initiative, both financially and in terms of staff.”
Sunday Geofrey and the Wenge tree
Name:Sunday Geofrey (37), GLF Yaoundé, Cameroon
Job: Founder and coordinator of Support Humanity Cameroon
Favorite plant: Wenge tree (Millettia laurentii)
“Large forests are still being burned down in Cameroon to gain land. And when we plant new trees, there is no protection from the herds of cattle that roam the country. Therefore, we now want to protect the planted trees with fences. We have big plans for reforestation. But the challenges are also great.
For example, the Mbingboh River has lost a lot of water. It has 15 springs, but in the dry season only one of them supplies water. Yet four large communities depend directly on it. The Mbororo who live in the river region live pastoral lives and have to supply their sheep and cattle and, of course, themselves with water. When the water dries up, the people have to leave their homes.
So, we plant trees that store a lot of water. We also want to promote beekeeping. In the next ten years, we want to create an ecotourism site here. The beautiful Mbingboh Waterfall will become the center of a botanical garden. I have been able to convince many young smallholder farmers to join our project, and we have already planted 7,000 trees.”