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Plant a tree to fight climate change

Malawi-story-8.jpgMathanki Mikisoni is a 48 year old farmer who lives with his wife, Honolia, and their six children. They live in Chizu Village, Lilongwe District, Malawi. Mathanki has always had a special passion for trees. When he was a small boy, his father taught him the importance of trees and so Mathanki started a tree farm. His farm has over 3,000 indigenous trees, but these types of trees grow slowly and Mathanki was not seeing immediate benefits.

He also had to battle climate change and the challenges associated with deforestation. Despite these challenges Mathanki believes that, “it is important for families to plant trees. I learned from my father the importance of trees and today I am so happy that my children have an interest in and a love for trees.” Deforestation is a serious challenge facing farmers in Malawi.

It is directly linked to climate change and its effects, which include increased temperatures, decreased rainfall, soil erosion, and drought all negatively impact agricultural production. In a country where 90% of the population use wood for fuel and the majority of people require land for small-scale farming, the increasing population is causing further deforestation.  To combat these negative effects knowledge about different agricultural and forestry technologies is necessary.

In 2012, Mathanki’s became one of the first farmers in his village to join the newly established Tilandilitseni Farmer Field School group. He participated in training on crop and livestock production, as well as nursery establishment and agroforestry. Agroforestry is an integrated approach of using the interactive benefits from combining trees and shrubs with crops and/or livestock.

It combines agricultural and forestry technologies to create more diverse, productive, profitable, healthy and sustainable land-use systems. (definition from http://www.internationalscholarsjournals.org/journal/ijas/about ). Mathanki was particularly interested in the training on tree nursery establishment and agroforestry, building and expanding on his existing knowledge of the importance of trees.

Not only did Mathanki learn about the benefits of growing exotic trees which are fast growing trees. These will compliment indigenous trees because the rapid growth of the exotic trees will offer an alternative source of firewood, allowing indigenous trees the time they need to grow to reach maturity. He was also able to share his knowledge and experiences on planting and growing indigenous trees.

Mathanki’s Farmer Field School group established a tree nursery site where they have raised 3,000 exotic seedlings and Mathanki has received 125 tree seedlings from the Farmer Field School nursery that he has planted around his house and gardens.

He explains that, “With this year’s good rains, my trees have taken root and I will continue to take good care of them to ensure their survival. They will provide me with a source of much needed wood fuel, shade, manure and poles.” He is also able to sell tree products such as firewood, poles and charcoal from his forest.

The money he makes from the sale of these products he uses to purchase household items such as soap and cooking oil. Despite the environmental challenges, the knowledge he and his neighbours have gained on agricultural and forestry technologies, has drastically improved their livelihoods.  Mathanki remains enthusiastic and passionate, “let us plant trees, they can provide a solution to limiting climate change and alleviate a lot of problems and challenges faced by farmers today,” said Mathanki.

Since its inception, CPAR has planted more than 66,770,000 trees in Sub-Saharan Africa. Plant a Tree and help improve the environment, and the health of families in Sub-Saharan Africa.