African forests are home to many different kinds of tree, and each kind is well-known for its special uses for humans. Trees give us firewood, charcoal and coal, and a feast of food and furnishings - fruit, nuts, chairs, tables, broomsticks, fishing rods, magic wands and medicine. Trees serve wildlife too - binding, feeding and shading the soil so that other plants can live on the forest floor, and providing homes for masses of insects, birds and animals.
100 million people across Africa depend on forests for their livelihoods, chopping them down for fuel, or to sell as timber. People who clear the forest to grow food depend on the fertile soil created by the forest ecosystem. They suffer when this soil loses its goodness and washes away because it is no longer sheltered from heavy rain or fed by leaf-fall.
In fact, we all depend on forests. Forests are part of the planet’s life support system. They feed the rain, clean the air, protect the soil, and keep our water supplies stable. Because trees absorb carbon dioxide, forests also help guard against global warming, one of humanity’s most serious problems. The ‘global community’, especially the rich, must be prepared to pay for the safe keeping of the forests, which means looking after the people who may otherwise destroy it just to survive.
Despite our dependence on trees, their loss is one of the biggest problems facing Africa today. Satellite images collected by NASA show how fast the forest is being eaten away. Sudan, DRC, Zambia, Tanzania, Nigeria and Zimbabwe each cleared between 5 and 10 million hectares of forests between 1990 and 2005 – only Brazil and Indonesia cleared more. However, the news is not all bad. In some places, trees are being planted and people are protecting and managing forests for the future.
Whether for food, income or the environment, if we look after trees, they’ll look after us. He, or she, who plants a tree plants hope.
DOWNLOAD EXCERPTS FROM AFRICA OUR HOME (PDF)
What do trees give us [pages 102-103]
Africa’s amazing plant diversity [pages 104-105]
Forests feed the rain and keep us cool [page 108-109]
Eaten away: Why the forests are shrinking [page 112-113]
Imagine a world without trees [page 114-115]
What can be done [pages 116-119]
Plant your own tree [page 120-122]
DOWNLOAD ACTIVITIES FOR SCHOOLS AND YOUTH GROUPS (PDF)
ACTIVITIES FOR EDUCATORS: FORESTS The Sustainability Game : Using without losing (upper primary, secondary, community group)
DOWNLOAD: FORESTS ACTION SHEETS (PDF)
DOWNLOAD FORESTS DIRECTORY (PDF)
For further details of helpful organisations listed in the Action Sheets see the PACE DIRECTORY. Please note that this was compiled in 2007 and you may need to use Internet research or contact firstname.lastname@example.org to request updated details for specific organisations.
The forest films are available from PACE, email@example.com. The following are the sections of the DVD which are applicable to this topic:
TREES AND BUSINESS - NAFRAC, Tanzania
TREES AND FARMING - NAFRAC, Tanzania
LAND REGENERATION - NAFRAC, Tanzania
MICRO CREDIT AND ALTERNATIVE TREE PRODUCTS - Mthanjara Women's Co-operative, Zambia
GOOD WOODS PROJECT - WWF East Africa, Kenya
http://www.wwf.org.uk/what_we_do/safeguarding_the_natural_world/forests/forest_work/east_africa_forest/ ; http://www.darwininitiative.org.uk/documents/11004/4409/11-004%20FR%20Ann%201%20Newsletter%20chongacarvers2005_c.pdf ;
Click on the links above to find out more about these projects around the Internet.
A tree nursery in Lama, Kenya. © Sarah Watson
Soap made from the Neem tree, a tree grown all over Africa. Growing more trees on farms can reduce the pressure on wild forest resources. © Sarah Watson