One man returned to his home in Ethiopia to find the land deforested and bare. So he started a movement that culminated in the planting of a million trees!
Gashaw Tahir was shocked when he returned to his native Ethiopia after living overseas and saw how the land had been degraded, as well as the effects of deforestation on the climate and quality of life for his community, which overwhelmingly relies on farming.
“You did not use to be able to see the sky when I was there.” Now the landscape is mostly rocks, he told America.gov. When he was growing up there were 10 or 15 rivers near his hometown. “Maybe today one or two exist. That is how bad it is.” In addition, wild animals were scarce, the average temperature had significantly risen and malaria was spreading. People are now dying from it “more than HIV/AIDS,” he said.
The solution, Tahir decided, was to restore the forests on the local mountains. Along with environmental recovery, his project would provide income opportunities and empower the youth in his struggling community. Hiring young people from both Muslim and Christian communities to plant the seedlings, Tahir also saw it as an opportunity to promote religious co-existence as well as give them a way to earn money for clothes and schoolbooks.
He first asked his city council for a two-acre area and employed 450 children for two to five months in which they collected fertilizer to mix with the depleted soil and then packed and planted the seedlings he started in time for the summer rainy season.
The project, known as the Greenland Development Foundation, grew exponentially from there as he acquired more and more land and employed more young workers. He and his crew have now planted more than 1 million trees, and media coverage has inspired similar projects elsewhere in Ethiopia.
Tahir, now recognized by the Ethiopian government as a “national green hero,” says his biggest role is “just being a model.”
Photo courtest www.america.gov