And the trees don’t live


World over, the drastic effects of climate change are there for all to see and feel. Erratic weather patterns are pushing humanity to the edge of survival as scientists warn that this is the last decade we have to offset the global calamity.

What will follow, if global warming is not regulated, will be too much to bear, they argue.

Now, activists are pushing for a gradual reduction in burning fossil fuels and other human acts such as land use changes which are said to have increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration by more than a third since the Industrial Revolution began.


While scientists agree that the consequences of changing the natural atmospheric greenhouse are difficult to predict, they still state that certain effects such as some regions becoming warmer and warmer conditions melting glaciers and other ice, thereby contributing to sea level rise, seem very likely.

All these seem a bit distant. In Malawi, the impacts of climate change are already being felt full throttle. Floods, dry spells, storms and strange pests are threatening lives, particularly vulnerable households.

And one convenient way of mitigating the impacts of the problem is to plant a billion trees and we are doing just that.


Researchers estimate that by restoring forests to their maximum potential globally, we have a chance of cutting down atmospheric carbon dioxide by 25 percent.

It is a huge task especially that when we gradually cleared the green cover, it appears we did not consider the fact that even if we embarked on a great reforestation campaign, the trees would take years to become optimally useful.

Cutting down atmospheric carbon dioxide by 25 percent, according to experts, would take us back to levels not seen in over a century.

But the forests are not being restored to their maximum potential because the planting of trees itself falls short in many ways.

While we are making progress in dressing in green again landscapes that have been rendered bare, we are not paying enough attention to caring for the trees that we are planting.

In fact, some places which the government and other stakeholders have targeted in their tree planting initiatives were already reached during the previous seasons.

Now, the trees are nowhere to be seen. The planting exercises become useless sequences where time, money and trees are wasted when those involved must know that nothing would be seen beyond the periods in question.

Well, it is not easy to continue taking care of trees after planting them. One of the biggest challenges is that those engaged in planting the trees travel long distances and thrust locals onto the periphery of the exercise.

In such a fashion, there is no sense of ownership as communi t i e s feel they have no role to play in taking care of the new cover.

It appears most tree planting exercises are simply organised to show off to the world that something is being done when the impact is negligible in most areas.

It is not clear if we really go back to the trees that we planted to see how they are growing. It would allow us some great opportunity to review how we should progress.

Of course, in some communities, locals are mobilising themselves to restore the cleared forest cover and there is a clear sense of ownership.

Formal entities that are really serious about mitigating the impacts of climate change by restoring forests should try to let locals be at the forefront. They will own the projects and properly arrange how to work beyond the tree planting season.

In the current setup, where trees are planted and everything seems to end there, such exercises will drastically fall short of optimally fighting climate change.

Perhaps, that is why scientists maintain that the main solution to the climate crisis is to stop releasing greenhouse gases as much and as soon as possible.

Ecologist Simon Lewis argues that keeping fossil carbon in its original geological storage is self-evidently a more effective solution to climate change than releasing it and capturing it later in trees.

This should even make more sense when there is no guarantee that the planted trees will grow to their full potential where they can effectively capture greenhouse gases.

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