The changing future of our trees
Due to global warming and climate change, weather patterns across much of Africa are becoming increasingly unpredictable, leading to a mix of severe droughts and intense downpours. Located just south of the equator, Tanzania is a vast country bordered by Kenya and Uganda to the north, Rwanda, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo to the west, Mozambique, Malawi and Zambia to the South, and the Indian Ocean to the east. Its large land mass means that the climate changes considerably in just a few hours’ drive.
Generally, there are four clear seasonal changes per year. Currently, we are in the midst of the ‘short rains’ which are unpredictable, light rains that last for the duration of November and December. If it has rained during this time, then it typically dries up during January and February, which is known as the ‘short dry season’, before the ‘long rains’ begin in March, lasting until the end of May. During this period of time, Tanzania welcomes tropical downpours combined with high temperatures and humidity before calming down once again in June, signifying the start of the ‘long dry season’ which lasts until October.
It is towards the end of the long dry season that we begin planting our tree seedlings in village land forest reserves. However, sadly not all of these seedlings will reach the forest. Survival rates are affected by a plethora of reasons, climate change being one of them. Unusually heavy rains are catalysed by global warming, often leading to damping off, a horticultural disease that is prevalent in wet and cool environments. Damping off is caused by several pathogens that can weaken and kill seedlings before or after germination, unusually high volumes of rainwater create the perfect environment for this to happen.
In addition, changing precipitation patterns can not only result in wetter environments but can lead to extremely dry and arid conditions. Rising temperatures in this already hot climate could impact upon survival rates. Tree species have a tolerance for a specific temperature range, if temperatures change significantly then some trees might begin to feel the added stress. In our tree nursery in Nanjirinji we planted 6,000 Mpingo seedlings with a survival rate of 4,500, meaning 25% of seedlings did not survive their surrounding conditions due, climate change is sadly a determining factor.
At MCDI, we are working hard to ensure that as many seedlings as possible survive this initial stage in their life and successfully make it to the forest. Last week, we had a training session in Mchakama’s tree nursery with visitors from Ngea village. The purpose of this visit was to bring together members of both communities so that villagers in Mchakama could share their knowledge and experience surrounding tree planting. Our existing and successful tree nurseries offer a platform for capacity building and are encouraging other communities to push for their own nurseries. Whilst we currently only have three operating tree nurseries, a growing number of communities are expressing interest in creating their own. Reforestation is a crucial part of sustainably managing forest habitats, the support that we get from Beautiful Cups enables us to help more and more communities to plant more trees. This year alone, we have raised almost 40,000 new seedlings. However, the changing climate continues to pose greater problems for the future of these seedlings, it is crucial that we continue reforesting and do what we can to reduce the impacts of the changing climate on these trees.