Giving back to Mother Earth
“ZAMBIA has approximately 50 million hectares of forest, with an estimated deforestation rate of 250,000 to 300,000 hectares per year.”
This is according to the United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD+).
Undoubtedly, deforestation continues to be a big challenge in Zambia. The uncontrolled cutting down of trees for charcoal, timber and other uses for a livelihood has continued to deplete the country’s forests.
The high poverty levels in the country have also contributed to the rise in the cutting down of trees as people use them for economic various activities in order to earn an income.
The damage that these activities cause to the environment is serious and calls for intervention by those charged with the responsibility to do with the environment.
The government through the Ministry of Tourism, Environment and Natural Resources as well as other organisations that deal with environmental issues have been spearheading the tree-planting exercises among other activities to preserve the country’s forests.
Similarly, ordinary people have not been sitting idle on this score. Kazungula’s Martine Mbanga has taken it upon himself to start a tree nursery as a way of contributing to preserving the environment.
Mbanga, 37, is confident that his intervention, however small, will help to reverse the adverse effects of deforestation, which has also contributed to climate change.
He plans to give out the trees to people without a charge to help restore the country’s forests.
“I need little support to get my backyard tree nursery which I call a green house in good shape. I have so far spent millions in making sure that I bring up these trees. They are ready for giving away,” says Mbanga who is also a curio trader.
Mbanga drew inspiration to start a tree nursery from a Canadian tourist who has been visiting Zambia for years now.
“Gary Brooks from Canada is my mentor and he gave me some funds to organise these opaque beer packs to plant the seeds in. I have 5,000 Lucina trees and I want to gather more species such as Moringa and some Acacia trees. I also want to have some shed trees so that we can get the village green again,” he says.
He says he would like to grow a lot of Moringa tree plants because of their drought resistance, medicinal and fast-growth characteristics.
“Moringa is a miracle tree; studies on Moringa Oleifera reveal nutritional wonders from the seeds, pods, bark and leaves. It is the most generous giver of life-enhancing nutrients. The leaves can also be cooked and I like them with groundnuts,” he says.
Mbanga says the leaves can cure a host of many diseases and many medical practitioners attest to this fact.
“Moringa leaves are very high in protein and contain all of the essential amino acids, including two amino acids that are especially important for children's diets. The leaves of this miracle tree have a similar complete amino acid ratio as meat. This is very rare in a plant food. In fact beans is second but not as complete,” he says. “I am open to anyone who wants to come on board and assist me in this project.
I don’t want to just end up with Lucina. The idea is to give out the trees for free and have a follow up programme so that they don’t die once we have given them out.”
Mbanga is married to Justina Mukole and takes care of his nieces, nephews, parents and grandmother.
“Since I live in a village we have made sure that I have informed the chief of the projects and he has visited the tree nursery to check on the progress. So far we have already given out 5,000 and this 5,000 is our second shoot which will bring the total to 10,000 trees,” he says.
He says he likes the Lucina tree because of its Roman mythology that it is the goddess of childbirth.
“She safeguarded the lives of women in labour. Later, Lucina was an epithet for Juno meaning ‘she who brings children into light.’ The name was generally taken to have the sense of she who brings children into the light,’ but may actually have been derived from lucus after a sacred grove of lotus trees on the Esquiline Hill associated with the goddess and tended by the Vestal virgins,” he says. “Deforestation also brings about extinction of plants and animals, and climate change challenges that aren’t just local, but global.”
With all the lushness and productivity that exists in tropical forests, Mbanga says, it can be surprising to learn that tropical soils are actually very thin and poor in nutrients.
“After this slash-and-burn deforestation, the nutrient reservoir is lost, flooding and erosion rates are high, and soils often become unable to support any produce in just a few years. If the area is then turned into cattle pasture, the ground may become compacted as well, slowing down or preventing aforestation,” Mbanga says.
He says forest preservation, through reforestation and reforestation, can be socially divisive and there must be a broad based approach which includes the youth and women.
“My idea is to try and get as many villagers to at least have three or more trees planted at their homes. We also need to get the youths and all schools to take a keen interest in afforestation and reforestation if we are to make any meaningful strides towards combating climate change,” Mbanga says.
Mbanga is in dire need of tree seeds and nursery implements such as sunlight sheds or green house equipment.
“Apart from the technical aspects of understanding how a nursery needs to be run I need a lot of assistance with seeds of various trees and I appeal to the Livingstone City Council to help me or any organisation that has seeds. I also need some seed planting plastics as I am now using shake-shake beer empties as seed pots. This has also helped in clearing litter generated from the bars,” Mbanga says.
Mbanga is also interested in having educational materials on climate change, global warming and any other information from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Environment Programme and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations who last year in June organised a joint mission to Zambia with a dual objective of ensuring the linkages with Zambia’s Integrated Land Use Assessment Programme.