Democratic Republic of Congo, November 2010.

 

Deforestation produces about one fifth of global greenhouse gas emissions- more than all the cars, planes, and trains in the world.

 

Life on earth depends on forests. Trees influence day-to-day weather and help keep the climate stable by storing massive amounts of carbon. As they are cut they release carbon into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. Protecting the world’s remaining tropical forests is a key part of the solution to tackling the climate crisis.

 

The Congo Basin rainforest is the second largest on earth and plays a vital role in regulating the global climate. The Democratic Republic of Congo alone is the fourth largest forest carbon reservoir of any country in the world but its trees are being destroyed at an alarming rate. Decades of conflict, mass displacement and enduring poverty have put even more pressure on the forests in this resource rich country.

 

In Eastern Congo, the people are already witnessing the effects of deforestation as weather patterns change and rivers begin to dry up. Climate change in this region is not something abstract; when trees are cut, the rains no longer come, altering crop cycles and depleting supplies of water. Over the past decade there has been a cry, “Tupande Miti!” Plant trees!

 

With over 97% of the population of Eastern Congo reliant on charcoal for fuel and timber for construction, creating plantations of fast growing trees can help protect existing rainforests, reducing the environmental impact of war. Tree planting programmes initiated by international NGOs such as the World Wildlife Fund for Nature are sensitising communities to sustainable forestry practices. Looking to cut the consumption of wood for fuel, new affordable, eco makala (eco charcoal) stoves halve charcoal use while recycled briquettes alleviate the dependence on trees.

 

At grassroots level, agricultural associations and non-governmental groups such as the Pole Pole Foundation have been working with communities as part of a worldwide scheme to plant one billion trees a year in partnership with UNEP. To compliment the planting of new trees, they provide educational and alternative livelihoods programmes, ensuring the survival of the forests for years to come.

 

On one of the frontlines of climate change, the people of Eastern Congo have turned to geo engineering. Planting trees is their solution. It has the potential to change the world.

 

This story is part of Climate Change by NOOR.