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  • Writer's pictureCatherine O'Farrell

Blooming Wild - Seeds for Trees (and maybe bees).

A small action to connect communities in Wales and Tanzania to take care of our environment.

The climate crisis is an ever-present issue for us all. Whether we would like to admit it or not, our greater home is suffering as global temperatures increase and more greenhouse gasses are emitted, and world leaders plan what little they can do and the wealthiest play in space...

Across the world climate change is impacting us all differently. Here in Wales we're seeing our vast sea levels rising as the oceans warm, and our extensive and vulnerable coastlines (where many people live) being threatened. Our climate is changing with it becoming warmer, and the weather becoming more erratic as our rainfall in the winter leading to much flooding across the country. Our wildlife is facing challenges, to say the least - where I once grew up with the many butterflies that flew from the giant Hebe in our garden, I now get excited when a few land on a Buddleia. I remember not long ago the smoke billowing through our village from the fire that lasted days on Llantysilio mountain on the horseshoe pass.

However, there are parts of the world that are truly being devastated now by climate change - like parts of Africa. There is one African country that I have been working closely with through non-profits since October 2020 - Tanzania. A beautiful country that is facing daily devastating challenges.

In Tanzania - as with many African countries - temperatures are soaring and weather is becoming more extreme, with people having to face extended periods of severe droughts, subsequently followed by sudden downpours of heavy rainfall leading to flooding. These temperature increases and changing weather conditions leads to more challenging conditions for agriculture (which is the backbone of rural Tanzania). Land is degrading, desertification can be found in many places as water becomes scarcer.

But the thing is, for such communities in rural Tanzania, it's not just their land and home around them that worsens - many aspects of their lives to, too. Communities become poorer and hungrier as they yield less crops. In many communities you can find malnourished and food deprived children. The effects of continuous food deprivation - especially at such a crucial stage of development - reaches far beyond their capabilities at school with tiredness and a foggy brain. Children suffer from severe weight loss, muscle weakness, and impaired physical and mental development, including stunting of growth.

People - most often women and girls as it is their duty - have to walk even further simply to collect water for the household, as after a five mile walk to the nearest stream, they may find it has dried up. Climate change is also impacting on people's rights, including gender equality. There is also an increase in health implications as the climate conditions increase suitability for habitats of biting insects and transmission of vector-borne diseases.

These communities that I work with, that are being affected the most, are the most vulnerable to the climate crisis. Whilst many of us try to figure out what we can do for our futures, these communities are having to take action for their now. However, whilst such communities might be the most vulnerable to climate change, perhaps they are the best in their ability to take action?

In fact, research has shown improvements for conservation are much more likely when indigenous and local communities are environmental stewards. Simply put, locals do it better...but sometimes, they might just need some help, as we all do.

Here, I introduce to you the Tanzania Development Trust (TDT) and Mboni Ya Vijana Group (MVG) - two non-profit organisations that I have been voluntarily working with since October 2020. The Tanzania Development Trust is a UK based charity with UK based project officers and local Tanzanian representatives who work with the people of the rural communities. They work to empower these rural communities by working directly with them on various projects. Whilst they have a vast range of projects, their three main focuses are on access to water, income generation, and education.

Mboni Ya Vijana (Swahili for "Eyes of the Youth") is a grassroots community non-profit organisation based in Kigoma, Tanzania, and a partner of TDT - in fact, MVG's founder and director is one of TDT's local Tanzania representatives. MVG does some incredible work installing vital water pumps, empowering women in work, increasing income, improving agricultural practices amidst the changing climate, and taking climate action. For the past 20-odd months I've helped lead various fundraising campaigns for both organisations to assist with their work, including two seed money campaigns for MVG that have helped to create two school gardens filled with fruits and vegetables to combat hunger.

Having always been a keen gardener, last year I decided to sow my first seeds - Amaranthus (or "Love Lies Bleeding"). Within the first couple of weeks they started to appear...and they just didn't stop. I never quite realised how many seeds were, and I had consequently sown hundred of the things. Even after handing some to family and friends, unless I was going to line my whole garden with them all, I needed to sell them. And I wanted to do some good; what could be a better cause than to plant fruit trees in Tanzania - trees that would help the environment and combat hunger.

Although my sales got off to a rough start due to having to be rushed into A&E for an emergency operation (diolch Mama TJ for carrying on the sales!), we managed to raise over £400 for Mboni Ya Vijana to plant fruit trees - 800 trees in total; 600 orange trees and 200 lemon trees! These tree were planted into school gardens in Kigoma to feed students.

I have once again sown seeds - this time all wildlife-loving plants that will help our environment and biodiversity. (I have also been careful on how many seeds I have sown!) I have foxgloves, cupid's dart, love in a mist, achillea, harebells, and St John's well as a few donations from my community. The money will once again go to plant trees in rural Tanzania. We may also be able to fund beehives which not only increase food security and income generation from the honey, but they also protect the trees from illegal logging by hanging them in the trees - as well as generally helping the environment and biodiversity!

It may be a small gesture, but it is an action I can take. We can all take action as individuals, not matter how small, and this project shows how communities can come together across the world to take action and help one another.

Besides, I get to grow plants.


Catananche "Cupid's Dart"

A hardy perennial, grows up to 60cm tall, likes full sun, ensure to plant a few together for a spectacular display - bees love them!


Nigella Miss Jekyll Alba ("Love in a Mist")

St John's Wort

Achillea "Gold Plate"

Campanula Rotundifolia "Harebells"

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