A young Pemban woman and her mother help to plant trees in their community. PHOTO SUBMITTED
SACKVILLE, N.B. – The team at Community Forests International (CFI) is trying to change the world – one seed, one idea, one community-based project at a time.
And now local residents have the opportunity to help those efforts out in a big way.
For the past five years, CFI has been working in Tanzania to help rural Pembans change how they live and work on the land. And they’ve seen incredible results.
Through community-led action, the CFI team has helped the residents of Pemba take action to restore their land and improve the economic and environmental health of their region following years of heavy deforestation and resulting erosion.
Since 2008, CFI has worked with Pembans to plant more than 1 million trees in 15 different communities. But they didn’t stop there. Nurseries have been developed. Food crops have been planted between rows of new trees. Rainwater harvesting systems and solar energy charging stations have been built. Kitchen gardens are becoming a new trend, along with newly-developed, fuel-efficient cook stoves.
In essence, Pembans have innovated the way they grow food and how they cook the food they grow.
CFI wants to educate and empower other communities to do the same. And now they have the chance to do just that.
Their efforts have caught the attention of the European Union, who wants to help CFI take the next step – to share their work with the world. CFI wants to build a Rural Innovation Campus on the island – an educational complex where community leaders can come and learn first-hand about these efforts and bring them back to their own towns and villages.
EU has agreed to provide $300,000 toward this project. But first, CFI must raise $30,000 through donations (to show it has support beyond African borders).
“It’s a pretty amazing opportunity,” said Zach Melanson, a co-founder and communications director with CFI, which is headquartered in Sackville.
Melanson said it’s been incredible to watch how CFI has evolved over the past five years, to see “our ideas become something massive.” And now to have the attention of EU is just icing on the cake.
Daimen Hardie, CFI’s program director and fellow co-founder, said when Community Forests International was born five years ago, the long-term vision was to eventually set up some type of education centre.
“So the fact that, five years later, it’s actually happening is pretty exciting.”
Although the idea seemed pretty ambitious at the time, Melanson said things have moved quicker than anyone could have anticipated.
“It’s becoming real on a scale that’s quite impactful,” said Melanson.
CFI only has until the end of this month to raise the funds but both Melanson and Hardie are optimistic it will happen. They say they have supporters in Toronto organizing an upcoming fundraising event and Sackville donors will also have an opportunity to donate to the cause when CFI hosts a ‘wine & cheese gathering’ on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. at their headquarters on School Lane.
“We want to share this with people, with those who do care and who want to see change in the world,” said Melanson.
As well, CFI has also launched an indiegogo campaign, called Sharing Innovation for a Planet in Need, which can be found on CFI’s website at www.forestsinternational.org. More information on how people can support this cause can also be found on the site.
The property which will house the Rural Innovation Campus in Pemba has been donated to CFI so the $300,000 will help build workshop facilities, create demonstration gardens and forests, establish a model apiary, hire local experts to deliver training, demonstrate solar energy, provide bursaries, and pilot new innovations both on-site and within communities.
Through this type of education, the CFI founders say they hope to continue to inspire and empower communities to better manage and protect their own resources, as well as find new ways to use them.