When the first rain showers sweep through Tanzania, there’s an almost instantaneous response from the Earth, pushing up its most tender and hopeful new shoots to be blessed by the sky. There is the sweetest smell after a rainfall, almost as if you can sense nature growing.
Unfortunately, nature can be overpowered by the sharp, short-sightedness of an ax or a chainsaw. The Earth is an interdependent system. All living things play a part within it, and no one segment of the system has dominion over another. Instead, nature seeks one thing – to create balance.
Once one part of the system begins to fail, we all are affected by it. Conversely, once part of the system thrives, we all benefit.
The forest plays a large part in keeping the Earth’s system in balance. Once the ax of deforestation tips the scales, nature fights back most noticeably with irregular rain patterns. When nature’s response turns in that direction, food insecurity follows quickly. Once hunger sets in, abject poverty trails closely behind, and life spirals into scarcity. Like quicksand, once you are in scarcity, it is challenging to get out. Scarcity affects all species, humans, animals, and the environment.
Trees are an essential part of helping the Earth regenerate groundwater resources, soil moisture levels, regulating rainfall, and the transpiration process. Trees are strong rainwater harvesters. Just one oak tree with a 100′ canopy can harvest more than 125,000 gallons of water in a year.
In Tanzania, as in so many places, deforestation is growing. We knew our best defense was offensive and started a reforestation effort. We leased an 8.5-acre farm to grow our tree and food seedlings in a greenhouse. Nurtured in such an environment, we can distribute vigorous seedlings ready to grow to their full potential.
Developing countries rely heavily on wood fuel, the primary energy source for cooking and heating. So when contemplating our reforestation effort, we needed to find trees that would not be suitable for firewood use. The Moringa tree was a perfect fit.
It was selected for distribution because:
It grows 7 to 14 feet in the first year from seed. It comes into leaves at the end of the dry season when other foods are scarce. Once matured, one can cut a limb from the tree, plant it, and re-propagate a root system.
The leaves can be cooked for food and are high in carbohydrates, vitamins, protein, and fiber. Only a 200g serving can supply a child with all their daily nutrition.
Moringa seeds can be crushed into a fine powder that will remove 90% of harmful bacteria once added to dirty water.
Oil can be extracted from the seeds that are said to be better than extra virgin olive oil.
It is also drought and flood-tolerant and grows natively in Tanzania.
When we first started this program, we collected used bottles from hotels and Safari companies, cut the tops off, and used them for our tree start farm. Today, we harvest banana leaves and hand-make pots to seed our trees. Banana leaf pots can be put straight into the soil, reducing our waste and the waste we put into the field. Since its inception, we have distributed over 100,000 Moringa trees.
This year we added the Soap Berry tree or Soap Nut Tree to our reforestation program. Kernel extracts of Soap Nut disrupt the activity of larvae and inhibit the growth of the mosquito carrying Yellow Fever. However, the nut itself most attracted us to this tree, especially during the current pandemic. The nuts are saponifying and can be used as soap. Once set in water, with a little shake, soapy suds appear, and you have an instant method for washing. They are hypoallergenic, antibacterial, antifungal, and odorless.
Our reforestation goals are thoughtful and take consistent consideration of the balance we are trying to support.