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13 June 2021
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Our Readers Write......

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Over 6 million Indigenous Trees planted

It is so saddening to think that our last visit to Malawi ended before Christmas 2019, but, it is so heartening to realise that everything has progressed as if we were there all the time or weren't missed!

From the beginning Wells for Zoe was set up to be a local organisation of ordinary men and women, where they learned new skills. They later learned from and taught one other. Of our 62 employees no one has a degree, and some haven't finished primary school, but between them have learned to speak English, type, take photographs, send reports by WhatsApp, use sophisticated machinery, complete spreadsheets, use the cloud, fly a drone, as well as the skills for plant propagation, like budding, grafting and climate smart organic farming.

Many years back we introduced a loan scheme, which has enabled many of our employees to build their own houses, with most of the rest, in the process. The focus in everything we do is on helping people to help themselves. And it works. Of course, there is constant (all-day everyday) WhatsApp contact, where the connectivity can be better than in many parts of Ireland.

Early last year, Eamonn, our eldest, who lives in Edinburgh, decided to do an analysis of our tree planting project and decided that we should be growing indigenous trees where most of these forests had been cut down and almost disappeared, except for tiny, protected patches here and there.

So, he and Kevin, a friend from Germany (both volunteers and scientists) began worldwide research. In their search and along with the team in Malawi they found the National Herbarium & Botanic Gardens of Malawi (part of the worldwide Botanical Gardens network) who have one of three Malawian bases in Mzuzu where WfZ is centered.

Then our guys began the task of visiting traditional chiefs to convince them that this was the way of the future: planting thousands of hectares of community land to help with climate change, soil erosion, to bring back wildlife and to provide a more sustainable source of firewood (their only source of fuel for cooking). It was a big undertaking but remarkably there was an instant uptake to bring back trees their grandparents spoke of (which had almost vanished) and hopefully the associated wildlife.

Incorporated in the research and partly based on our previous tree-planting experience, Eamonn and Kevin obtained support from various big tree planting organisations, One Tree Planted, Ecosia, Plant-for-the-Planet / Trillion Tree Campaign along with many of you, our loyal followers.

Both perfectionists, they put a plan and a monitoring scheme together using the best technology employing GPS polygon mapping and the magic of drone mapping. Now our own staff map all planting and nursery locations from the ground, and use drone fly-overs to obtain 360 panoramas and to create 2D and 3D maps that clearly show the planted areas. The new donors are very excited with our unique set-up and their funding has enabled us to pay all dayworkers involved in every aspect of this project.

In the 2020/2021 Season - completed in April 2021 - we planted: 1,745,185 seedlings (grown in nurseries in tubes) and 1,476,165 seeds directly (which suits some varieties). We also distributed in the region of 1 million indigenous seeds and tubes to local communities in the various areas we work, to grow in their own nurseries and plant in their own communities near their homes.

As in other seasons we further distributed about 2 million Tephrosia seeds to communities to grow as nitrogen fixing plants beside their maize crops, using local of maize, and replacing Monsanto and GM varieties and for future use as an organic pesticide and fungicide by spraying with a water solution made from the ground leaves. Of course, we also continued our support of planting fruit trees, either from seedlings grown in our sustainable organic farm in Lusangazi or from direct planting of seeds.

It has been a busy but very rewarding planting season led by our fantastic Malawi staff with major and grateful contributions from all our supporters. Have a look here for all the details:
https://wellsforzoe.org/planting-indigenous-trees/

There is much talk here in Ireland about reaching our target of planting 20 million trees per year for the next 20 years. The land owners appear to be willing and at up to 7000 per hectare in grants plus annual add-ons, maybe they should be, BUT it looks like this year will be a failure because of a Departmental delay in issuing licenses of up to nine months?

It is more than a little embarrassing to have to disclose to our group of up to 600 dayworkers, more than half who are women that they have planted a third of the total (planned ????) for our whole country, of Ireland.

John and Mary Coyne, wellsforzoe@gmail.com