Planting cassia trees on terracing to prevent erosion at Borkeshe, Ethiopia. Photo: Eleanor Bentall/Tearfund
Planting cassia trees on terracing to prevent erosion at Borkeshe, Ethiopia. Photo: Eleanor Bentall/Tearfund


By Helen Gaw 

Trees are a precious resource. They maintain the earth’s atmosphere and sustain the environment. It is often said that trees are the lungs of the earth.

Trees also provide us with the raw materials for construction, furniture, cooking implements and paper products. They are an important source of food such as fruit, nuts and leaves. Everywhere we look we see the resources provided by trees, whether we live in a large city or a small rural village. All our homes contain wood and paper products and most of us enjoy eating foods that have come from trees.

We need trees, and because we need them, we need to protect them by caring for them and using them sustainably. Much research has been done on this subject and some global initiatives are explained on p10.

Sometimes it is not easy to use trees and forests sustainably. Perhaps there are questions about who owns a forest and who has the right to use it. Or environmental damage such as land clearing leaves an area without enough trees and there are no initiatives for replanting. We consider these problems in the opening article and on p16.

A number of the articles in this issue are about tree-planting in communities, but there is also relevant information for individuals and families who want to benefit from planting trees.

Trees and forests can relieve poverty and contribute to health. We look at the benefits of agroforesty (growing trees and crops together), beekeeping and medicinal plants. The centre spread shares tips for tree planting.

Future issues will be on stigma and non-communicable diseases. As always, readers are invited to submit articles and letters. 

Please find below articles from Footsteps issue 85 in html.

To download a pdf version of Footsteps issue 85, please click here (524KB).

  • Agroforestry case study: Indonesia

    by Richard Roden. In 2002, local NGO Ayo Indonesia started to promote sustainable agriculture to the farmers’ group ‘Suka Maju’ in Meni in Golo Ngawan village in the East Manggarai district on the island of Flores, Indonesia. They were introduced to new ideas for land conservation and agroforestry to increase land productivity.

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  • Bees and trees working together

    by Paul Latham. I remember waking up in the house where my wife and I lived near the village of Manse Nzundu in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Outside it was only just beginning to get light yet I could hear the sound of bees working some flowers...

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  • Community reforestation

    by Hamisi Mushamuka. Trees represent life. They have many practical uses and they are part of our lives whether we live in an area with many trees or just a few. Trees play an important part in our environment, our health, our economy, our culture and our society.

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  • Gathering tree seeds

    Make it a habit to carry some bags or old envelopes with you so you are always ready to collect seed from good trees.

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  • How to make seed balls

    A simple method to restore plant life to an eroded area is by using seed balls. Each year, collect wild seeds. Children are especially good at gathering seeds, and they will enjoy learning about plants.

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  • Issues in forestry

    by Julian Evans. As the international conference on climate change in late 2010 in Cancún, Mexico, reached a disappointing outcome, we will have to resort to doing our own bit to protect our environment. This includes taking care of trees and forests, because forest clearance and degradation accounts for close to 20% of the annual emissions of greenhouse gases. Quite apart from all the other losses caused by the destruction of forest – indigenous people’s homes and livelihoods, biodiversity,...

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  • Letters

    Local consumption of cowpeas – potential dangers. Cowpeas form a staple in most parts of Nigeria. Consequently, a variety of cowpeas is grown and sold in Nigeria. Cowpeas are notably very nutritious. Cowpeas balance the other starchy staples – yams and cassava. However, as the crop is produced in large quantities, storage has become a problem for local farmers. They use all kinds of chemical insecticides for storage of the crop, endangering the health of the potential consumers. This is ...

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  • Mangroves

    compiled by Helen Gaw. Mangroves are a group of trees that can grow in salt water. Mangroves have large root systems which prevent erosion and provide an essential habitat for valuable fish species. They can also grow in fresh water. Mangrove forests are important for protecting coastlines, riverbanks and estuaries from floods and storms.

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  • Medicinal trees - Trees with healing properties

    Traditional medicines often include one or more tree parts or products. These may be the fruit, leaves, flowers, bark, roots, seeds or oil. Here we share some information about a few medicinal trees in the humid and arid tropics. We strongly recommend that you consult a local herbalist first about the correct quantities and use. In the case of serious symptoms, you should consult a doctor.

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  • Resources

    Agroforestry – A PILLARS Guide Agroforestry is the practice of allowing trees and crops to grow together, on farmland or in the forest. PILLARS Guides are designed for use in small group situations where one or more people are literate and confident enough to lead others in a group discussion. No training is needed for the leader. This Guide raises awareness of the benefits of agroforestry for sustainable agriculture, for the soil and for nutrition. It increases understanding of the different ...

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  • Soil care

    by John Crossley. Deforestation often leads to erosion. This article shares a method for improving soil fertility for agriculture.

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  • Speaking up for forests and livelihoods

    In South-East Asia, as part of a larger dam-building project, a government and foreign companies are planning to build a dam at the meeting point of two rivers. This place is rich in biodiversity and has great cultural significance for the people that live there. The project involves flooding a large area of forest and relocating 60 villages, affecting around 15,000 people. These families will no longer be able to provide for themselves and raise...

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  • Top tips for tree planting

    by Steve Collins. It is an unfortunate reality that a significant proportion of the millions of trees planted around the world each year do not survive long enough to meet the purpose for which they were planted. As a result, people’s time and resources are wasted, the problems that the tree planting was supposed to tackle continue, and people often become disappointed and disillusioned.

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  • Trees for firewood

    Compiled by Helen Gaw. It is well known that the need for firewood can lead to deforestation, which damages the environment and makes it more difficult to find firewood. But people still need firewood.

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