August's family has seen many improvements as their community has practiced reforestation

The Need for Trees

People need trees, and trees need people.

What would happen without trees? In many parts of the world, people would suffer greatly.

Trees fix soil with vital nutrients. Trees fix beneficial nutrients in the earth which enables other plants to grow, including vegetables and crops needed to feed people and livestock. Their roots also help by reaching far into the ground and pulling up nutrients from deeper layers of the earth. When their leaves fall, they decompose and return a variety of nutrients to the ground.

The benefits go even further. Trees create the right conditions for people, animals, and food to survive. They provide a natural carbon filter for the air. They give shade, preventing other living things from being damaged by the sun or heat. Trees also help protect the pathways of streams, rivers, and other sources of water. This helps keep the water clean, prevents flooding or overflowing, and creates an even healthier ecosystem through aquatic wildlife.

A participant farms a steep hillside in Haiti
A participant farms a steep hillside in Haiti.

Without trees, these conditions would be removed.

Without those vital nutrients and healthy conditions, farmers would be unable to produce a sufficient amount of food for themselves or their families. This has, in fact, been a major contributing cause to a lot of world hunger.

Not being able to grow enough crops means livestock will become malnourished, then people. The inability to sell enough produce will also exacerbate poverty which is already experienced overwhelmingly in rural areas.

The effects of poverty are harsh and widespread. Among them are children being deprived of an education, an increased risk of sex trafficking or labor exploitation, and a greater likelihood of violence and conflict.

A team in DR Congo studies Scripture and Creation Care
A team in DR Congo studies Scripture and Creation Care.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a hypothetical situation.

Every year the Earth loses enough forest area to cover the entire country of Panama. The places that feel the effect of this tree loss are already its most vulnerable.

Haiti’s population largely relies on farming for survival. Without the protection of trees, storms and hurricane seasons have robbed the soil of its health. Now, Haiti is the most impoverished country in the Western Hemisphere.

The Democratic Republic of Congo hosts one of the world’s most rapidly shrinking forests, along with one of the highest rates of poverty and food insecurity. The difficulty of life has only made it further susceptible to instability and violence.

Nael, a Haitian farmer, lost much of his farm due to Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy. He would work from 7 in the morning to 7 at night, with very little production to show for it. Since then, he’s been adamant about the importance of planting trees.

“I have realized the importance of every single one of our actions,” he told us. “Cutting one of my trees would feel like losing a member of the family.”

Tree-planting in Haiti transforms communities.
Tree-planting in Haiti transforms communities.

While people need trees, trees also need people to plant and protect them.

Education and conservation efforts help prevent the loss of trees due to smallholder farmers selling them as firewood or charcoal- that practice is common as a short-term response to poverty that does long-term damage. Providing multiple means of escaping poverty is also a key piece of removing the motivating factors behind deforestation.

When communities realize the importance of managing their own forests and are given the invitation to do so, many respond with vigor. Plant With Purpose has seen scores of rural farmers become defenders of the forest after witnessing the difference it has made in their crop production and quality of life.

The Earth has needed its rate of deforestation to reverse for a long time now. Each year, many statistics appear to be getting worse. But successes in communities like Ojo de Agua or Kilimanjaro where Plant With Purpose works are encouraging. They show that reforesting a depleted hillside isn’t as difficult as we may think.

It takes vision, collaboration, and faith. But it is truly possible.

Plant With Purpose focuses on the connection between different aspects of our work. We invite others to participate in bringing holistic transformation to villages around the world. To partner with us on a monthly basis, learn about becoming a Purpose Partner!

Philippe Lazaro

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