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Stories of Life Change

Four Year's Time: Why Samuel's forest shows us that change is possible

October 30, 2020

A lot can happen in four years.

In the summer of 2016, a Plant With Purpose team went to visit a field site in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). At the time, the DRC was our newest partnering country and one of the most difficult places where we could work. Most families ate only one meal a day. Many villages had been torn apart by conflict. The rates of poverty were among the highest in the world.

Our team met with farmers around the Kakumba watershed. One of our more memorable encounters was with Samuel, an older gentleman who was hoping to improve his life by healing his land.

“When Plant With Purpose launched the Kakumba pilot project, my family and I lived a miserable life,” admitted Samuel. “The food I grew on my farm was what we had to eat. We had no surplus to bring in an income.”

Samuel was introduced to Seeds of Change, Plant With Purpose’s regenerative environmental curriculum. Samuel learned about the benefit of planting trees and wanted to experience it for himself.

“With the little hope I had, I planted trees,” he told us. “But I couldn’t believe that they would grow and that someday I’d benefit from them. I was getting too old!” This even became a source of tension between Samuel and his wife. “She was not convinced by my plan to use this whole field mainly for planting trees.”

Eventually they came to agree.

“After many disputes,” Samuel adds.

Samuel's woodlot in 2016 was bare, minus a few young seedlings he had just planted

Samuel's woodlot in 2016 was bare, minus a few young seedlings he had just planted

In spite of Samuel’s optimism, he had his work cut out for him.

Samuel’s woodlot was very modest at the beginning. He planted his saplings on a steep hillside. This was a process that demanded a lot of physical labor. It also created concerns over problems like soil runoff, though Plant With Purpose provided some ideas on how to prevent this. 

After a short while, his land looked a little less bare. Instead, it was lightly colored by the small young saplings emerging from the ground. It was still a long ways from the forest of Samuel’s imagination, but it was a start.

“After I learned how to restore the environment from Seeds of Change, I decided to use one farm to plant trees that would be able to generate an income,” added Samuel. As his land began to improve, so did his life.

A recent photo of Samuel's woodlot, sent to us by our DRC partners

A recent photo of Samuel's woodlot, sent to us by our DRC partners

Four years later, Samuel’s land looks completely different

The before-and-after photos would speak for themselves. The small saplings that used to form a patchwork of green on a mostly bare hillside had grown into taller and larger trees.

“After four years, my wife started to look at the big trees on our farm and see our future. Trees are rare in our villages and communities,” explains Samuel.

The surrounding area is cooler and more lush. The soil is much healthier, which allows Samuel to grow more food than before.

The village gave a new name to my farm. They’re now calling it ‘Samuelsnewforest’ and this makes me feel proud. Everyone knows that my farm isn't only a farm, but also a small forest in our community. I couldn’t believe my eyes with how quickly I could improve my environment.”

Our team is cheering for Samuel, and we are proud to work with people like him and his family in the Democratic Republic of Congo and other similar locations. To make a gift to support programs like Seeds of Change just follow this link!

About the Author

Philippe shares the stories of people living at the forefront of the climate crisis, who are working to transform their ecosystems and communities. He loves emphasizing the human experience, and keeping conversations about the environment centered on the communities most affected by it. Philippe has led storytelling trips to Mexico, Thailand, Colombia, Tanzania, South Africa, Haiti, and a number of other countries. He has previously served in similar roles at Liberty in North Korea and Mobility International.

Philippe obtained a Bachelor of Arts in Communications, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies at UC Santa Barbara. He furthered his studies by earning a Master of Arts in International Studies as well as a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Management at University of Oregon. Philippe is also an illustrator, podcaster, and digital artist. Outside of work, Philippe loves spending time with his wife and their three kids.

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