One Muslim’s Mission To Make Africa Green Again

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Muslim starts sustainable tree planting operation to make Ethiopia green once again.

Visiting Ethiopia after a thirty year absence, Geshaw Tahir an Ethiopian-born Muslim was struck by one thing. The green landscapes and trees that once surrounded his home had all but disappeared and were replaced with dry fields, eroded and ruined after years of deforestation.

Mountain rivers had dried up, temperatures were rising, malaria was spreading and untold destruction had been done to the environment.

Tahir was so shocked by this sight that he vowed to take action.

He went on to found the ‘Greenland Development Foundation Project‘ and used his own modest income to hire young people to plant over a million trees in Ethiopia. As well as impressing locals, he caught the eye of the UN who named him UN Green National Hero and also invited him to speak at the UN Climate Change Convention in Cancun this month about the impacts of climate change in Africa.

Supporting Locals and Ecological Sustainability

From the very beginning Tahir realised the importance of sustainability and wanted to make sure that his tree-planting project not only protected the environment but also supported the local community. “My motto is making Africa green again, not only by just planting trees, but by planting fruit trees that will sustain, that will make a difference in people’s lives,” Tahir says. Starting with 450 young workers to plant a two-acre plot, the project grew and acquired more land and workers.

According to the video by America.gov on project, Tahir was granted permission to plant on 11,000 acres of land by the Ethiopian government and is planning to hire 1,000 workers. Women are also actively involved and plant corn, carrots, fruit trees and other vegetables to feed themselves and also to generate income by selling on any surplus food. Tahir explains that as well as providing shade and limiting erosion, planting food-bearing trees means that people are less likely to cut the trees for firewood. An agricultural research centre has also been established to educate farmers about modern farming techniques and the benefits of tree-planting for the entire community.

Taking The Green Message To The UN

The project was also an opportunity to promote religious tolerance between Ethiopia’s Christian and Muslim population. As well as hiring both Muslim and Christian workers, Tahir sought the approval of both communities. “I am a Muslim, (but) when I went to Ethiopia I went to churches and shared my plan,” he says. “The majority of people living in rural areas are Christian. I put the young Muslim and Christian kids together, and they started working together.”

Now, Tahir is taking his message to the UN in the hope of influencing world leaders to take more meaningful action to tackle climate change and warning of the dangers of deforestation. His simple and grassroots message is powerful one, which reminds people that there are practical things we can all do to tackle climate change.

::Image via america.gov on Flickr

::Originally published in Green Prophet

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