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Massive forest restoration project makes steadfast progress: 'This will be the largest natural structure on the planet'

This movement is sowing seeds of change for a greener future in Africa — and beyond.

This movement is sowing seeds of change for a greener future in Africa — and beyond.

Photo Credit: TREES

A massive tree-planting movement is taking root in Africa. Thousands of farmers are ditching barren fields for lush, diverse forest gardens that feed families, improve the soil, and expand tree cover.

The project, called Trees for the Future, or TREES, has already restored over 41,000 hectares (around 101,000 acres) since 2015 — that's seven times the size of Manhattan, as the Guardian reported. The nonprofit organization is planting tens of millions of trees each year across nine countries, from Senegal to Kenya. By 2030, it aims to create 230,000 jobs and plant a billion trees.

Earlier this year, the UN Environment Programme honored it as a World Restoration Flagship, according to the Guardian

So, how does it work? TREES supports smallholder farmers with training, seeds, tools, and grants to grow "forest gardens" instead of tired old monocultures. Supporting biodiversity helps to protect the health of the soil. Groups of farmers get regular support from lead farmers to nurture plots with around 5,800 diverse trees on just one hectare (2.5 acres).

The forest gardens have it all: a protective wall of acacia trees, fast-growing trees for firewood and fodder, veggie patches, and fruit orchards bursting with mangoes, avocados, oranges, and more, as the Guardian detailed. It's the perfect mix to feed a family, with some extra to sell. Plus, these farmers can earn cash for the carbon their thriving soil soaks up.

TREES is even part of the African Union's Great Green Wall initiative, an epic 8,000-kilometer (roughly 5,000-mile) barrier of vegetation that holds back the encroaching desert. According to the Guardian, "This will be the largest natural structure on the planet."

"This is a massive restoration movement using regenerative agriculture," said Vincent Mainga, Kenya director of TREES, to the news outlet. "This model is very easy to adopt. We work with the farmers for four years. After that, they can understand all the components and they can use what they learn from our technicians to produce thriving farmlands, usually with a surplus. It is self-sustaining."

As Inger Andersen, head of the UN Environment Programme, put it: "Initiatives like TREES are playing an important role in reversing decades of ecosystem degradation, especially across the Sahel, pushing back desertification, increasing climate resilience and improving the wellbeing of farmers and their communities."

With big goals and a proven approach, TREES is sowing seeds of change for a greener future in Africa — and beyond. We can't wait to see what they'll grow next.

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