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Tanzanian farmer brings forest back to life

Nkoasenga is a small farming community on the slopes of Mount Meru near Arusha in northern Tanzania. The village is increasingly experiencing drought and soil degradation, which make it harder for local people to grow food and cash crops.

Jonas Somi is a 65-year-old farmer from Nkoasenga. He blames the village’s environmental problems on deforestation and so has started a tree-planting project. Somi is growing Grevillea robusta, more commonly known as silky oak, a species imported to Tanzania from Australia.

The fast-growing trees provide shade for Somi’s cash crops, including banana and coffee plants. Their roots retain the soil and reduce water runoff from the mountain slopes. This in turn reduces the need to irrigate the crops growing between the trees. Once mature, the trees can be harvested for timber, generating extra income for his family.

In this photo gallery, Somi takes SciDev.Net for a walk around Nkoasenga and his tree plantation, which covers several fields. He is trying to demonstrate the value of his trees to his neighbours, in the hope that they will follow his example and choose afforestation as a source of income and to protect their land.

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