Tanzanian farmer brings forest back to life
Jonas and Mary Somi outside their house in Nkoasenga, northern Tanzania. The Somis have lived on the slopes of Mount Meru all their lives, and have seen first-hand how climate change and deforestation have made it harder to grow crops in the once-fertile soilInga Vesper
A maize crop that has withered. As trees are cut down, the topsoil is at greater risk of being washed off by rain or blown away by the wind. The ground then retains less of the morning dew that most of the villages crops rely on. Unlike the maize, native weeds which can survive on little water thriveInga Vesper
Even though only a few trees have been cut down in this spot for firewood, the lack of protective roots and tree cover has created washouts and dried the soil, depriving it of nutrientsInga Vesper
Jonas Somis tree plantation is designed to combat some of the problems deforestation causes. He is mainly planting silky oak (Grevillea robusta). This is his first plantation, started in 2009Inga Vesper
Somi has started to grow banana among the more mature trees. Banana trees need lots of water, and the larger trees help retain water from the dew and the air, and protect the soil from too much sun. On some patches, Somi is trying to grow both banana and coffee plants togetherInga Vesper
The village chickens prefer the shady undergrowth in Somis tree plantation. Here, they find more food, especially insects and worms that provide protein. Fatter chickens fetch a higher price at marketInga Vesper
A woman and her daughter wash clothes at a village well. Water is becoming scarcer in the area as trees, which help the ground absorb water and so prevent run-off from the mountain slopes, are being depletedInga Vesper
The trees Somi has planted along one of Nkoasengas main roads provide shelter from the sun and rain for villagers, who mostly travel on foot. Somi is trying to get more support for his afforestation work from his neighboursInga Vesper
Somi grows this plant, called Isale in the local Meru language, at the edge of his plantation. This is a traditional way to mark land boundaries around the mountain. The plant is also a peace offering, and someone bearing it must be received with kindness and listened toInga Vesper
There are many logging stations dotted across the forest. Without tree planting, Nkoasengas jungle the source of its livelihood could soon vanishInga Vesper
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.