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Pound for Pemba 2015!

by Community Forests International on June 18, 2015

Tree planting is no easy job. In fact, I can think of few jobs that demand so much physical and mental exertion.

The typical day for a planter begins around 5 to 5:30 AM, with a transportation period of anywhere from thirty minutes to two hours along the knotted, and at times purgatorial, no-man’s-land of logging roads. Mornings can be cold enough to require sweaters and jackets, while day temperatures can surpass 30 degrees. Besides simply weather-related difficulties (which can include lightning storms, hail, snow, rain showers and extreme heat), the planter can expect to face a litany of adversities, including nearly vertical hills, swamplands that require manual traversing, encounters with wildlife - from foxes to grizzlies, and bugs thick enough as to be ranked plague-like.

Despite all this, as soon as one’s truck arrives on the ‘block’  (the area a crew will be planting), a planter must be immediately ready, both physically and mentally, for the day’s work. Every second spent not planting trees constitutes a loss of potential earnings. Planters are paid by the piece and not hourly wages. So each tree, which can carry a value of anywhere between 10 to 20 cents depending on land conditions, develops an undue importance and the idea of constant motion becomes a mantra. The planter who rests or stops is the planter who does not make money.

To make ‘good money’, and therefore make the planting experience financially worthwhile, a planter must put about 2000 trees a day in the ground. However this is no benchmark – a planter who truly ‘pounds’ (plants quickly and efficiently) will put in anywhere from 3000 to over 4000 trees a day.

In my relatively unseasoned planting career alone, I have amassed roughly 680 working hours and planted nearly 300,000 trees. I have been fortunate enough to have experienced no injuries while on the job and to have missed only one day due to illness. On both counts these are significant anomalies in the planting world, which is ripe with workplace-related injuries. Tendonitis is as commonplace as a cold, due to the repetitive stress the job places on the body. Likewise, back problems and injuries from slips and falls on the block are also a frequent occurrence. Beyond the potential for injury, the potential for sickness is equally alive. As one can imagine, bush camps (where showers are cold and intermittent and there is limited running water) can be spreading grounds for colds, flus, fevers and other illnesses and contagions. Once one steps into the world of planting, they become quickly and keenly aware that it is more than simply a job – planting constitutes a way of life.

These facts illustrate just how remarkable CFI's Pound for Pemba campaign truly is. The Pound for Pemba annual fundraiser is held to assist communities on Pemba Island, Tanzania to build nurseries, grow trees, and create sustainable forests on community-owned land for fruit, timber, shelter and fuel. Every summer CFI co-founder Zach Melanson visits bush camps in British Columbia and Ontario, encouraging planters to give up one day’s wages to help tree planting initiatives in Tanzania. Donating a day’s worth of wages is a considerable sacrifice entailing not only an incredible amount of effort, but often constitutes upwards of 200 dollars. For many planters who face student debt and other financial needs, this is a significant sacrifice to make. The enthusiasm and dedication that planters who have ‘pounded’ for Pemba model is not only exemplary, its effects are tangible. Since 2009, Pound for Pemba has raised over $150,000 and has lead to the planting of over one million trees in Tanzania. This summer, in B.C. alone, planters have donated a total of over $12,900. Thank you for your immense effort and your generosity!

Keep pounding!

Ben Dickey is an intern at CFI this summer. Ben is an International Relations major at Mount Allison University in Sackville and has spent two summers tree planting in BC. In his spare time he enjoys photography and coming up with interesting band names. Welcome to the CFI family, Ben!

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