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It is a dream come true my friend…

by Community Forests International on November 1, 2010

These are the words of Community Forests Pemba director, Mbarouk Mussa Omar, as we turn a road-weary pickup truck off the dusty Pemban road and take refuge under twenty-five foot high Casuarina trees. We’d planted the trees together with the village of Vitongoji three years ago and I have to agree with him. “Now it is a real forest,” Mbarouk adds as he gets out of the truck for a walk among the trees.

For our organization’s efforts in Pemba, Mbarouk has all the answers. This father of 8 children, aged 2 – 21, has worked tirelessly over the past 4 years to deliver our collective mission of community-led tree planting. The dream we’ve seen materialize at CFI hasn’t come without sacrifice and commitment. Mbarouk does most of his work on the road, traveling to as many as 4 communities a day to offer technical and moral support to the rural Pembans that have decided to give tree rearing a shot. Innovation is often associated with risk, and the CFP staff comprised of Mbarouk, Saidi Suedi and Mike Tritchler help to eliminate risk by being there when communities need them. Mbarouk’s phone rings without relent and he’s always scheming as to how he can get seeds to one community, or nursery equipment to another. It seems like everyone owes Mbarouk a favour – definitely the guy for the job.

More from Vitongoji

Since we began the project in 2006, Mbarouk and I have spent many late nights haggling and brainstorming project details, ranging from tree species, growing seasons, transportation, political tactics and fundraising and a lot has changed over the years. Earlier this year the project received a boost as CFI founding members Daimen Hardie, Estelle Drisdelle and Zach Melanson were joined by Genki Konde for 3-month long tree planting session in Pemba. During that time, the group developed a method of seedling production that doesn’t depend on the costly and environmentally unfriendly polyethylene tubing traditionally used to house potting medium in the tropics. After Mbarouk and I spent some time admiring how far the project has come in Vitongoji, we hit the road and headed to the organization’s research nursery to check out the progress and see where we can take things from here.

Pod Press at the Shumba Vyamboni Research Nursery

CFP Field Officer Abdallha greets me and gets right down to business. After pointing out the press and his results he states, Ninafanya (I am doing) research. Before him stands 150 orange tree seedlings propagated in pods created from organic debris. I have to look twice to make sure the pods aren’t wrapped in black plastic. It’s an amazing feeling – to see how Abdallha has managed to take an idea and create a fruit tree seedling that will be planted in 6 months time.

Seedling Pods created with the Pod Press

After looking around the nursery we head out and check some of the trees we planted 15 months ago. A few years ago when both Pembans and Canadians were working full-time without pay I’d asked Mbarouk if he thought we should look for other work. Jeff, our work is with our communities and we cannot turn back on them now. I’m glad we didn’t.

15-month old trees in Shumba Vyamboni

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