By Rebecca Jacobs, Posted on March 23, 2021

Tree planters are Community Forests’ roots.

Back in 2006, co-founder Mbarouk Mussa Omar approached a young group of Canadian tree planters to discuss how to make tree planting a source of environmental and economic sustainability for communities of Pemba Island, Zanzibar. As Mbarouk said, “We started with an idea and then worked each and every day with nothing. Each village picked the trees they wanted to grow and we supported them to find the seeds.” In Canada, the tree planting community rallied together to help grow and sustain the work of Community Forests. They did this the best way they knew how – by planting trees. And thus, Plant 4 Pemba was born.

Our work in Zanzibar is built on relationships of trust and respect, and the understanding that Community Forests Pemba and the community members we serve are the experts. Our role is to support and uplift this work, channelling resources to those on the ground closest to the communities we aim to support. We prioritise a community-led and community-centred approach and seek to actively listen and support community needs.

How it works.

Plant 4 Pemba remains Community Forests’ largest and most important fundraiser. To understand the campaign, you must know that tree planting is piece work – meaning each planter is paid per tree planted. During the annual Plant 4 Pemba campaign, tree planters donate a portion of what they plant over one day. Whether they donate the entire days work, half the day, or even an hour – each person tallies up the number of trees they planted for Pemba and donates their earnings to our campaign.

“It’s one thing to give money to charity, it’s another to see the results of where the money went and see what a difference you can actually make.”

Since the beginning, 100% of donations from the Plant 4 Pemba campaign are used to directly support Community Forests Pemba’s work in Zanzibar. In recent years, all donations from Plant 4 Pemba are used to leverage funding from the European Union’s Development Fund. This has become a critical part of the campaign and how we unlock significant funding opportunities for Community Forests in Zanzibar. This structure also allows tree planters to know their donations go up to 10x as far – each dollar they give is matched by $9 from the E.U.

Zanzibari woman planting tree seedling

Inspiring leadership.

Plant 4 Pemba has grown into a volunteer-led movement in tree planting camps across Canada. Individual leaders in each camp take on the opportunity and responsibility of representing Community Forests and the campaign to their fellow tree planters. These Plant 4 Pemba Ambassadors are the face and voice of Community Forests in camp and have helped the campaign to grow its reach and impact every year. Ambassadors are offered special training and learning opportunities to develop their leadership, event organising, and community-building skills. These skills and experiences extend beyond Plant 4 Pemba, helping youth Ambassadors become leaders in their community.

“I really like what [Community Forests] is doing in terms of how sustainable what they’re making is. It’s owned by the people, not by some company. It’s a really cool approach.”

A movement for impact.

From retired planters, family members, or simply those inspired by the generosity and energy of the movement – there is a place for everyone to support Plant 4 Pemba. It is thanks to the support of tree planters and allies across Canada that we have been able to grow and build trust, resilience, and meaningful change alongside the people of Zanzibar over the last 13 years. Plant 4 Pemba is as vital as ever, and it’s at the core of who we are. A community helping communities.

To see the movement in action, take a look back at Plant 4 Pemba 2017.