By Daimen Hardie, Executive Director, Posted on March 26, 2020

As we wrapped up a video meeting with the Zanzibar team this morning, my colleague Omar chimed in with a question that’s been in the back of everyone’s mind: “I want to ask, what is our real plan for this planting season? Because of course so many people are still depending on us.”

Omar is an Enterprise Development Officer based at our Rural Innovation Campus on Pemba Island, where he trains and coaches dozens of people every week to grow small businesses for climate adaptation—businesses based on innovations like regenerative forestry and agroforest production. He was thinking of how difficult it would be to continue his work from home when so much of our model is based on bringing people together physically. Most of our trainees don’t have access to video call alternatives to hands-on learning, or even an internet connection.

The question of how to deliver our services is particularly urgent right now because we are only weeks away from the planting season—a critical window of time that only comes once a year. Omar was thinking of all our community nurseries, our Farmer Field Schools, and all of the producer cooperatives that are counting on our team’s direct assistance in the upcoming planting season—everything from technical field support to the logistical support in delivering hundreds of thousands of fruit and timber seedlings to planting sites all over the island.

The honest answer to Omar’s question is that I don’t know yet. But I know we’ll adapt because we always do. Working on climate adaptation and resilience in frontline communities and ecosystems over the past decade has taught me that our success as an organization largely depends on our team’s ability to learn and adapt to every new lesson and challenge. We’ve optimized for it. Even so, it still impresses me every time I witness adaptation in action.

In the past seven days, both our Canada and Zanzibar teams shifted entirely to remote working while continuing to hit critical deadlines. We even generated a bunch of new ideas and processes for delivering our mission. Most importantly though, I’ve seen how our team has supported each other in countless new ways through an unprecedented and extremely stressful transition. Our team is strong and we’re together, even when we’re are all in home isolation.

Building out strategies for the multiple strains that this pandemic will continue to cause is still top of mind for everyone. But Omar is right, people are still depending on us for all the things we regularly do and the planting season is still just weeks away. Our mission is still important—to protect and restore Earth’s climate by enabling people and forests to thrive together. So we’re adapting, and even though we don’t have all the answers yet, I know we’ll find a way because we always do.

Daimen Hardie
Executive Director
Community Forests International