Wessanen UK has been providing support to the ITF (International Tree Foundation) since 2016, raising money through various company activities from the Dinner and Dance event at Kew Gardens to the Oxford Half Marathon.

This support has been broken down over three strands; the 20 million trees appeal, the school education programme, Tree Power, and the Sustainable Community Forestry scheme.

The Sustainable Community Forestry programme provides grants to both non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and community-based organisations in sub-Saharan Africa to deliver community-level projects that conserve and restore local forest resources and associated biodiversity.

One of the inspiring local groups that secured this vital funding is CSRAD (Centre for Sustainable Rural Agriculture and Development) for a project that aimed to conserve and increase the biological diversity of the Sacred Forest.

Montonnso is a sacred forest high in biodiversity but has been exploited by fringe communities for timber, small scale gold mining and hunting for bush meat.

CSRAD, identified the best way to achieve its aims were through two interlinked activities; increasing awareness of the conservation status, laws and policies protecting the forest, and improving local livelihoods and forest resources on farms.

The project worked with two communities bordering the sacred forest, in the towns of Saamang and Gyampawua where 4,000 local families rely on the forest for their livelihoods.

Many local farmers produce cocoa in this area; a crop that is predicted to struggle in future due to increasing global temperatures. The group supported local communities in ‘farm-forest systems’ by providing training in cocoa agroforestry to 70 farmers and helping them to integrate trees into their cocoa plantations allowing them to increase yields by shading their crops.

Local communities were also trained in tree nursery management, to produce the seedlings for planting on their land. In addition, farmers were supported to establish timber plantations on their land, and given the skills and knowledge to register these trees with local government and secure ownership. This will decrease the need for local communities to take timber from the Sacred Forest in future, which is damaging the natural ecosystem.

Faustina Somahi, whose husband was recently awarded, District Best Agroforestry farmer, plans to inspire other women to partake in the activity and support their family

The work of CSRAD (supported by ITF and Wessanen UK) has led to increased awareness of the importance of the forest among these communities. Communities have learnt about planting trees on farms and the benefits of trees for climate change adaptability.

Another important project that the Sustainable Community Forestry scheme has helped to support is the Alpha Women Empowerment Initiative which is helping women in Uganda to grow grafted mangoes on their land.

To find out more about the International Tree Foundation please visit: http://internationaltreefoundation.org/