Looking Back, Planting with Joy:
GTF and its Relentless Tree Planting Pursuits
‘Trees, trees and more trees…” declares the phrase on the Gudina Tumsa Foundation’s (GTF) Information Bulletin April 2005 edition. ‘A Tree in the Desert. A Karayu Women’s Initiative’ chimes in another phrase, proudly stamped on locally made bag. These captivating mottos were only a handful of our efforts aimed at combatting the effects of deforestation and desertification in one of the most marginalized communities where people eke out a living through livestock rearing under the harshest ecological conditions.
However, not only did it appear on our bags and bulletins but rather hovered over the dusty Karayu skies, echoed from the mountaintops to the valleys, made its way to the seasonal encampments and small hut houses. A decade before that, GTF had embarked on a mission of educating the nomadic Karayu of the Upper Awash Valley. The successful opening of the first ever modern school in that area ushered in a new dawn where hope and expectations rose as high as the towering Mount Fantalle.
Simultaneously, doing something about the barren environment became imminent. The erratic rainfall and devastating prolonged droughts had made life unbearable for the once self-sufficient Karayu pastoralists depleting their herds. Mitigating the impacts of climate change through afforestation programs and tree planting initiatives, in particular required a combined effort of the locals and environmental scientists. The extremely hot and semi-arid nature of the land, the mobile nature of pastoralists combined with their communal land ownership practices hindered the initial undertakings of the project. However, nothing could stop the relentless determination, tenacity and spirit of our staff from transforming the desert landscape.
Against all odds, our tree planting initiative survived both the natural and human setbacks and developed in to one of the most rewarding development undertakings with phenomenal impacts. The rare and unique transformation that took place in Dhebiti village was breathtaking. Soon, the Karayu men started flocking to the GTF site to take rest under the tree’s shade from the scorching sun. Exotic birds joined in with their constant chirping as if to lull the herdsmen to rest their weary bones to sleep. Intrigued bus and lorry drivers scooped up dust along the treacherous dirt road on their way to the neighboring Afar land. They marveled at the green oasis in the middle of a desert as they drove past Dhebiti.
Three decades later we can’t help but reminisce at our tiny efforts which all seemed futile at the beginning.
It is June and with the rainy season upon us perhaps it is fitting that GTF pursues its tradition of planting more trees in various places across our project sites.
Join us this rainy season as we go out to the field carrying a seed to sow… restoring our fortunes!