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ForestPlanet Visits Irente Planting Site #3 in Tanzania: Forest Restoration

As previously reported here, the Irente planting site in the Usambara Mountains region of northern Tanzania spreads across 2,200 hectares.  There are one million trees here, but there is a real need to get another two million trees planted in this area as soon as we can do so.

In late 2021, ForestPlanet helped get the first 275,000 trees planted in this region.  In June 2022, we visited Tanzania to meet our local tree planting partners and check on the project’s status.  The trees were planted in three different areas.  In this post, we’ll report on the Irente #3 site: Forest Restoration.

This particular planting site covers many hectares and is located up the mountain from the Mlesa Spring location.  This spring provides drinking and irrigation water to thousands of people residing downhill in the Irente Villages area.  ForestPlanet helped plant 69,000 trees in the immediate vicinity of the spring, and that particular initiative is discussed here.

In the Irente Planting Site #3, more than 120,000 seedlings were planted on a large steep hillside that is covered with low level scrub.  The area was once home to thousands of trees, but had become degraded due to fire and encroachment from the villagers.

There no way to transport the new seedlings to this site by vehicle, so the seedlings had to be carried up a narrow path, pictured above.  It took 30 people working daily for more than three weeks to get all the seedlings delivered to the planting site.

Given the steep pitch of this planting site, it was decided to not clear out the low level scrub entirely, but rather cut horizontal paths through the scrub and plant the seedlings in lines.  This way the scrub can still offer a modicum of soil and water retention, with the expectation that the trees will out-compete them for space, water, and sunlight within a few years.

The photos above and below show how small the seedlings were out-planted in November 2021, which is the beginning of the Spring rainy season.

The trees species planted include:

  • Makhamea Lutea
  • Croton macrostachys
  • Japanese canfor
  • Prunus Africana
  • Brideria micrantha

These tree species were chosen because they are native to the area, and as such the seeds were all easily gathered from the surrounding forest.  This planting site is surrounded by a nature preserve, and the intention is that in time the two areas will naturally merge together.

One of the species that was planted was loquat (Eriobotrya japonica), which are fast growing and deep rooted trees.  They can grow up to 13 feet in their first two years, eventually reaching 80 feet tall.

ForestPlanet visited the site in June 2022, and we all survived the hike up the steep, slippery, and sideways-slanted hill path with minimal damage to life and limb.  Our local tree planting partners from FUS were glad to show off the progress of the seedlings, pictured above, which had almost doubled in size during these first 10 months.  Just like the Mlesa Spring location, survival rates for the seedlings are about 95% to date.

Unlike the Kwazizi planting site, it was difficult to get a sense of the site’s scale, since only a handful of seedlings could be seen from any ground level vantage point.  Luckily, our partners at FUS are wizards with a drone-camera combination, and we were able to capture the following images.

This is our team from ForestPlanet, partners from FUS, and the Irente Village elders slowly working down this narrow and treacherous path… with some of us moving more slowly than others.

At this height the people look like little dots and the scale of the project becomes apparent, as the channel lines that are home to 120,000 healthy and growing tree seedlings become visible.

Besides sequestering tons of carbon and providing many hectares of natural habitat for the local fauna, these trees will also benefit the Mlesa Spring water levels.  It will take three to five years before the trees naturally start to do their water-retention magic, which in the grand scheme of things is a relatively quick fix to a serious problem.

We’re happy with the progress at all three of these initial plantings sites, but recognize that much more needs to be done to re-forest the entire Irente project. Your support is needed to help us plant the remaining trees that are needed in this larger area.  At 15 cents per tree, even a $15 donation can go a long way, and we welcome your support here!

Previous installments in this series can be found via the links below:

ForestPlanet Visits Irente Planting Site #1 In Tanzania

The Mlesa Spring: ForestPlanet Visits Irente Planting Site #2 In Tanzania

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