Trees have an importance greater than almost any other flora or fauna of the world. They provide protection, create the most oxygen and can help prevent soil erosion. While communities are often surrounded by trees of all sorts, few know of these important qualities trees hold.
Youth Exchange and Study (YES) alumna Eddah Lugala (YES 2013-2014, Tanzania, hosted in Cottonwood, AZ by PAX) recognized this need to teach her community and others about the key roles trees play in the environment. Together with another YES alumna, Renalda Nassoro Lwilla (YES 2013-2014, Tanzania, hosted in Colton, OR by AYUSA), as well as seven other volunteers, the group began giving presentations at primary schools in the Iringa region of Tanzania.
“The main reason for targeting schools was so we could reach people of all ages at one time,” Eddah said. “After making the students and school staff more aware, they would then be able to go home and spread awareness in their families.”
The group taught grade three through six students about the different benefits trees give to the environment and the community. In their presentation, the group reiterated how the presence of trees helps to prevent soil erosion and water pollution. One study done by environmental researchers at the University of Vermont in 2012 even showed that communities with a higher tree population tend to have a reduced crime rate as well. Eddah wanted the people to learn more about how trees do these things rather than simply the facts about trees.
“Although most of the students had a general understanding of the role trees play in the environment, most of them had never planted a tree before,” Eddah said. “With this project, we wanted to emphasize the practice of planting trees and taking care of the already existing trees, rather than cutting them down.”
The volunteers had students plant 30 trees and 40 flowers around their school. In the end, more than 95 students were involved in the activity, most of which had never planted a tree before. Eddah made sure the children left with a better sense of why we need trees.
“The environment around us supports our lives,” Eddah said. “Trees can be anything we need, from food sources to wind barriers. I believe everyone should be aware of the importance of trees, and I wanted to teach primary school students so they can one day share this knowledge with the next generation.”
Eddah plans on continuing this project in other schools throughout the year to reach even more communities. She is also currently in her second year of college, pursuing a general doctor’s degree of medicine.