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Saving Africa’s Forests

african-rainforest-conservancy-photo1The United Nations designated 2011 the International Year of Forests and is working to highlight the importance of forests worldwide. Nowhere are forests more important than in Africa. More than one-fifth of Africa is covered by forests, which range from coastal mangrove forests, to tropical rain forests, to mountain forests.  African forests are becoming smaller and more fragmented; only 5 percent of Africa’s forests are protected.  Yet forests are critical to watershed protection, are home to thousands of species found nowhere else on earth, and provide homes and incomes to millions of people. Some experts believe that more than half of Africa’s population relies directly or indirectly on forests for their livelihoods.

A number of Aid for Africa members are working to save forests.  For twenty years African Rainforest Conservancy has been supporting forest protection on the ground in Tanzania, where only 30 percent of ancient forests still exist and some 1.5 million people live in forested areas.  The Conservancy’s focus is a range called the Eastern Arc Mountains. The key to their work is empowering local people living in and near the rainforests to conserve them.  Projects include tree planting—they have planted more than 10 million trees–the use of more efficient word stoves to save fuel wood, and bee keeping, butterfly farms, and other businesses to reduce tree destruction.  With programs in some 200 schools, the African Rainforest Conservancy is ensuring that the importance of caring for Tanzania’s forests is passed to the next generation. And they have figured out how you can help: just $20 a month or $240 a year conserves 30 acres of forest for one year. Learn more