ZIMBABWE — Once barren land, the Buwerimwe Secondary School in Marange, Zimbabwe is now colored with 2,000 trees planted and counting. By 2027, there will be 5,000 trees thanks to the Buwerimwe Secondary School Reforestation Project. These trees will help reduce soil erosion and promote biodiversity in a place degraded by mining operations.
The Importance of Soil
Soil is home to all kinds of life, such as bacteria, fungi and insects. These organisms are essential for nutrients so that plants can grow healthy and strong, and they are really only present in a thin layer of soil called topsoil. The plants, in turn, are responsible for keeping the soil compact with their extensive roots.
That is why deforestation is an issue for soil health. With deforestation, the nutrient-rich topsoil is pushed away into nearby rivers or streams when it rains or the wind blows. It can no longer provide nutrients for agricultural crops. Additionally, the soil in streams can accumulate as sediment and cause flooding in the surrounding area. Floodwater has even disrupted classes for children at the Buwerimwe Secondary School.
The Soil in Marange, Zimbabwe
The Reforestation project started in 2017. Before, the school property lacked enough trees to hold the soil together. Consequently, rainfall would erode the soil, carving deep gullies and bringing sediment into the nearby streams. This process strips the land of its nutrients and simultaneously strangles waterways.
Healthy waterways are especially important because the area is already degraded by the Marange Diamond Mine, which routinely releases toxic waste into the Save River. This, in combination with soil erosion from the village itself, makes life very difficult for people and livestock alike in Marange.
Buwerimwe Secondary School Forest Reforestation Project
Environmental Buddies Zimbabwe Trust (EBZ) is the organization responsible for leading this project. It partnered with the school and several governmental organizations from both Zimbabwe and the United States to accomplish its goals. Shamiso Mupara, a local activist in Zimbabwe, started EBZ with her brother. Together, they hope to reforest villages in Zimbabwe that have been impacted by desertification, which is the process of fertile land turning into the desert because of deforestation, agriculture or climate change.
The story of EBZ’s success presented a compelling way for the United States to get involved in global poverty. Both the USDA and the American nonprofit Global Greengrants Fund financially supported EBZ for this project. However, instead of sending Americans to Zimbabwe, they empowered local existing activists who have detailed knowledge of the political and environmental landscape.
Recovering the Soil in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe is losing its tree cover quickly, with a 15% decrease from 2001 to 2019. Fortunately, the project helped plant 2,000 trees that have already slowed down soil erosion. Thanks to the project, there are now 50 indigenous species planted in the area. The students and staff of the Buwerimwe Secondary School maintain and care for the trees. Furthermore, it has created employment for those working in the nursery.
Although the area still suffers from degraded water and soil, this is a hopeful step in the right direction for the people of Marange. Projects like the Buwerimwe Secondary School Reforestation Project can provide food for the community, slow soil erosion and maintain the health of the surrounding ecosystems.
– Christopher Bresnahan