Pulling away a black plastic pot, a forest guard holds up a short, wispy sapling before dozens of people gathered in the rural outskirts of Dakar, Senegal.
He shows the crowd how to hold the tree without damaging it, then places it in a hole lining a forest path and covers the roots with soil before pressing them down gently. Soon all of the crowd are busy planting.
“If a tree is cut, one needs to be planted in its place. But people who cut trees in Senegal tend not to replace them as they lack the necessary skills,” said Maimouna Seck, a young member of the planting crew.
A recent university graduate, she said she learned about the need for reforestation in school, and had come out to “fill the void others have created”.
In Africa’s Sahel region, planting and protecting trees is crucial to maintaining rainfall patterns, providing cool places for people in a hot environment and helping curb climate change.
On the edge of Dakar, Lead Senegal, an environmental NGO, is planting acacia trees to restore the shrinking and degraded Mbao forest, seen as Dakar’s “green lung”.
In September of 2016, 150 volunteers planted 1,000 trees in a day, on the opening day of the initiative.
Photo of Andyel Huts in Senegal via Adobe Stock.