Planting Day on Ntchisi Mountain Reserve 1/30/2016
Rob Pfeiffer Blog 1/30/2016
PLANTING DAY: Planting thousands of trees with many volunteers on Ntchisi Mountain
I’m soaked to the skin, mud from head to foot, and giddy with excitement. I left the Go! Malawi (http://go-malawi.org/) compound this morning feeling a little blue. We had a grand total of six of us ready at 8:30AM to plant 3,000 seedlings in the rain and mud. It was looking like a long day. As we exited the driveway, I saw people coming down the road. Malawi Time!! Holy smokes we have a crowd! By the time we were loading seedlings up at the lodge, we had 40 people working smoothly passing the tubes from one to the other and into the truck. With the truck full of seedlings, we could fit only five people in with me in the cab, so the others set out on foot. Another 10 were out in the road. The long and the short of it is, we had 80 people happily digging holes, collecting seeds, planting seeds and seedlings, as seemingly happy as could be in the pouring rain, on the side of a mountain, darkened by black clouds. I took three loads of seedlings/seeds up the mountain and picked up more people each trip. The area we worked in was severely burned in the fall to the point where I had trouble breathing walking through the blackened carcasses of the trees. We planted about 40 acres pretty heavily with seeds and seedlings of the biggest and oldest trees in the forest. Ancient tree genes have a chance of going forward. The parent trees for these “babies” are absolutely awesome — giants towering over the canopies below. It feels so good to give these titans a chance to live on into perpetuity. And, to have 63 children doing most of the loading, unloading, hauling, and planting melted my heart. There have been moments for me here in Malawi where I have felt pretty hopeless. The simple economics of people’s lives force them to make decisions which compromise the environment. They need wood (or charcoal) to eat, build, and make furniture. So my thrust has been that if we cut one tree, we need to plant ten. Today, we took care of a few of those tens.
Three of the schools we talked to last week sent teams today including their head teachers (principals). The one who came the furthest came 20 kilometers while the others came between twelve and five — in the pouring rain, because some deranged tree farmer from Maine told them that there was a planting day going on and they ought to consider coming. And they came on foot. The children walked in packs and got so cold I was really afraid for them. Our mantra on the mountain was “hoe, go!” as we had adults making holes with hoes and kids rushing to fill the holes. That was the only way to stay warm for them — to rush. Bare feet, shorts, and a shirt was pretty skimpy dress for them with their tolerance for heat, but extreme non-tolerance for cold. That is some of the news from Malawi.