Balance in Action
Lindbergh Grant Recipients's Work Rescues
Mpingo Trees from the Edge of Extinction
This article appeared on page 8 of the December 2001 Newsletter
of the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation
Mr. James E. Harris of Texas and Mr. Sebastian Chuwa, a botanist in Tanzania, received a Lindbergh Grant in 2000 for their project entitled, "Creating a Community-Based Program to Replant the African Blackwood Tree, Prized for Use in Carving and Woodwind Instruments, in Moshi, Tanzania." They have been working very hard to make conservation effots and the replanting of the mpingo, the Afiican Blackwood Tree, a top priority in Tanzania. The tree is very near to extinction in many areas and takes 100-200 years to mature.
To begin their conservation efforts, and using Lindbergh Foundation grant money, Chuwa purchased video equipment, a TV, VCR, and a generator to operate the equipment. He produced several videos which he uses to educate young people about the mpingo trees and to instruct them about proper growing techniques. Since he is video taping his own people's efforts in conservation, the response has been very favorable. He has presented the videos to nine schools and has taped an environmental choir singing original songs about the envimrment. In Tanzania, music is used to teach, and is useful in attracting people to public presentations about conservation. Foundation funds were also used to send a group of 50 students, teachers and parents on a field trip to Ngorongoro Crater Conservation Area and Lake Manyara, where they learned more about the trees. For many this was their first opportunity to experience wildlife as well.
In a recent e-mail message, Chuwa expressed his gratitude saying, "I would like to thank you for the grant which made my work easy in imparting my practical knowledge to youth of Tanzania and all the community. The grant was timely because I had started Conservation Clubs in many schools and I used to be too theoretical, something which made it difficult for them to grasp what I wanted to instill in their minds. With the coming of TV, they now understand what I was preaching to them. They really enjoy and appreciate it. I have opened several nurseries and I told them the importance of mpingo and how to preserve it. Through their Conservation Clubs, they are now aware of the need to protect mpingo including other species and they were very happy to hear the story of mpingo."
In addition to educating students, Chuwa has focused his attention on extending his conservation message to villages from the grassroots level up to community leaders. Recently elected to the political position of Councilor of his district, Chuwa has used his position to promote conservation among his people. He believes replanting mpingo trees today and harvesting trees as they are available, will ensure that their local ecosystem can be protected, and that they will be able to harvest the trees as a source of wood for local and international trade in the future.
Chuwa and Harris plan to continue their work. They are searching for more funding for video editing equipment, with a goal of producing videos in two different languages. Their efforts are not only helping conserve the mpingo, but also a variety of tree species needed for fuel wood, building materials, food and medicine. Mr. Harris and his wife also want to fund a trip to Tanzania to help teach and to do research for a book about Mr. Chuwa.
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