Yeshi and the Tree Planting Youth Group
TREE AID travelled to the edge of the Wof Washa forest, in the Amhara highlands in Ethiopia. There we met Yeshi and her fellow youth group members, to talk about how they have used the help TREE AID has provided to form a sustainable plan for lifting themselves out of poverty.
Yeshi has had an incredibly difficult path to get to where she is now. In grade 9 of school, her father died suddenly and unexpectedly - leaving Yeshi, her mother and her younger brother with barely any source of income and their futures in the balance.
Yeshi was forced to quit school and help her mother make what money they could to support the family. Her brother has been supported by Yeshi and her mother to continue schooling and he will soon graduate. At 21, it’s Yeshi’s dream to return to school and maybe one day attend university in Debre Bihan - the closest city.
Up until she started working with TREE AID, this dream didn’t seem possible. She made what money she could from selling eggs and rearing a few sheep but lived from hand to mouth.
With training and inputs from TREE AID, Yeshi and her fellow youth group members were supported to gain access to donated land and plant over 5,000 eucalyptus tree seedlings, something that would not have been possible without TREE AID. However ,the land was one of the biggest challenges for Yeshi and her group.
The only land available was on the dramatic, mountainous slopes on the edges of the forest. In order to plant here, Yeshi had to have steady feet and a good head for heights as she and her group traversed narrow mountain pathways to access the land.
An Investment for the Future
In another 1-2 years, the Eucalyptus will be fully grown, at which point each trunk will be worth £3. Yeshi expects her own share of the profits from this enterprise to be around £1000 (the equivalent to 3 years wages for a farmer in this area). At that point, some of her money will be reinvested into the group to grow further trees, some of the money she will invest into growing her other daily livelihood activities - buying more sheep and chickens - the rest she’ll save so she can return to school in the future.
TREE AIDs project has provided these youth with an income but more importantly an opportunity to escape their chains of poverty in a sustainable way and allowed them the chance to plan and own their futures. They can look across the valley and watch their investment grow to maturity and plan their next steps. Furthermore, the Eucalyptus, once harvested, will regrow and in a further 4 years will provide the same income again for the group.
“We are some of the lucky ones,” Says Yeshi, “many youths have no jobs and rely on their parents who are already poor and struggling. I am grateful I have the opportunity to be part of this project and can continue to dream about my future”.
Under certain conditions, eucalyptus is used as a croppable timber product. Wof Washa is famed for its beautiful juniper forests. Juniper is slow growing and some parts of the forest are very old. By planting and cropping eucalyptus the juniper is better protected from being used for building and fuel.
The eucalyptus is being planted in a controlled space, and the nature of the terrain means that it is impractical for other types of farming. Finally, the roots hold the earth together and stop erosion, reducing the risk of flooding during the rainy season.