Friends of the Environment, FOTE, a not for profit organization comprising  environmentally like-minded  individuals and corporate entities championing the re-greening of Zimbabwe have set themselves a target of planting500 million trees by 2026.

A total of 20 million trees have been planted since 2010.


By Foster Dongozi

 Philip Mataranyika, the founding trustee of FOTE says: “Friends of the Environment, FOTE, is a home grown solution seeking to restore tree cover lost over the years through raising awareness of the dangers that lie ahead; creating nurseries countrywide and ‘Building Communities Together’ through tree planting activities.”

He adds that the absence of sustainable programmes targeting the cutting down and replacement of trees has resulted in a serious depletion of forests.

As a result, the land has been laid bare leading to loss of tree cover in many areas of Zimbabwe.

Trees help to control soil erosion, provide shade, and most importantly, absorb carbon dioxide emitted by industries and other sources.

Trees maintain a balanced eco-system, control weather fluctuations, protect the soil, filter water, provide medicinal herbs and beautify landscapes.

“Climate change has become a real danger to our existence on this planet and the only way to escape it is by taking corrective measures to rein in its anger and stop it from devouring the very same people who are responsible for the planet’s preservation,” says Mataranyika.

Planting of trees is an effective way of combating climate change and global warming as the trees provide carbon sinks, which is the absorption of carbon dioxide and its storage in the ground.

The process also improves soil fertility.

Running with the theme; ‘A tree today, forests tomorrow’, FOTE believes that widespread deforestation is the major global ecological tragedy of modern times.

“Forests are depleting faster than nature can replenish them, with 330 000 hectares of trees being destroyed annually in Zimbabwe.”

According to the Zimbabwean Forestry Commission in 2012, if no effective interventions are made, trees will be completely wiped out in about 50 years.

This is a problem confronting Southern Africa, the African continent and the rest of the world.

Enter Friends of the Environment (FOTE)

The activities of FOTE, are by far the largest intervention in re-greening Zimbabwe and provides hope for future generations.

The FOTE initiative was pioneered by Nyaradzo Group, in July 2010 when they started planting a tree with every burial which they undertook.

FOTE works with the Ministry of Environment, Water and Climate together with its parastatals, the Forestry Commission, Environmental Management Agency (EMA) and Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority as well as the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

It is hoping to reach its target of planting 500 million trees by 2026 through different strategies which include establishing 100 tree seedling nurseries throughout the country and advocating for curricular that encompasses environmental issues.

Other methods include participating in tree planting and conservation programmes while promoting a culture of tree planting and environmental conservation.

Most of the nurseries are located at schools to ensure that pupils grow up with a sense of responsibility and respect for the environment and appreciate the importance of trees.

According to FOTE, the idea is in line with the ‘catch them young’ concept.

Other partners that have been engaged include the Zimbabwe uniformed forces, local authorities, embassies and high commissions, churches, youth and charity organizations, communities, golf clubs and artistes.

Mataranyika recalls how FOTE started.

“Starting as an awareness campaign back in 2010 dubbed the 500 Million Tree Walk, FOTE has since established 26 tree seedling nurseries from which they supply seedlings to communities for planting.

“The inaugural walkathon held in 2010 covered a distance of 275 km from Gweru City to Harare.  In 2011, the tree planting message was taken to Mutare from Harare. During the walkathons, hundreds of thousands of trees have been planted with the target being that of growing 500 million trees by 2026.”

This year 2018, the walkathon will be from Cross Dete to Binga in Matabeleland Province.

Schools where the tree seedling nurseries are located use them for advancing tree propagation skills while generating income to fund various projects and subsidize less privileged students.

As a result, communities around the schools have been able to plant more trees to replace those that have been chopped down and also enhance their diet and health by establishing orchards and plantations that include trees with medicinal properties.

In addition, FOTE have been involved in rural re-forestation through projects such as the Makoni District Household Tree planting initiative.

The activities of FOTE have attracted the attention of diplomats who want to take the idea across the borders of Zimbabwe into the rest of Africa.

“It is encouraging that FOTE’s initiatives have caught the attention of some of the embassies operating in Zimbabwe which are eager to replicate the model in their own countries meaning  that the idea  could soon spread across the whole of Africa and beyond,” notes Mataranyika.