As temperatures rise from year-to-year, many of us are realizing that our environments are not well-suited to tackling the effects of the climate-crisis – particularly those in cities. In urban areas, pavements and concrete, combined with an absence of trees, form sweltering ‘heat islands’ with little opportunity for respite.
In the drylands of Africa where Tree Aid work, temperatures like those we're currently experiencing (and higher) are a daily reality. Temperatures rose by nearly 1°C in the 30 years from 1970, almost twice the global average, and the region now regularly sees temperatures of +40°C, almost 10°C higher than in the UK.
With climate shocks like these set to increase in this region in the coming years, these communities find themselves asking the same question – how can we adapt our environment to reduce the impact of rising temperatures?
Around the world, growing trees offers us a solution to mitigate against the effects of the climate crisis, whilst tackling the cause by capturing carbon dioxide too. Tree Aid works with dryland communities both to grow new trees, and tackle the root causes of deforestation. Trees are a ‘nature-based’ solution to heatwaves – meaning that they’re affordable, environmentally sustainable, and easy to scale-up. Their canopies provide shade from the burning sun and a place for people shelter during the working day.
“The trees provide a lot of shade especially when we work and we are tired we have to sit down. So now that we are losing a lot of our tree cover it is affecting us” – Abba Achana
A tree’s natural process of transpiration has a cooling effect too; when water vapour is released through a tree’s leaves, it takes heat energy from the surrounding environment for evaporation, lowering the surrounding temperature.
“Trees help the environment, so that always it will be cool. We will get rains if there are trees in our areas” – Solomon Awusagajo
What’s more, increasing an area’s forest cover also increases the likelihood of rainfall – community members across the Sahel have noted more precipitation following tree-growing work in their area:
“In terms of climate change, we see that for the past few years we have been protecting a lot of our trees and people are no longer cutting our trees and this is also helping us to get good rains now than before” - Kateero Diyedani
The Great Green Wall is one of the most urgent movements of our time. This African-led movement has an epic ambition to grow a wide belt of trees, vegetation and fertile land across the continent.
Originally envisaged as an 8,000km band of trees, this ambitious project is now much more than that, and its outcomes will be key to cooling the continent in the face of rising global temperature.
All of Tree Aid's work contributes towards the Great Green Wall, and our projects are designed not simply to grow more trees, but to tackle poverty, diet-related ill health, desertification and the impacts of the climate crisis too.