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Trees for the Future, today.



Life is germinated seed.


The folks with Trees for the Future are planting trees and changing lives in such a beautiful way, it makes me want to weep in appreciation for this action of the heart.   For 30+ years the Deppner’s and all their partners have been instrumental in the planting of 50 million trees.   A network of 12,000 villages in 58 countries have been participating in planting and restoration projects on most of the continents.   Watch this short video with the founder Dave Deppner.  What a beautiful human.

I am getting in touch with these folks and see about how we could do similar work here in the States.   Restoring our forests health and biodiversity is a critical part of continuing our occupancy here.   If we do not actively work to heal the scars and toxic build up on our lands and waterways, I don’t hold out a lot of optimism about our common future possibilities.   But that is too depressing to even think about.   The folks at are making the good stuff happen, and I am definitely sending some $$$ their way.

People can be so amazing when motivated by solidarity, empathy, vision and community.


From the Trees for the Future web page:

In the early 1970s, Dave and Grace Deppner served as volunteers in the Philippines, where they witnessed the human tragedy brought on by illegal logging and unsustainable land management systems. Working with community leaders in nearby villages, the Deppners found a way to offer hope. They revitalized degraded lands by providing farmers with tree seed, technical training, and on-site planning assistance. People responded enthusiastically,  joining in to save their homes and way of life.

After returning from their overseas assignments they continued what they had started, communicating by mail with rural community leaders, providing information, seeds, and training materials. After many years of informal operations, Trees for the Future (‘TREES’) was incorporated as a 501 (c) (3) public charity in Maryland on August 14, 1989. Over the years TREES has assisted thousands of communities in planting millions of trees in 19 countries including Ghana, which have restored life to land that was previously degraded or abandoned.

Today, we continue what the Deppners started so long ago, helping others help themselves by means of our singular goal:

Planting Trees, Changing Lives.





Here is just a random story about one womans vision in Senegal:


Water and Trees Need a Little Crazy

March 21, 2014 by John Leary, Trees for the Future Executive Director 

Kaffrine, Senegal – “Danga dof,” a phrase in the Wolof language that Mariama Ndao heard countless times over two years as she pulled water from an 80 foot well and carried 10 gallon tubs on her head over the length of a football field to water her newly planted jujube trees. As Mariama, in her mid 50s, carried over a dozen tubs of water a day, “You’re crazy,” seemed to the villagers to be a gross understatement. “They are just thorny bushes you can find in the country side,” they insisted, “why are you tiring yourself in the hot sun to plant them in your field?”


In Kaffrine, Senegal, where Mariama lives, the subsistence way of life does not offer much room for vision. If you struggle to eat today, it is difficult to see ahead to next week, and nearly impossible to see two years ahead. Making the future for water and trees looks bleak. But Mariama had a vision. She knew that the lines of 800 thorny jujube trees she planted around her 2 acre plot of eroded farmland would someday become a living fence, providing protection from grazing animals, shelter from the dry winds, and hundreds of pounds of fruit to eat and sell. So she continued to carry water to her trees, step by step, bucket after bucket because trees need water.

Once covered in trees, the country of Senegal has become a victim of slash and burn farming and the cutting down of trees for fences, homes, and fuel wood. By returning tree cover to the agricultural landscape, the roots of Mariama’s trees are beginning to channel water back into the ground. In abundance these trees will begin to restore groundwater tables that have fallen more than 60 feet in some areas of Senegal over the last two decades. Just as trees need water, water needs trees.

Mariama’s need to support her 5 children and 4 grandchildren kept her vision alive, and as her trees grew, she planted vegetables in their protection and still continued to carry water every day. This month –

when the Harmattan winds blow in from the Sahara and the heat emerges to bake what the wind does not touch – marks the end of the gardening season in Senegal. In 2013 the rainy season came late and ended

John and Mariama visit the pigeon peas before they harvested 90 pounds last month.

early, leaving an estimated 20 million rural residents in the Sahel fearing sever hunger in the coming months.  Food aid organizations are scrambling to get ahead of the crisis, but Mariama is not lining up for bags of rice.  She is not worried about how she will support her family. For today, three years after planting her first trees, Mariama has an emerging forest garden within the protection of her thorny living fence. Mariama’s vision is starting to pay off: Last month she harvested nearly 90 pounds of pigeon peas. The nitrogen fixing bushes strengthen the soil while generating both food and income. She sold half for nearly $50 and kept the other half to eat. With the support of her women’s group and Trees for the Future, Mariama recently installed a water spigot in her field – only the second spigot to be installed in her village from the main water line that used to pass the village too poor to afford running water.

Although the $50 will barely pay our monthly water bill in the U.S., it is enough lift Mariama and her family above the $1/day poverty line for the next couple months – until the young jujube and cashew trees begin fruiting later this year and bring her next payday.

I was in Mariama’s village in January. I spoke with new members of her women’s group who admitted they had called her crazy many times. Now they stand beside her replicating a tree planting strategy that meets all of their basic needs, showing once again the gray line between crazy and innovative.

Mariama's lively personality is an inspiration to others.

As we celebrate World Water Day please share this inspiring story of my friend Mariama. She is just one aging women in a rural village in Senegal.  Her trees will not stop climate change, they will not replenish Senegal’s falling water table, and they will not stop the encroaching Sahara desert.  But they have planted a seed of hope, and with that hope other small farmers are beginning to plant trees.  And day after day, like the imperceptible growth of tree, a movement is forming and Mariama is no longer just one crazy woman with a couple thousand trees on a barren lot, she is the root of a vision of sustainable independence.


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