8 February 2022, Moroni, Comoros - Earlier this year, the Government of the Union of the Comoros launched a major reforestation campaign to protect watersheds and accelerate and realize the ambitions of the Nationally Determined Contributions to the Paris Agreement.
The "One Comorian, One Tree" campaign is supported by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) through projects on resilience to climate change funded by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).
Honouring the commitments announced at last year's climate talks in Glasgow, Comoros President H.E. Azali Assoumani launched the ambitious national reforestation campaign in Ndzouani, Ngazidja and Moheli.
Understanding the challenge
The effects of climate change threaten to undermine recent development gains in the Comoros, where about 80 per cent of the rural population depends on rain-fed agriculture. United Nations projections predict a potential reduction in dry-season rainfall of up to 47 per cent by 2090 in the small island developing state, an increase in rainfall during the rainy season and more severe cyclones.
Access to surface waters on three of the Comoros islands is a challenge. The main island of Grande Comore (Ngazidja) has no surface water, forcing coastal cities to exploit marginal groundwater resources.
Rural communities in the highlands, which make up 50 per cent of the island's population, depend solely on rainwater harvesting.
Reforestation efforts will improve access to water, protect vulnerable and impoverished ecosystems and generate a vital public good that will benefit the people of the Comoros for years to come.
"Tree planting has multiple environmental and socio-economic benefits for the well-being of the Comorian people. This is why UNDP and partners such as the Green Climate Fund and the Global Environment Facility strongly support this government and community initiative. Political leadership is essential to make meaningful progress; I have been honoured throughout the past month to accompany H.E. President Azali Assoumani throughout the country for the launch of the national reforestation campaign – implementing the commitments he made at COP26," said UNDP Representative Fenella Frost.
The national reforestation campaign was launched on 16 January in Mount Tringui National Park on Ndzouani Island; it will continue until 2025.
The island of Ndzouani, once known for its surface water potential and agricultural dynamism, has lost more than half of its rivers due to a significant depletion of its resources. In the 1980s, it had about 50 permanent rivers, while today their number has dropped to just 10. Erratic rainfall has further affected the collection capacity of the island's watersheds.
A national effort
The campaign aims to plant 613,000 new trees on 571 hectares of land across the country. In Ndzouani, 250,000 new trees will be planted on 167 hectares, in Ngazidja, 347,000 will be planted on 300 hectares and in Mwali, 16,000 will be planted on 40 hectares. Combined with other actions promoting climate resilience, the reforestation campaign offers a sustainable ecosystem approach that will contribute to positive environmental benefits for local communities vulnerable to crises caused by climate change.
A week after the Ndzouani event, President Assoumani launched the "Urban Reforestation" initiative in the capital Moroni with a focus on planting endemic species.
The final launch in the country took place in Fomboni, Mwali, on January 29. Heavy rains and deforestation caused irreversible damage to the environment and habitat in the vicinity of the Msoutrouni River where the launch of the campaign took place.
The governor of Moheli Island, Mohammed Said Fazul, stressed the need to continuously plant and care for trees, even though Moheli is known for its vast forest cover.
"Last year, we received the UNESCO certificate for the world classification of Mwali as a biosphere reserve. It is a recognition of the exceptional marine and terrestrial biodiversity of the island. This involves efforts by communities and the government to protect and restore biodiversity," said M-Fazul.
Mobilizing young people
Young people from the neighbouring areas of Ndzouani, Ngazidja and Mwali joined Government and UNDP officials at the tree planting event in Ndzouani, demonstrating their desire to be fully included in the preservation and regeneration of natural resources for their future.
"I am very proud to say that I planted a tree because I now know that it is important to have more trees in my area. I understood that trees are not only beautiful but that they can also help us to have more water, and that we will enjoy it in the future," said Youssouf Ali, 11, from Vouani.
The chief of the village of Sima Boini, south of ngazidja Island, highlighted the medical potential of some plants.
"In the Comoros, the tree called mvoudze (Phyllarthron comorense), which is an endemic species, was known to lower cholesterol in the blood. It is used in traditional medicine and has always been recognized in the Comoros as an effective treatment for many diseases. It's a shame that younger generations don't know it anymore or don't use it anymore," he said.
Andaliyat Mohammed is a curator and expert in plant biology at the National Herbarium of the Comoros.
"Green spaces in cities not only help mitigate the effects of air pollution by reducing the photochemical formation of ozone and CO2, but they also reduce the urban heat island effect of built-up areas and help reduce the demand for energy for air cooling by providing shade and evapotranspiration. Culturally, tree planting brings value to the people while allowing them to rediscover endogenous species once widespread on the coast of the capital," said Ms. Mohammed.