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Help Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr plant one million trees in
Sierra Leone

Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr, mayor of Freetown, Sierra Leone, is on a mission to plant a million trees (#FreetownTheTreeTown) over the next two years, increasing vegetation in her city by fifty per cent while shoring up eroding riverbanks and increasing biodiversity. “This isn’t just about planting trees; it’s about growing trees, and it’s about ensuring that each one of us is part of the process,” she says. “A million trees is our city’s small contribution to increasing the much-needed global carbon sink.”

See Mayor Yvonne’s TED talk, right which was presented at an official TED conference in October 2020.

In 2020, Freetown committed to planting 1 million trees to build resilience against flooding and absorb carbon dioxide. Freetown is a GEF-7 Sustainable Cities Impact Programme (SCIP) city; the programme supports cities pursuing integrated urban planning and implementation that delivers impactful sustainable development outcomes with global environmental benefits.

Informal settlements in Freetown have grown as a result of rural-urban migration. These settlements are created along the coast near mangroves and are destroying the natural habitat and along the hillside of Freetown, which results in massive deforestation with the result of denuded hillsides. Abnormal rainfall leads to flooding.

As part of FCC’s response to climate change, they have invested in sanitation and flood mitigation, as their city has been plagued with floods. As the rainy season starts, they do a massive clearance of gutters and waterways. Their #FreetownTheTreeTown campaign aims to reduce erosion and runoff and increase vegetation cover in the city by planting one million trees.

In 2017, Freetown had a very large mudslide that killed over 1,000 people. People understand the issue of flooding and its causes on a large scale. When it rains now, posts are shared on Facebook and on WhatsApp to explain FCC’s flood mitigation work. People can see that what they are clearing away from the gutters is soil coming from the hills because of deforestation. The problem stems deeper from those people who cut down trees to build a home or make charcoal to feed their family not having any alternative. This is where the investment is needed.

Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr is working on ways to create sustainable funding solutions and looking at how they build investment into jobs – green and circular jobs – so that they have a cycle that will enable residents to pay their local taxes and property rates and in turn enable the city to make these investments without external funding?

FCC worked through community-based organisations to engage communities, and through “tree giveaways” to find residents willing to serve as tree stewards who would plant trees on their private lands. Community-based organisations themselves act as tree stewards for trees planted in public spaces. Therefore each tree has a steward that has been charged with its growth. We are optimistic about a higher-than-average survival rate of the trees planted as tracking and monitoring of each tree is a key component of the Campaign. Each tree has been tagged at the nurseries and the exact location where the trees are planted is known, through a tree tracker app that was developed by our data implementing partner, Greenstand. Community-based organisations monitor trees planted on private lands and water trees planted in community spaces each week during the dry season. An 80% survival rate of trees is the target set for all 550 stewards from community-based organisations that are part of the project and incentives paid to them depend on the survival of the trees!

Twelve economic and non-economic species of trees – Mango, Teak, Neem, Moringa, Cashew, African Wattle, Flame of the Forest, Tamarind, Jackfruit, Almond, Soursop and Albizia Zygia –were carefully selected based on biodiversity needs and slope stabilization needs.

Our Vision

1,000 trees donated to Mayor Yvonne Aki-Sawyerr’s #FreetownTheTreeTown Initiative

How you can help

Buy and nurture a tree for $5 AUD to help stop land erosion, landslides and flooding that affect the poorest communities in Freetown, Sierra Leone. To date, over 245,000 trees have been planted. Help us donate another 1,000 trees to Mayor Yvonne’s ‘plant a million trees’ initiative by buying a tree today. We also donate a tree each time someone subscribes to our newsletter and makes a purchase in our online store.

“The Gift Shop is a fundraising initiative and an opportunity for me to promote the wonderful products manufactured by talented people on our planet who need an outlet to promote their work. By working with like-minded social enterprises, together we can build a more sustainable and equitable world. Oh, and did you know! By donating $5 AUD to our Fig Tree for #FreetownTheTreeTown initiative we will arrange to have a tree planted and monitored on your behalf!”

Jane Shakespeare

Founder, The Fig Tree Gift Shop

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