03 December 2003

Don't buy a Christmas tree this year - plant one in Africa instead

British people are being urged by a Methodist development agency to not buy a Christmas tree this year. Instead, by helping to plant trees in Africa and Asia this Christmas, they will be ensuring farmers and their families have enough to eat in future festive seasons.

In a Christmas appeal launched this week, the Methodist Relief and Development Fund (MRDF) is asking people to consider giving up a Christmas tree this year - and to give the money they save to the agency's tree planting scheme during Advent.

If families cannot face having no tree to decorate in their living room, they are urged to match the cost of their tree with a donation to MRDF - or instead buy a cheaper tree and give the difference.

MRDF's tree planting scheme aims to help small-scale farmers in Africa and Asia to produce the affordable food that they need to survive in ways that don't harm the local environment. The scheme is part of a range of sustainable agricultural development projects supported by MRDF. Tree planting can prevent soil erosion and help to improve the organic content of the soil. This, in turn, helps to preserve the rainfall in the soil - which means that vegetation cover can be increased helping small-scale farmers to increase their crop yields.

  • A donation of £5will enable a small-hold farmer to raise and plant 12 fruit trees.
  • £20will pay for six locally-made watering cans, allowing several households to water their vegetable gardens and tree nurseries.
  • £50 will support a community tree nursery during a long 7-9 month dry season.

The scheme is being supported across the Methodist Church in Britain. The Methodist President, the Rev Dr Neil Richardson, said: "Communities flourish better if people trust each other enough to be dependent on each other, and learn how to respect and look out for one another. Supporting MRDF's tree-planting scheme is just one excellent way of demonstrating our respect for our brothers and sisters in communities across the globe this Christmas."

MRDF currently supports projects that include tree planting in 10 different regions including Ethiopia, India, Senegal and The Gambia. This is part of MRDF's commitment to sustainable agricultural development - which aims to teach small-scale farmers to get greater food yields using techniques which also include crop rotation, composting, biological methods of pest control and water conservation. Over the period September 2002 to August 2003, MRDF gave more than £150,000 in grants to partners who are involved in sustainable agriculture.

Send donations to MRDF Christmas Tree Appeal, 25 Marylebone Rd, London NW1 5JR. Tel: 020 7467 5132.

How tree planting has made a difference in southern Zambia

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