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

British people are being urged by a Methodist development agencyto not buy a Christmas tree this year. Instead, by helping to planttrees in Africa and Asia this Christmas, they will be ensuringfarmers and their families have enough to eat in future festiveseasons.

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

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

MRDF's tree planting scheme aims to help small-scale farmers inAfrica and Asia to produce the affordable food that they need tosurvive in ways that don't harm the local environment. The schemeis part of a range of sustainable agricultural development projectssupported by MRDF. Tree planting can prevent soil erosion and helpto improve the organic content of the soil. This, in turn, helps topreserve the rainfall in the soil - which means that vegetationcover can be increased helping small-scale farmers to increasetheir crop yields.

  • A donation of £5will enable a small-holdfarmer to raise and plant 12 fruit trees.
  • £20will pay for six locally-made wateringcans, allowing several households to water their vegetable gardensand tree nurseries.
  • £50 will support a community tree nurseryduring a long 7-9 month dry season.

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

MRDF currently supports projects that include tree planting in10 different regions including Ethiopia, India, Senegal and TheGambia. This is part of MRDF's commitment to sustainableagricultural development - which aims to teach small-scale farmersto get greater food yields using techniques which also include croprotation, composting, biological methods of pest control and waterconservation. Over the period September 2002 to August 2003, MRDFgave more than £150,000 in grants to partners who are involved insustainable agriculture.

Send donations to MRDF Christmas TreeAppeal, 25 Marylebone Rd, London NW1 5JR. Tel: 020 74675132.

How tree planting has made a difference insouthern Zambia